Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not deliver much news for upstate in his State of the State speech on Tuesday, say local lawmakers.
“It was definitely slanted more toward a downstate, urban agenda,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury.
Some of the New York City-focused issues were implementing cashless bail and funding improvements to the city’s subway system. Stec called Cuomo’s agenda: “aggressive, ambitious and expensive.”
While Cuomo presented some rosy statistics about New York having the highest-ever number of private sector jobs, Stec said the governor was only comparing New York to itself, and not how it stacks up against other states.
New York still has among the highest property taxes and overall taxes in the country and the worst business climate, Stec said. It leads the country in number of residents moving out to other states.
“People are voting with their wallets and their feet and they’re leaving the state for whatever reason. I don’t think they’re leaving because we’re not progressive enough,” he said.
Stec said some of the transportation infrastructure projects on Long Island and New York City will be very expensive.
“What about upstate roads and bridges?” Stec asked.
Stec also was disappointed that Cuomo has budgeted only $200 million to fight the opioid crisis.
Stec said he wholeheartedly supports Cuomo’s push to make the property tax cap permanent. He took issue with Cuomo’s railing against President Donald Trump’s federal tax reform, which capped at $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct on their taxes.
“He wants to blame Washington, D.C. for New York’s high taxes,” he said.
Stec said he wants to see more action on expanding broadband. Cuomo announces that the state is going to have 100 percent broadband coverage, but there have not been results.
Stec said he remains opposed to legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use.
“I think the costs will outweigh the benefits,” he said.
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, said Cuomo crafted a big and expansive vision, but she also was disappointed that Cuomo did not mention many upstate issues.
“I did not hear much about the rural and agricultural communities in upstate New York,” she said.
Among the challenges facing farmers are low dairy prices and the ramifications of the tariffs and the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. She said she appreciated the need to increase in the minimum wage, but it is having an impact.
“Raising labor costs at the same time our agricultural businesses are challenged on the revenue side is a recipe for a lot of farm closures,” she said.
Woerner also would have liked to hear more about cleaning up pollution in the waterways and PCBs in the Hudson River. Like Stec, she also wanted more attention on aging infrastructure.
“We’ve got more miles of roads and bridges in our DOT region than any other region of the state,” she said, adding that this region does not receive any more in funding than other areas.
Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, also bemoaned the lack of focus on upstate and wanted to make sure that the North Country communities are not “overlooked and forgotten.”
She said schools and health care facilities need appropriate funding and more money is needed for infrastructure including roads, bridges, water and sewer lines and broadband and cellular service.
“While the downstate economy has flourished, upstate lags for many reasons. To reverse the outmigration of families and businesses, we have to provide tax relief for the middle-class and create an economic environment that is much more welcoming and supportive of those who work hard and want only a fair opportunity to succeed,” Little said in a news release.
State Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, had even harsher words for the governor.
“Taxpayers are hurting and continue leaving New York in record numbers. It’s not because of the weather, but due to our high taxes, crushing high cost of living and lack of good-paying jobs, especially upstate,” she said in a news release. “I didn’t hear enough from the governor today about an agenda that will reverse this destructive trend. We need a positive, forward-looking agenda to help small businesses, cut red tape, deliver real tax relief and get our upstate economy moving again.
In the days ahead, I’ll carefully review the governor’s budget and work to advance my affordability agenda so people can stop saying ‘I leave New York’ and starting saying ‘I love New York.’”