In his first State of the State address, Governor David A. Paterson outlined his plan for a stronger New York including the need to confront the current fiscal crisis head on. He laid out a progressive policy agenda to help working families during these difficult times including calling for one of the most ambitious clean energy plans in the nation, setting a “45 by 15” goal that 45 percent of New York State’s electricity needs will be met through improved energy efficiency and greater use of clean renewable energy by 2015. This goal will also create 50,000 new jobs for New Yorkers. Governor Paterson also announced that he will introduce legislation to expand family health coverage to cover family members up through the age of 29 and he laid out a five-point plan to address the growing obesity epidemic that now affects one in four children in the State of New York.
Governor Paterson’s address acknowledged New York State’s historic economic challenges and the difficult choices that all New Yorkers must face in the coming months and years but he also spoke of the strength of character that New Yorkers possess and used his remarks as a call for action, hope and courage even in the face of adversity. Acknowledging this year’s budget crisis, in addition to necessary reductions across every area, the Governor’s proposed 2009-10 budget outlines numerous examples of more effective and efficient spending through innovative programs to improve New Yorker’s lives.
“We still do not know the extent of the economic chaos that awaits us but we do know that these are the worst economic times since the Great Depression,” said Governor Paterson. “The developments of the past year have been startling, but this is no time for fear. This is a time for action and a time for courage. Every New Yorker has experienced both difficulty and adversity, but courage and hope have forged our character. Our government must now do what New York families have been doing for years – make painful choices about what we can and cannot afford. They have done so without fanfare and without self-pity. It is time for their government to live up to their example. We cannot solve our problems overnight but we will solve them and we will craft a brighter, smarter future for New York.
“In this legislative session, we must do three things,” continued Paterson. “First, we must balance the budget; second, we must strengthen our health care system, improve our schools, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, clean up our environment, and begin a clean energy revolution; and third, even in these difficult times, we must make sure we respect one another, serve one another and protect one another.”
Energy and the Environment
“Energy has become too expensive, too unpredictable, and too damaging to our environment,” said Governor Paterson during his State of the State address. “It is time to control the cost of energy and how much we use. It is time to make New York more energy independent and more energy efficient, to develop our own sources of clean and renewable energy, and build new statewide systems for energy generation, transmission and distribution.”
To achieve these goals, Governor Paterson today unveiled his “45 by 15” plan which calls for New York to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean renewable energy by 2015 – one of the most ambitious clean energy goals in the country.
Not only is this “45 by 15” goal good for the environment, it will also reduce air pollution and create an estimated 50,000 new jobs. This is one of the ways New York will provide jobs for our displaced and unemployed workers and create the workforce necessary for a clean energy economy.
Governor Paterson added: “Our program ‘45 by 15’ will not simply revitalize our economy; it will help protect our environment. New York is a charter member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and is participating in the nation’s first carbon cap and trade framework. We in New York are leading the fight against global warming, because we understand that reviving our economy and protecting our planet go hand in hand, so long as we have the vision and courage to act on our convictions.”
Governor Paterson also announced the creation of a clearinghouse to serve as a single point of access for information on all energy efficiency programs for schools, hospitals, and local governments. A website will be created to provide a single point of contact for all of the State’s clean energy programs. The clearinghouse will help educate school districts, local governments and hospitals on how to make the greening transition and what resources exist to assist them.
Finally, the Governor announced the creation of a consortium on hybrid electric batteries and energy storage technologies to make strides in the development of technology for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. This will be implemented through the existing partnerships led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and expanded to add funding and partners, to ramp-up research and development of energy storage technologies that will support this new clean energy economy. The key technology needed is a rechargeable electric battery that can drive a car longer distances for less money and New York already possesses the research infrastructure and the manufacturing base to help develop the batteries.
“This consortium will help reshape the Upstate economy and create a clean corridor that includes cities in the Erie Canal corridor built some 200 years ago. It will also maximize the extraordinary academic and scientific resources available in the Western, Central and Capital Regions,” said Governor Paterson.
To complement this consortium, the Governor also announced the creation of the New York Energy Policy Institute to coordinate the knowledge base and expertise of New York’s higher education institutions. By disseminating state-of-the-art information and analysis on energy technologies and policies, the Institute will assist in keeping New York decision makers on the cutting edge.
Governor Paterson has proposed increasing eligibility for Family Health Plus to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This would expand access to coverage to an additional 400,000 New Yorkers. The Governor is seeking to have this expansion fully funded by the federal government in recognition of the more than $30 billion of Medicaid savings achieved by New York State over the past ten years through its Medicaid managed care initiative.
In addition, to address the one in three New Yorkers between the ages of 19-29 who are still uninsured, the Governor will introduce legislation allowing families to cover family members up through the age of 29 in their family coverage plans at their own cost. Currently, family members are typically covered in the family plans up to the age of 19 if they are not attending college and up to the age of 23 if they are attending college.
This legislation is particularly important as we face a recession during which 225,000 New Yorkers could lose their jobs and their health insurance.
The Obesity Epidemic
The Governor spoke not only of the need for universal health coverage but also about the importance of preventative care.
Today, he announced an aggressive five-point plan to address the growing obesity epidemic which serves as the greatest threat to children’s long term health in the state of New York. Currently, one out of every four New Yorkers under the age of 18 is obese and not only does obesity lead to greater risks of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and loss of limbs, it also creates a significant economic burden on New York State’s health care spending. New York currently spends $6.1 billion each year to treat obesity-related health problems – the second highest level of spending in the nation.
Governor Paterson’s five-point plan includes the Healthy Food/Healthy Communities Initiative which will offer a new revolving loan fund to increase the number of healthy food markets in underserved communities. The Governor also proposed banning trans fats in restaurants, requiring calorie postings in chain restaurants, banning junk food sales in schools, and today he reiterated the proposal announced in his 2009-10 budget to place a surcharge on sugared beverages such as soda.
The Governor also announced that beginning in February, First Lady Michelle Paige Paterson will roll out the Healthy Steps to Albany Initiative: the First Lady’s Challenge in five cities across New York to encourage children to eat right and to exercise. Healthy Steps to Albany is a contest that challenges New York State middle school classes to increase their physical activity by competing with each other to walk approximately four million steps in six weeks. The program will be introduced in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany and Yonkers.
“By protecting our children from obesity, we protect their health and our health care system. That is why this matters,” said Governor Paterson.
Governor Paterson is committed to ensuring that every child is prepared for college – and that every child can afford to go college. That is why, as part of his 2009-10 budget he called for the creation of the first New York State Higher Education Loan Program, which will provide $350 million in affordable loans to students in need. Furthermore, the Governor today advocated for the establishment of new early college high schools through public-private partnerships. Innovative educational models such as early college high schools have raised high school graduation rates and prepared New York’s most disadvantaged children for college. CUNY currently partners with eleven early college high schools, serving 3,948 students in 2007-08.
“The current crisis should teach us that the only way to restore our long-term economic competitiveness is to build the world’s best system of education. The road to economic competitiveness and renewal runs right through our schools,” said Governor Paterson. “However, during this downturn, we simply cannot spend more – so we must spend more effectively.”
Governor Paterson reiterated his call for Congress to pass a comprehensive stimulus package that includes direct fiscal relief to states – and to pass it by the end of January. He also called upon the federal government to quickly reform the financial regulation system stating that: “if the federal government does not act, then I shall. We need sensible regulation to oversee our financial markets and hedge funds so that the savings and retirement funds of New Yorkers will not be at risk.”
Speaking of one state and one future, the Governor talked about the need to revitalize every part of New York State.
“Just as we help the financial sector rebuild, we must also reaffirm our commitment to specific programs and projects targeted at revitalizing Upstate, including the Upstate Revitalization Fund. I have tasked the Empire State Development Corporation with identifying transformational projects in our Upstate communities, from enhancing the tourism infrastructure around Niagara Falls to investing in biosciences in Buffalo.”
The Governor also focused on the need for better, smarter infrastructure across the State which will create 21st century jobs. He spoke specifically about investing in roads and bridges and also implementing the Ravitch Commission recommendations to improve an essential piece of New York infrastructure, the MTA.
Governor Paterson reiterated his support for a property tax cap and again called for the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Property Tax Relief and Local Government Efficiency.
Finally, the Governor spoke about the aggressive target he set forth in his 2009-10 budget proposal to require that Empire Zone participants produce $20 of benefit for every $1 of State money.
“Companies that receive tax breaks from the State must be held accountable for creating jobs and investing in their facilities,” added Governor Paterson. “With the savings generated by reforming Empire Zones, we will make strategic investments in the job-creating industries of tomorrow, such as biotechnology and manufacturing, and we will offer research and development tax credits to foster innovation.”
In response to the recent hate-based violence in Suffolk County, Brooklyn and Syracuse, Governor Paterson today called on the State government to implement a school-based curriculum reinforcing the message of acceptance and tolerance.
The Governor spoke not only of the need to respect one another, but also the need to serve one another.
“In these difficult times, when 225,000 New Yorkers may lose their jobs, we must recognize that community service is more important than ever.”
To address that growing need, the Governor called for an increase in funding to expand the Regional Volunteers Centers across the State and urged New Yorkers to visit newyorkersvolunteer.org to learn what they can do to serve their neighbors in need.
The Governor recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan where he visited troops from New York. In his State of the State address he spoke of his travels and discussed the need for the federal government to reform and improve the health care system for service members and their families as well as the need to implement a comprehensive strategy to support returning veterans including access to counseling in rural areas of the State.
Finally, the Governor also spoke about the need to continue to fight crime which has decreased in New York for 17 consecutive years. He announced the expansion of Operation IMPACT, a program that uses intelligence-driven strategies that have been successfully employed in 17 counties across the State, to all major Upstate cities.
In closing, Governor Paterson addressed his fellow colleagues and the citizens of New York stating: “Let us remember this moment as the moment we decided to come together to take back our future. This should be the moment where we take control of our deficit so we can return to the mission of New York. That mission is to rebuild our economy, create good jobs, to improve our business climate, to develop the industrial sectors of the future like clean technologies and life sciences, to strengthen our colleges and universities so that New York will always have a skilled and educated workforce. That is the New York that maintains hope for the future. That is the New York with a vibrant economy. That is the New York we all want to live in. That is the New York I want to rebuild.”