Liz Krueger New York State Senate, 28th District January 8, 2018
On January 3rd, Governor Cuomo delivered his State of the State address, which lays out his agenda for the coming year. Many of the issues, such as transportation, housing and education funding, lacked detail, and I hope to hear more from the Governor on these when he outlines his budget in a few weeks.
I was particularly disappointed at the lack of any significant discussion of how the state is going to address the crisis of deteriorating subway infrastructure and service. In December I joined many of my Senate Democratic colleagues in writing to the Governor urging him to make this a top priority. I remain hopeful that when he releases his budget, he will outline a detailed plan for providing adequate funding to the MTA and linking that funding to necessary reforms. The Governor has also indicated general support for congestion pricing as a way to fund the MTA, and needs to outline a specific proposal in his budget.
I was also disappointed by the lack of a clear housing plan in the Governor’s address. While he did offer a strong statement about the need to address the homeless crisis, there was little discussion about the state’s role beyond reference to supportive housing spending that has was committed in previous years. Furthermore, the Governor offered no broader plan for building and preserving affordable housing to address our broader housing crisis. We need an agenda that strengthens rent regulation and provides substantial additional funding for building new affordable housing. It is particularly important that the state step up now, when we expect substantial reductions in federal housing programs.
On the positive side, Governor Cuomo offered a number of detailed proposals on a broad range of issues from sexual harassment to environmental policy to election reform. I believe the Governor has a real chance to be a leader if he aggressively pushes for passage of his proposals.
The current climate of increased awareness of sexual assault and harassment should increase the priority of passing legislation to protect and compensate victims and ensure that incidents of harassment and assault are made public. One thing these incidents has revealed is that the costs of disclosure to victims must be addressed so that they are able to come forward and prevent perpetrators from continuing to victimize others. In the policy spotlight below I will discuss the package of legislation that the Senate Democratic Conference is offering to address this issue, but there are good proposals from the Governor and Senate Republicans as well. This is not a partisan issue – certainly among my profession there have been far too many harassers in both parties. I am hopeful that we can all work together to pass a substantive package of legislation to address this issue this year.
I was pleased that the Governor’s address included a number of environmental proposals dealing with climate change, clean energy, and water quality. Governor Cuomo proposed working with Comptroller DiNapoli to divest the New York State Pension fund from fossil fuels. I carry legislation with similar goals (S4596), and am glad to have the Governor’s support. Governor Cuomo also announced that he will seek proposals for developing 800 Megawatts of offshore wind power, which would be an important step in moving our state away from dependence on fossil fuels, though it falls short of the rate of development being pushed by many environmental advocates. In addition, the Governor reiterated the state’s commitment to cleaning up PCBs in the Hudson, and announced a number of other clean water initiatives, including addressing algae blooms and runoff from the former Grumman aerospace facility on Long Island. I look forward to working with the Governor to support these environmental priorities, and continuing to push for an even more urgent approach to the climate crisis.
I was also pleased that the Governor laid out an aggressive criminal justice reform agenda, including an end to cash bail, discovery reform, and efforts to meet constitutional guarantees to a speedy trial. There is no question that our current criminal justice system is unjust to many poor people and people of color, and addressing these issues is critical to creating a fairer society. I do hope that the Governor will recognize that some of these reforms will require increased investment in our courts and criminal defense services. Furthermore, I would urge the Governor to recognize that justice also requires reform of our criminal laws, including our drug laws. Supporting my bill to legalize adult use of marijuana is one of many ways the Governor could go a step further toward making sure that neither our laws nor our judicial system are responsible for unjustly incarcerating New Yorkers.
The Governor also outlined an ambitious agenda of election reforms that I have long supported, including same day voter registration, no fault absentee and early voting, public campaign financing, and closing the LLC loophole that allows real estate interest and others to get around existing campaign donation limits. I am gratified that the Governor is supporting these measures, but can’t help but remembering that he has proposed similar measures in previous years, only to back off from them in the face of opposition from the Senate Republican/IDC Majority Coalition. Unfortunately this has too often been the case, with the Governor outlining an ambitious progressive agenda at the beginning of the legislative session, but not being willing to push that agenda throughout the legislative session.
In sum, while there are some glaring omissions from the Governor’s list of priorities, there was much to like about his agenda as laid out in the State of the State. Now the hard work must happen. He must move from talk to action, and make sure that this ambitious agenda on addressing sexual harassment, protecting our environment, reforming our criminal justice system, and reinvigorating our democratic process is not forgotten in a month or two. I look forward to working with him to accomplish these goals, and to reminding him that achieving them will require real engagement with the legislature and other stakeholders.
Liz Krueger's Contact Information
172 State Street Room 905 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2297
Fax: (518) 426-6874
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211 East 43rd Street Suite 401
New York, NY 10017
Phone: (212) 490-9535
Fax: (212) 490-2151
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Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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