State of the State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers the first installment of his 2021 State of the State address on Monday. The governor will continue to lay out his agenda throughout this week.

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio heard some things he liked Monday — and things he didn’t like as much — during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first State of the State Address of the week.

It was Cuomo’s 11th State of the State address.

It was hard to argue, Giglio, R-Gowanda, said, with the seven issues the governor highlighted — including at the top of the list, fighting COVID-19.

The other issues are:

• Vaccinate 70% to 90% of 20 million New Yorkers.

• A short-term economic crisis with a $15 billion deficit.

• The need to plan for economic resurgence.

• Make New York a leader in the global green economy.

• Anticipate how COVID-19 will transform society.

• Address systemic inequalities.

“We all want to defeat COVID,” Giglio, who agreed in general on the need to address the other issues. If only the governor had stopped there.

“As he continued his speech I found problems,” Giglio said. “He was blaming everybody else for our problems.”

For example, Cuomo put hospitals in charge of vaccinating healthcare workers and first responders, then threatened them with fines if they didn’t get the vaccine into arms faster, Giglio said.

“He asked hospitals to do something they don’t usually do,” the assemblyman said. “Now they are modifying the plan to speed the vaccinations and talking about more places to dispense the vaccine. They should get it out faster.”

Giglio recalled how students used to be vaccinated in schools. “They lined you up and you got vaccinated.”

Cuomo, he said, is quick to place the blame. “If something is wrong, we’ll modify it and make it better. Get away from the blame.”

Giglio acknowledged Cuomo “is a great speaker. He makes a nice story.”

The governor did give a shout-out to the City of Salamanca Police Department, which was the first to submit its plan for police reform following the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police over the summer.

The Gowanda assemblyman said Cuomo’s call for the federal government to bail out New York which is looking at a $15 billion deficit, is another way of shifting blame. “We were already in a huge debt before COVID hit, so don’t blame everything on the federal government.”

In his address, the governor said the federal government bore the responsibility because it did not warn the state and did not coordinate a federal response. More than 375,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

Giglio agreed that the loss of the state and local tax exemption in the 2017 Republican tax cut was not necessarily good for New Yorkers, but it expanded other exemptions. “He doesn’t talk about the other exemptions.” Giglio also questions the governor’s claim that it was costing New York $10 billion a year.

“There’s no argument that New York sends more money to Washington than it gets back, but that’s not the only reason New York is in debt.”

One item Giglio said he liked “was the idea of the economic resurgence. I really liked the idea that after the economy reopens we need to be ready to go with infrastructure. I am for anything that will create jobs.”

Giglio said he hopes the state infrastructure package includes funding for the Route 219 Expressway through Cattaraugus County to Interstate 86.

“You would hope it would include money for Route 219. That Route 219 corridor is one of the biggest corridors for trade from Ontario and Buffalo,” Gioglio said. Western New York becomes a key trade hub. “Route 219 better be part of it.”

As usual, Cuomo’s State of the State speech was short on details, Giglio pointed out.

“We need to quit blaming everybody and find a way to make things better. We knew our budget was shaky. COVID was here during the last budget process.”

The details will come with the governor’s budget in coming weeks. Gigflio said both parties should be involved in the budget rather than Republicans “having it shoved down our throats.”

State Sen. George Borrello, R-Lakewood, said, “New York State has greeted 2021 with an imperative: to rebuild and reset our state in the wake of the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. To that end, there were areas of the Governor’s address that suggest common ground with several of the priorities advanced in the ‘Reset New York’ agenda unveiled last week by myself and my Senate Republican colleagues, which is encouraging.”

Borrello said, “Yet, also notable was the outsize emphasis the Governor placed on the federal government and its responsibility to provide financial aid to help close our state’s $15 billion deficit. While the federal government does have a role to play in our recovery, more focus belongs on the state’s culture of overspending and its burdensome tax and regulatory environment, which are persistent obstacles to our economic strength. Before COVID descended on our state in 2020, we were facing a $6 billion budget deficit. Now is the time to revisit and reform our spending.”

The senator said, “I was glad to hear him say that New York cannot afford another statewide shutdown while we wait for full distribution of the COVID vaccine. The economic damage, job losses and educational harm to our children that resulted from our spring shutdown were catastrophic and will take years to recover from,” he said. “Another wide-scale shutdown at this point could set us behind for a generation,” Borrello said.

“It was a positive to hear him highlight the critical importance of accessible, affordable broadband service for New Yorkers. While I agree with his position that broadband needs to be more affordable, the best way to achieve that goal is to reduce the ever-increasing taxes, fees and regulations that he keeps piling on providers,” Borrello said.

“I was glad to hear him acknowledge that the spiking crime rate in our cities is unacceptable and must be addressed. The governor acknowledged this horrific problem as well as the reality that 94 percent of shooting victims have been from black and brown communities – the same communities who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic,” Borrello said.

“While today’s address was short on details, we will be learning more in the days ahead on the Governor’s plans on these and a range of issues,” he said.

“At this critical time for our state, I will be scrutinizing each one for its potential to rebuild our economy, create jobs, improve our weakened public safety efforts and close the dangerous educational gap that has resulted from the loss of in-school learning, he said. “Our ability to successfully address these problems will determine our future.”

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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