As Governor Andrew Cuomo held his State of the State Address on Monday, lawmakers waited to see what major components would be included, or not, in his legislative agenda.
For Upstate Republicans representing the Finger Lakes and Central New York, the 2021 agenda was lacking.
“While I believe many of the programs he outlined have great potential to improve our public health, the Governor offered no details on how we will pay for them,” Assemblyman Jeff Gallahan said after. Gallahan was elected in November to succeed long-time Assemblyman Brian Manktelow in a district that includes Ontario and Seneca counties. “Our state is facing a $15 billion budget deficit, and the Governor placed the blame solely on the federal government, while offering few solutions other than a federal bailout.”
“Let’s be clear, the fiscal problems our state is facing existed before the pandemic,” Gallahan added. “While the pandemic has increased our state’s fiscal issues, the overspending has long been a problem. Instead of making cuts, the Governor introduced more programs that would cost New York taxpayers.”
He also called for Gov. Cuomo to turn over powers granted to him by the legislature at the start of the pandemic. “If the Governor truly wants elected leaders to lead, he must restore power to the Legislature to make it the equal branch of government it once was,” Gallahan continued.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, who represents Cayuga and Wayne counties said he was ‘very disappointed’ with the ‘bare bones’ presentation. “I understand things will be spread out over the next few days, with him hopefully going into more depth on certain issues, but I was really hoping he would address the vaccine program a bit more substantially. We need to get this vaccine to our constituents as soon as possible in order to move forward with other programs, plans, and funds to be distributed.”
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said that the address should have been more focused on recovery. “This year’s State of the State Address should have been a moment focused on New York’s recovery, with specific plans, details and optimism that 19.5 million New Yorkers have been waiting for. While we’re told additional information will be forthcoming, we hope to receive more substance than a compilation of previous briefings and additional finger-pointing at Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Fortunately, Gov. Cuomo acknowledged the need for fiscal recovery and greater commitment to infrastructure, improving broadband access and reinforcing the state’s health care preparedness. Certainly, I agree with him on these goals. But he presented far too little on help for small businesses, direct assistance to families, future logistics on the state’s slow vaccination roll-out or how he plans to address New York’s mounting debt and precarious budget deficit.”
“The Governor recognized the need to reopen New York’s economy, as this must be our focus – reopening businesses and getting people back to work. But we must avoid solutions that benefit the government at the expense of local businesses and taxpayers. For example, the Governor’s proposal on state-sponsored mobile sports betting is short on details and I want to see how this will impact the thousands of workers at the gaming facilities in my district,” Senator Pam Helming said. She represents the 54th District, which makes up a large part of the Finger Lakes. “I appreciate that the Governor mentioned two issues in particular that are important to my constituents and our rural communities, and that I have long advocated for: expanding COVID-19 testing and expanding broadband access. I hope the Governor’s commitment today means that our area will get the rapid testing sites we need, and that the Legislature will act on my bill to repeal the cost-prohibitive fee for broadband installers that was enacted in last year’s state budget. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the state’s need to tighten its own belt and control spending. For too long, the state has relied on others to solve the government’s fundamental spending problem. We must not burden businesses or taxpayers with more cost and regulation.”
Senator Tom O’Mara, who represents a large portion of the Southern Tier and Southern Finger Lakes shared his displeasure with the State of the State. “State government is still being operated by Cuomo executive order and that needs to end as soon as possible. First and foremost, the Legislature needs to reclaim its decision-making authority for this critical legislative session ahead of us. I have stressed throughout the COVID-19 response over the past ten months that we need to be ready, once we weather this storm, to start an open and full discussion on the best ways to move forward for this entire state, upstate and downstate. It is going to require a restructuring of New York government, strengthening the state-local partnership, and getting to work rebuilding New York with the right priorities, long-overdue commonsense reforms, and fiscal responsibility. Right now all I’m hearing from
Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders is that we need to desperately search for more revenue, including higher taxes and more borrowing, so that the state can afford an unprecedented spending spree in the years ahead. I look forward to joining my Senate Republican colleagues throughout the coming weeks and months to put forth strategies and work to ensure that our upstate regions don’t get left behind in the unprecedented rebuilding and restructuring effort that we’re facing,” O’Mara said.
Editor’s Note: We will update this story with more feedback from legislators across the region as it becomes available.