Gov. Andrew Cuomo has rolled out plenty of policy proposals for 2017 – enough to fill 383 pages in fact – but some of them are bigger than others. Here’s a recap of the some of the most important ones, and why they’ll be hotly debated during the legislative session.
Free college tuition at SUNY and CUNY: Continuing a shift to a more liberal agenda during last year’s session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed free college tuition for families or individuals making $125,000 or less annually – but only at SUNY and CUNY schools. Cuomo said the plan would cost the state about $163 million per year once fully phased in. Details behind how the state would pay for the cost have not been released and many private colleges have expressed concern about losing students to the public colleges.
Enhanced middle class child care tax credit: The new tax credit would supplement the current state child and dependent care tax credit and double the benefit for families making between $60,000 and $150,000 annually. Cuomo said the tax credit targets the middle class since those making under $50,000 already receive a generous benefit. The program would cost an estimated $42 million.
Closure of Indian Point Energy Center: The governor reached a deal with Entergy to end all operations at the nuclear power plant by April 2021. Cuomo has long sought to close the facility for public and environmental safety reasons. The plant is about 35 miles north of New York City, and that proximity to such a major population center makes it a greater risk. Local Westchester County officials felt blindsided by the deal and have concerns about rising utility rates and the loss of jobs.
The New York Promise agenda: Cuomo proposed a package of bills that would reform the criminal justice system, including raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old, eliminating the wage gap by prohibiting all state entities from evaluating candidates based on prior salary and launching a statewide Hate Crimes Task Force. The agenda also included immigration reforms, such as expanding naturalization services at the state’s Office for New Americans and pressing for the passage of the New York DREAM Act, a financial aid measure which has repeatedly failed.
Lower greenhouse gases: Cuomo announced the state made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030. He also called for the other states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to follow New York’s lead. This commitment comes at the same time Cuomo has successfully pushed for the closure of Indian Point, though environmental advocates debate the role of nuclear power in the country’s move toward cleaner energy.
Buffalo Billion phase two: The governor announced phase two of the controversial Buffalo Billion project, which will invest an additional $500 million to continue revitalization, improving workforce development and job training, and growing manufacturing. This comes after former Cuomo aide Joe Percoco was accused of pocketing bribes from developers to rig bids related to the economic development plan. Since the news broke, many state officials have expressed concerns about the governor’s regional economic development councils.
Expanding ride-hailing: Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft have been legal in New York City for several years, but are not allowed in the rest of the state. Cuomo proposed expanding ride-hailing services to upstate New York, though the issue has repeatedly failed to pass in Albany due to a disagreement over the insurance limits required for drivers to operate in upstate. Proponents hope Cuomo’s support may be the push needed for the legislation to finally pass.