January 6, 1999
Governor: New York's comeback
is begun but not done
His State of the State emphasizes restraint; he calls for budget growth below inflation
Saying that New York's economic comeback of the last four years is begun but not done, Governor Pataki today urged new actions to sustain the state's recovery. In his annual State of the State address today, the Governor emphasized fiscal restraint and advanced some proposals to enhance New York's comeback. For example, he said New York State should invest a projected $1 billion surplus this year in a reserve fund to sustain tax cuts already enacted.
He also said he would propose a budget for 1999 that would keep spending increases below the rate of inflation.
"When we met here four years ago, New York was in a period of crisis. Our economy was failing. Our people were bleak in spirit. New York had fallen from the mantle of national leadership that is its legacy, and its destiny," the Governor said.
"Today, New York's future is bright with hope. But our renewal marks a beginning, not an end."
"We must take bold steps to ensure that this government continues to live within its means."
"New York's surplus doesn't belong to government, because it wasn't earned by government," he said. "It was earned by the men and women who work for a living and pay their taxes.
"By putting the people's money in a safe place where it can't be touched, we're taking the prudent step of guaranteeing that it gets returned to the taxpayers."
The Governor also proposed:
- A constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to approve any state tax increase. "Raising taxes is a destructive act and should therefore be a difficult act," he said, adding: "For as long as I'm governor, we won't need this law."
- Tax incentives to encourage high-tech and other businesses to use sites pre-approved under the state's new program to accelerate site approvals.
- New funding for aggressive marketing of New York State to businesses in other states. The Business Council has urged funding for such a program, to be conducted in concert with the private sector.
- Changes to the state Superfund that would give the state authority to clean hazardous substance sites not now covered by Superfund.
- Steps to encourage the development of "brownfield" sites.
- A cap on school spending that drives up property taxes.
- A law to give school districts "long-overdue mandate relief," including relief from the Wicks Law. The Wicks Law radically inflates construction costs on public projects by requiring government entities to use multiple contractors on projects with budgets of $50,000 or more.
"We're pleased that Governor Pataki is emphasizing spending restraint as a key part of the effort to sustain and accelerate our comeback," said Business Council President Daniel B. Walsh.
He added that business agrees with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno that further tax cuts can further enhance New York's economic renaissance.
Senator Bruno's proposals would save taxpayers $795 million a year. The package includes key elements of The Business Council's agenda for making New York's business taxes competitive, including: Reducing the tax rates on banks and insurance companies from 9 to 7.5 percent; cutting the gross receipts tax on utility customers' bills; and averting unlegislated tax increases on energy utilities created by utility restructuring.
The Governor cited tax cuts, workers' compensation reform, regulatory reform and the introduction of competition to power markets as key factors in the state's economic recovery.
"In just four years, we've cut taxes 36 times, saving New Yorkers over $19 billion dollars," Governor Pataki said. "We've cut income taxes on New York's working families, not once but three times.
"And the result has been a strong economy that continues to grow stronger, because our people have more freedom to save, spend and invest."
He said that these tax cuts, and the elimination of some 1,000 regulations, had contributed to the creation of 400,000 new private-sector jobs in the last four years.
In his State of the State message, Governor Pataki also proposed:
- Creating a new Biotechnology Research Center at SUNY-Buffalo to foster development of a biotechnology industry there, and enhancing funding of an existing biotechnology incubator based at the University at Albany.
- Promoting tourism through "an unprecedented effort to restore and promote our state's historic landmarks."
- A new law and new funding to create a "New York Heritage Trail."
- Funding to redevelop, rehabilitate, and restore Penn Station in Manhattan.
"With these and other initiatives, we will recommit ourselves to making New York the place where people from around the world come to gaze in wonder," Governor Pataki said.
"And in the process we will reinvigorate our tourism industry, create new jobs, revitalize mass transit, and build on our state's unprecedented economic renewal," he added.
- The elimination of tenure for school principals.
- A law entitling families to enroll children in an English Immersion Program during the summer months, "so that children who enrich this land with their diversity, can seize the limitless opportunities of New York in the 21st Century."
- A law empowering teachers to remove from their classrooms students who refuse to learn.
- New programs to involve community organizations, health care providers, insurers, and families in pilot projects designed to improve health care delivered to children with asthma in selected areas with high incidence rates, such as the Bronx, Manhattan and Buffalo.
- The Governor also proposed a comprehensive statewide education campaign to help teachers, parents and children become more aware of asthma and its triggers.
- A new school-based program to help children with diabetes maintain their daily medical regimens and control their disease.
The Governor's State of the State address advanced several initiatives related to criminal justice. He proposed:
- Ending parole for all felons.
- Expanding the jurisdiction of our state's DNA data bank "so we can use the full force of today's technology against criminals."
- A bias crime law that targets crime motivated by bigotry and racism.
- Passage of the Sexual Assault Reform Act "to protect our women and children from sexual predators."
- Juvenile justice reform "to change the laws that allow young criminals to commit violent acts with virtual impunity."
- "We must crack down on vicious criminals whose only defense from justice is their birth certificate," the Governor said. "Any law that grants an unconditional pardon based on age is an assault on our people and on the rule of law itself."
- An expansion of a pilot welfare-to-work program in Albany called Built On Pride. This program, a collaborative effort with the Urban League of Northeastern New York, trains people for existing jobs in a wide range of construction trades, including plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work. Governor Pataki proposed making the program statewide.
- Governor Pataki also called, without elaboration, for "meaningful court reform" and campaign finance reform. He did not mention tort reform.