Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered the first phase of his 2021 State of the State address today. He began by announcing that his presentation was an overview, and that he would be giving three additional addresses in the coming days that will provide more details regarding specific policy plans for this year. The action plans will focus on seven key priorities: defeat COVID-19; vaccinate New York; address the budget deficit; invest in the future; transition to a green economy; understand the long-term effects of COVID-19; and address systemic injustices.
The Governor framed the state and nation’s battle with COVID-19 as a war. He will continue to impose regulations and implore New Yorkers to be diligent until the virus is under control. He indicated that COVID-19 revealed serious issues with the public health system in the state and a grave vulnerability in the medical supply chain. The Governor is proposing the passage of the Medical Supplies Act to incentivize New York companies to make medical equipment and develop a supply chain based in New York so that there will not be future shortages of medical supplies.
The Governor stated that while the pandemic revealed problems, it also fostered innovation. One of these areas of innovation was in telehealth, and the Governor would like to see legislation passed that provides comprehensive access to telehealth services for all New Yorkers. The Governor is also proposing the creation of the New York State Public Health Corps, a partnership with Cornell University and Northwell Health, that will hire 1,000 Health Corps fellows for a one-year commitment. The fellows will develop a sustained and coordinated statewide vaccination plan and develop an emergency response capacity. Cornell will also be spearheading a citizen’s public health training program to train and certify volunteers to help in their communities during the next public health emergency.
The Governor emphasized that New York cannot fight the war against COVID-19 without help from the federal government. He stated that even if taxes were increased on the wealthy to the highest level in the nation, severe cuts would still need to be made to healthcare and education that would devastate New York. The Governor said it was the duty of the federal government to help New York. He also stated that New York will do its part and look to raise additional revenue through the legalization of recreational marijuana and state-sponsored mobile sports betting. He stated that there needs to be an equitable partnership with Washington.
Looking forward, the Governor noted that all wars are followed by reconstruction. He believes that New York’s reconstruction must begin now. He stated that New York cannot stay closed until everyone is vaccinated because there will be nothing left to reopen. He wants to use science, testing, and vaccines to reopen across the state. He noted that allowing fans at the Buffalo Bills football game this past Saturday was a pilot test for how to do this, and early indications show that events can be held safely when proper protocols are used.
Governor Cuomo wants to start reconstruction in New York with the most aggressive transportation and construction program in the country that will focus on new airports, roads, bridges, rail, and infrastructure across the state. He also noted that he wants to expand the infrastructure of tomorrow — broadband. While New York has committed to broadband in the past, he wants to lead the nation in making broadband affordable and accessible to all New Yorkers and ensure that access does not discriminate based on race and/or income.
The Governor also envisions the reconstruction focusing on making New York the green energy capitol of the world. He stated that we must address climate change and focus on worker retraining as we embrace and develop the new energy markets.
The Governor wants to see New York repair the social infrastructure and rebuild confidence in public safety. In addition, he noted that we need to provide resources for rent and mortgage relief and prevent the imposition of late rent/mortgage penalties on residents and small businesses in New York. The Governor also proposed addressing the housing crisis by converting vacant commercial properties into affordable housing. Finally, the Governor wants to see broad-based election law reform to ensure greater election security and voter access.
Prior to his address today, the Governor released a host of proposals outlining additional priorities for 2021, including extending the High Line in Manhattan, prohibiting utility disconnections in regions that are under a state of emergency, prioritizing nurse access to SUNY and CUNY nursing programs in New York, modernizing the Department of Health’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct, and combatting domestic and gender-based violence by creating new protections under the law.
Today’s presentation was just the overview of what is to come, and we do not have much detail on any of the individual proposals that have been outlined to this point. We will provide more information as it becomes available and provide updates regarding the next three presentations as needed.
If you have additional questions about this update, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance: