Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said that Governor Cuomo has achieved the perfect balance of being “friendly to business” while “caring about social issues” in his $175 billion budget proposal which she presented to The BCW this week.
Hochul is on a road show explaining the important features of the Governor’ budget proposal which he released last week. The presentation at the BCW’s Rye Brook headquarters was attended by Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin as well as other state and local officials.
Marsha Gordon, President and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, welcomed Hochul and praised her, saying she set an example for all leaders, particularly women.
Hochul said Westchester was “one of the friendliest places” and added that its leaders’ cooperative spirit was responsible for the success it has had in winning economic development dollars. The Mid-Hudson region of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) to which Westchester belongs won the second largest amount of funding – $81.7 million – in the recent round of awards. The REDC was created, she said, to level the playing field for communities across the state in obtaining grants and to make sure that the localities themselves had a say in which projects the state funded. “Parts of the state were being neglected,” she said. “The Regional Councils have leveled the playing field.’’ She added; “The idea is that you tell us what your priorities are, not the other way around.”
Hochul said the Governor’s proposal to make permanent the 2 percent tax cap would continue to provide savings to residents, adding that New Yorkers saved more than $4.4 billion in taxes since the cap was first enacted in 2016.
“When the Governor first took office times were tough,’’ she said, adding that he has brought stability to government with on-time state budgets and efforts to turnaround New York’s reputation as a tax and spend state. In fact, the rate of taxation on businesses is now the lowest it has been since 1954 and the rate of personal taxation, the lowest since 1968, she said.
Hochul said the Governor is also working on ways to try to counteract some of the negative impact of the loss of state and local tax deductions under the new federal tax laws. The new laws set a $10,000 limit on deductions.
Trying to counteract the negative impact of changes in Washington D.C. was a main thrust of the Cuomo budget, said Hochul, who added that many of the proposals are aimed at codifying laws to protect immigrants, LGBTQ, voting rights and equal protection that some fear will be eliminated by the federal government. She pointed to Roe vs. Wade and the protection of a women’s reproductive rights, saying that these are things that “we have taken for granted.”
A proposal to legalize marijuana has received a lot of attention. She said legalization of recreational use would not only help to solve unequal enforcement that disproportionately affects young men of color, but has the potential to produce more than $300 million in tax revenue a year.
Other social issues addressed in the budget, she said, are protecting those with pre-existing health conditions now granted under the Affordable Care Act; and proposals to combat gun violence by strengthening background checks and lengthening waiting periods.
Making it easier to vote is also a goal, said Hochul. The budget proposes some sweeping changes to expand voting rights including a 10-day voting period, same day registration and voting by mail. “We are 42ndin the nation in voter participation,’’ said Hochul. “The more people that participate, the better it will be for our country.’’
Hochul said improving our infrastructure was also on the Governor’s agenda with more than $100 billion in planned projects, including continued work on the Mario Cuomo Bridge, LaGuardia and JFK Airports, the Javits Center and more.