Cuomo talks education, economy and Sandy on L.I.

02/28/2013 4:40 PM |
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo shares his "State of the State" address at Stony Brook University Thursday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo shares his “State of the State” address at Stony Brook University Thursday afternoon.

New Yorkers will learn from the destruction and disasters in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — and we’ll come back stronger because of it.

So vowed Governor Andrew Cuomo at a “State of the State” address Thursday he delivered at Stony Brook University.

“There was a silver lining to this storm,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You saw New Yorkers coming together to help each other in an unprecedented way … There is such power in that unity, there is such strength in that unity.”

He delivered the speech hours after he presented his plan for the coming year to an audience in Brooklyn.

Mr. Cuomo also described his plans for increased investment in start-up businesses, women’s equality legislation, and more and better education for New York children.

Here are some of the highlights of Mr. Cuomo’s proposals:

• Mr. Cuomo proposed adding more schooling for the state’s children, including pre-kindergarten for all New Yorkers.

Although he supports increasing time in the classroom so students can learn more, he said it would be up to each district to determine whether they would make school days longer, make the school year longer, a combination of both, or to leave their year the same length. Mr. Cuomo added the state would pay for “100 percent” of the initial costs for extended education in the state’s districts.

• He will work to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour, saying the current minimum wage of $7.25 is not enough to sustain a working family and was less than surrounding states.

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do, it’s long overdue in my opinion,” Mr. Cuomo said.

• He will not seek to raise taxes this year, to change the stereotype of New York being a “tax capital.” At the same time, he said he would close the $1 billion budget deficit by finding “efficiencies in the state government.”

• The key to economic success for New York state is to build regional economies, Mr. Cuomo said. Long Island, he added, is a much different economy than those in Buffalo or Rochester. He said he would continue work on the state’s Regional Development Council program and propose business incubators to entice students and entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state.

• Mr. Cuomo praised the state’s decisions to legalize gay marriage and enforce stricter gun controls, saying the state had a responsibility as a “progressive” state to lead the way on social issues. He proposed a “women’s equality act” which would close the gap between men’s and women’s salaries, introduce zero-tolerance rules against sexual harassment, fight workplace discrimination due to gender and protect abortion rights.

The audience gave the governor a standing ovation after he announced the plan.

• The state will dump in more than 3 million cubic yards of sand to restore the Long Island’s beaches damaged in superstorm Sandy. Mr. Cuomo said the beaches will be reopened by Memorial Day.

• Mr. Cuomo proposed “hardening” state utility systems to prevent future incidents like the gas shortages after Sandy and widespread power outages.

• Mr. Cuomo said the state will fund buyouts for homeowners who wish to leave flood-threatened areas. Homes will be purchased back at pre-storm prices, he said.

• The state will work to provide grants to local municipalities that need funds to make storm repairs and improvements, Mr. Cuomo said.

psquire@timesreview.com