ALBANY, N.Y. January 5, 2011 - New York State United Teachers President Richard C. Iannuzzi today issued the following statement to multiple media outlets after Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address:
"There are many ill-conceived property tax cap proposals being promoted and we are clearly opposed to them. Is it possible to create a responsible property tax cap proposal that gives school districts that are succeeding the freedom to continue to succeed, and those that are struggling the ability - and resources - to begin to succeed? Is it possible to do so and still maintain essential public services and provide for the needs of education and health care? NYSUT is willing to work with the governor and the Legislature to find out."
Earlier in the day, Iannuzzi noted: "The governor's address underscored the challenges ahead. We need to figure out how to meet the economic needs of this state without jeopardizing essential public services, especially providing the quality public education and health care that working New Yorkers depend on. We anticipate working closely with the governor - and the Assembly and Senate - on just how to do that."
Key points from Gov. Cuomo's State of the State address on issues of particular relevance to educators, health professionals and working families are summarized below by NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta:
• The governor outlined broad plans for reigning in spending and highlighted education, Medicaid and state mandates as target areas.
• Cuomo is calling for:
- an emergency financial plan that would institute a one-year wage freeze for certain public employees in the state work force whose contracts expire April 1
- imposing a cap on state spending and
- closing the state deficit without new taxes or borrowing.
• The governor also called for a "rightsizing" of government, which may include consolidation or elimination of some state agencies. Local government would also be eligible for "consolidation bonuses," with a portion of the state grants going to property tax relief.
• With stated support from leaders of the state Assembly and Senate for a tax cap, Cuomo will propose a cap of 2 percent or 120 percent the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
• Cuomo said the costs of pensions and health care for government employees "are exploding and only getting worse."
• The governor lamented the lack of performance-based education funding and characterized education spending as unsustainable, greatly outpacing inflation, adding: "New York spends too much and gets too little in return."
• Similar to the federal Race to the Top program, Cuomo proposed $500 million in competitive grants for schools and districts that improve student performance and administrative efficiency. The funds would theoretically come from a restructuring of current education aid. Cuomo highlighted Brian Rosebloom, a Manhattan principal who increased attendance and Regents pass rates, as the kind of "performance we want to incentivize."
• He referenced "our great SUNY system" and alluded to it as key in creating jobs.
• The governor will create 10 regional economic development councils across the state to promote public/private partnerships with the ultimate goal of creating jobs. The councils, which are not advisory but will actually have the authority to allocate resources, will partner area leaders from higher education with representatives from business and state and local government.
• Modeled after a Wisconsin program, Cuomo will create a "Medicaid Redesign Team" composed of stakeholders, including health care union representatives tasked with reducing costs of the program. The team will have to work within a cost target set in the governor's forthcoming Executive Budget proposal and must work with lawmakers to meet the April 1 state budget deadline. Initial recommendations are due March 1.
• In similar fashion, a "Mandate Relief Redesign Team" will review unfunded state mandates on school districts and local governments. The team - to include business, education, labor and government representatives - must make a first recommendation by March 1. Both teams are set to meet this Friday.
Before the governor made his address, both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos made remarks. While Silver acknowledged the difficult fiscal realities facing the state, he noted that keeping public higher education affordable must be part of building the state's brighter future. He voiced support for a property tax cap.
Sen. Skelos said Senate Republicans know how to do more with less and are prepared to work with Cuomo and lawmakers in the Assembly to cut spending and enact a cap. Skelos said there is no government program more important than private sector job growth.
NYSUT is working round the clock to continue bringing you information, strategy and action plans at the local level.