Governor Cuomo delivers expansive address
During a stop at Farmingdale State College last week for his round of regional State of the State addresses, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to invest millions of dollars in projects spanning the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).
Cuomo said the proposal includes plans to make improvements to 16 LIRR stations, including the construction of new stops at Brookhaven National Laboratory and MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
“The Long Island Rail Road began in 1834. Long Island’s population was 37,000 people. It is now 2.9 million people. The Long Island Rail Road has not kept the scale,” said Cuomo. “We need to make changes and we need to make them quickly. We have to grow to stay ahead and we’re going to start that this year. We’ll invest $80 million to modernize 16 major MTA and LIRR stations. The station enhancements will include new facilities, Wi-Fi, charging stations, clearer signage for travelers, public art in every station. Believe it or not, we’re going to do it right. We’re not just going to clean it up, it’s going to be a place to be proud of.”
Cuomo also said he wants to make people proud of their local government, while simultaneously lowering property taxes for Long Island residents. The governor said that the median state tax is $1,874, while property tax soars to $4,700. Property taxes, according to Cuomo, have always been the problem for residents and the governor presented data that showed New York state boasts the highest property taxes in the country, with Westchester at no. 1, followed by Nassau County at no. 2 and Suffolk at no. 12.
“How are our state property taxes so high? Because we have a proliferation of local government in the state of New York that is more expensive than virtually any other state in the country,” he said. “We want to be economically competitive, we want to get the taxes down and we have to focus on property taxes. They crush senior citizens. They crush home sales. You have a lot of home sales where the taxes are higher than the mortgage that you would pay. In the old days, the question was can you pay the mortgage. Now the question is can you pay the taxes?”
The key to bringing property taxes down in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to Cuomo, is for the county executives to convene all the local governments in one room and work together to find savings and cost inefficiencies. Cuomo said that Nassau County has 305 local governments, each operating autonomously, which means each town does its own purchasing. Instead, Cuomo wants to see towns working together to achieve one “massive purchase order to get them economy of sale.”
“They would say, ‘you know what? Not everybody has to buy a $100,000 bulldozer,’” he said. “‘We’ll share the bulldozer, because we don’t use it every day.’ There has to be all sorts of savings that you can find.”
Other Long Island proposals touted by the governor during the address included making college tuition free for the state’s middle class families at all SUNY and CUNY colleges; transforming JFK International Airport into an airport equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century; creating a 90-megwatt wind farm 30 miles southeast of Montauk; and combating heroin and opioid addiction.
The governor closed by saying that Long Island needs smart growth in order to remain a viable place to live.
“It cannot take us 30 years to build the Long Island Rail Road second track and 30 years to build the Long Island Rail Road third track. It can’t take us 10 years to replace a rest area on Long Island,” he said. “I know change is hard, I know there is a desire to remain in control, but if we want to make Long Island better than it has ever been, we are going to need to step up and have the courage to do it.”
Cuomo’s Keys For Long Island
Proposal 1: Make college tuition-free for New York’s middle class families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges. The Excelsior Scholarship will be the first of its kind in the nation and will help alleviate the crushing burden of student debt while enabling thousands of bright young students to realize their dream of higher education.
Proposal 23: Reduce property taxes by empowering voters to approve locally-designed plans that eliminate duplicate services to lower the cost of local government.
Proposal 24: Invest $160 million in transformative projects on Long Island. The proposal includes $120 million for the LIRR—to provide state-of-the-art enhancements to 16 stations and improve system connectivity—and $40 million to build sewers that will support economic growth and environmental sustainability in Smithtown and Kings Park.
Proposal 25: Build a 90 megawatt offshore wind project 30 miles southeast of Montauk and develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The project will be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm and the plan will outline the path forward for this unprecedented commitment to offshore wind and will be completed by the end of 2017.