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As $4 billion deficit looms, Cuomo offers less expensive policies for '18

ALBANY – Facing a growing state deficit, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today offered  toned down – and less expensive – policy and fiscal ideas for 2018 in his annual State of the State address.

The state now has a $4.4 billion projected deficit for the coming year, and it is expected to grow further if certain federal spending cuts hit the state.

“We will need that confidence because 2018 may be the toughest year New York has faced in modern history,’’ Cuomo wrote in a book that accompanied his speech this afternoon to both houses of the Legislature in a convention center near the state Capitol.

The governor said the state will sue the federal government to try to block the new federal tax overhaul law, which he said was unfair to  New Yorkers. He also said New York will lead a “repeal and replace” effort – a not-so-subtle reference to GOP efforts to beat back Obamacare.

But Cuomo did not lay out his plans for overhauling the state’s tax code. New York’s high taxes are hitting some residents who now will be restricted when deducting state and local taxes on their federal filings.

Instead, Cuomo said his administration will “explore the feasibility of a major shift in tax policy.’’ He said his administration is looking at restructuring income and payroll tax codes, as well as possibly creating “new opportunities for charitable contributions to support public programs.’’ There has been some talk in Albany of creating a charitable-like foundation into which New Yorkers could donate money to pay for such things as education aid as a way to increase the amount they could deduct on their federal taxes.

Cuomo sets agenda for busy 2018 in State of the State address

“Make no mistake. This law will hurt New York,’’ Cuomo said in written remarks presented to the Legislature.

An hour into his speech this afternoon, Cuomo said the state is looking at reducing the state's reliance on income taxes and adopt a statewide payroll tax system. "It is complicated, it is difficult, but it is clear we must protect New York taxpayers from this assault,'' Cuomo said. He said the plan will be unveiled when he presents his 2018 budget proposal later this month.

Among specific plans unveiled Wednesday, Cuomo said he would:

  • Press for cashless tolling across the entire New York Thruway system, to be enacted statewide by sometime in 2020. He also wants a new public/private partnership to rework all Thruway service areas.
  • Lift certain rules that have slowed the state’s advancement of the emerging self-driving vehicle industry.
  • Embrace a series of left-leaning environmental and criminal justice measures, including ending monetary bail for people charged with misdemeanors and non-violent felonies and set new limits on asset seizures.

The governor’s eighth State of the State comes as he expects to run for re-election this year. The book detailing some of his proposals portrays a governor reaching out to various geographic areas he will need in order to win a third term, such as Long Island and parts of New York City.

The agenda is arguably less ambitious than previous State of the State addresses. Many of Cuomo's  proposal are to “extend” or “continue” previously enacted laws or initiatives, such as an effort to encourage local government to share services. Many are low-cost ideas, such as $9 million to expand college course offerings in public high schools, or continuing a previously enacted income tax cut program.

The governor proposes to freeze at $750 million the amount that goes to 10 regional economic development councils.

But he makes no mention of what legislators have been pressing him to embrace: new transparency and oversight controls of those regional councils, which he appoints.

Cuomo said he will:

  • Use an off-budget agency to help install 500,000 new LED bulbs in street lights across the state.
  • Push to grow the industrial hemp industry, with $650,000 in state money for a new industrial help processing plant near Binghamton.
  • Promote new legal actions with state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against pharmacy companies “for breaching their legal duties” by failing to adequately monitor and detect suspicious prescription orders for opiods.

A number of the ideas Cuomo presented were no-cost ones, like requiring personal care product manufacturers to make public via a website information about ingredients in their consumer products.

A number of the plans were previously unveiled over the past two weeks, such as new attempts to combat sexual harassment, expanded efforts to help certain industries deal with shortages of skilled workers, and expedited work on an overhaul of the Niagara Falls wastewater treatment facility.

A number of proposals come from ideas kicking around for years in Albany, such as his call for term limits for state lawmakers and statewide elected officials, an early voting system and new restrictions on outside incomes of state legislators.

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