NY: State Of The State

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Yesterday I delivered my annual State of the State address to the New York State Legislature.

In it, I laid out a set of goals that I believe will make New York the best place in the world to live, work, raise a family, and run a business by focusing with a singular purpose on economic growth and opportunity.

Across New York, we see economic storm clouds gathering. In 2008, these storms will hit cities and neighborhoods around the state that, as we know too well, are already struggling.

The plan I announced yesterday is designed not only to weather the coming storm, but to achieve lasting economic growth — both upstate and downstate — while holding government accountable for delivering results.

Our blueprint for growth is an action plan to create good jobs, better schools, high quality affordable healthcare, strong, vibrant and safe neighborhoods — as well as lower taxes.

It starts with education, because we cannot strengthen our economy without the best colleges producing the best-prepared graduates. That’s why yesterday I urged the State Legislature to work with me in 2008 to make New York’s higher education system the best in the world and put a college degree affordably in reach of every New Yorker.

To strengthen upstate New York, I proposed a $1 billion Upstate Revitalization Fund that will build upon the foundation we laid last year with a massive infusion of economic development capital into cities and towns across upstate New York.

And I called on the legislature to join me in an effort to finally get real about New York’s property tax crisis. Last year, we enacted the largest property tax relief program in our state’s history and saved local governments more than one billion dollars in healthcare costs. But property taxes just keep going up. So this year, I have asked Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi to lead a bipartisan commission that will develop a fair but strong cap on local school property taxes.

One of the darkest clouds on our horizon, not just in New York but nationally, is the housing crisis. To combat the dual crisis of housing affordability and mortgage foreclosure, I proposed the largest housing initiative in a generation: a $400 million Housing Trust Fund to build affordable housing for low and middle income families and provide supportive housing for those who cannot live independently.

To stem the mortgage foreclosure crisis, I proposed legislation to amend New York’s foreclosure law to provide additional protections to homeowners, and, working with Attorney General Cuomo, I will submit legislation that will strengthen our anti-fraud laws to ensure that those who engage in mortgage scams are are not only punished, but put out of business.

But we will never be able to achieve the growth our state needs to if health care costs remain a burdensome ball and chain. Last year, we cut Medicaid spending for the first time in a generation, without reducing patient benefits, and we began the long trip to universal coverage. This year, we will continue to reform our healthcare system so that it delivers more affordable, effective primary and preventive care.

But cutting costs isn’t enough. Hard-working parents simply can’t afford to buy their children health insurance. The result is no care for our children, which is unacceptable, or expensive care in our emergency rooms, which is unsustainable. In 2007, the Bush administration said no to our plan to make it affordable for every parent to get health coverage for their children. Yesterday I told legislators that when it comes to covering our children, we won’t take no for an answer.

In my upcoming Executive Budget, I will propose that New York State fully fund the expansion of our children’s health insurance program and guarantee affordable coverage for every single child in New York State.

Taken together, all of these policies will help us not only weather the storm, but actually achieve real economic growth and hold government accountable for delivering results.

Our state and our nation have always used times of challenge to expand and invest in our democracy. I believe we can – and must – do so today.

(Entire speech see

Spitzer is the governor of New York state.

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