Excelsior Ever Upward: governor Cuomo’s budget for 2017

Julio Rodriguez
Creative Editor

20170203_090513Mikey Byrant |The Hudsonian

Members of the college and local community joined together to look at governor Cuomo’s $152.3 billion agenda for 2017.

Held in the Campus Center, the presentation opened with an introduction from Patrick Madden, the mayor of Troy.

Former mayors were also in attendance.

“I like what the governor is doing by bringing the budget out there on the road. It reflects that same philosophy to share that information with the people, and make sure they’re aware of what’s going on. It is their money, so how are we spending it and where is it going,” said Madden.

The mayor introduced those in attendance including Hudson Valley president Andrew Matonak, student trustee Manik Elahi and the event’s presenter Gwen Wright. Wright works for the office of prevention of domestic violence for New York state.

“This year we’re looking at the budget as excelsior. Excelsior meaning ‘ever upward,’ and we indeed believe that we will be heading upward,” said Wright.

During the presentation, Wright stressed the idea that the budget proposal has something for everyone; for anyone pursuing a degree from a SUNY institution.

“3.5 million jobs will require a college education in New York state by 2024. It’s not enough to have a high school education. In 2014, the average student loan debt was 29,320 dollars,” said Wright.

As a result, Governor Cuomo has proposed to invest $163 million for tuition free college to SUNY and CUNY two and four year colleges for families earning $125,000 or less.

“75 percent of families in the capital region would qualify for tuition free public college,” said Wright.
If passed, students who live in households earning less than $125,000 can anticipate zero tuition costs at Hudson Valley.

Elahi made a statement on behalf of the Hudson Valley student body in support of the Excelsior Scholarship program.

“The students at Hudson Valley are proud to support the Excelsior Scholarship program that Governor Cuomo announced, and lauds his efforts to make public higher education more affordable and accessible for all New Yorkers,” said Elahi.

“We hope that the New York State senate and assembly act quickly to allocate the funding necessary for this program to ensure that qualifying families across the state can reap the benefits of a quality education,” continued Elahi.

Wright also brought up an issue linked to lives of students at Hudson Valley. Ridesharing, a carpool service, has become popular in cities throughout the nation, but it has not gained the proper legislation in upstate New York.

“Ridesharing not only supports our economy, but it also is a safety factor. It should particularly resonate with those of us who are on campus areas. Students frequently are without cars, and wait for buses late at night. It saves lives, creates jobs and produces alternatives,” said Wright.

Governor Cuomo has invested in ridesharing for the upstate region, and he has plans to propose ride sharing across all of New York state.

Wright highlighted the economic and social progress since Andrew Cuomo’s initiation into the governor’s office.
Wright said, “Governor Cuomo has been at the forefront of New York’s success during his years in office.”

Governor Cuomo is proposing $53 million for phase one of the Empire State trail. The trail will be a 750 mile trail with a finished pathway that travels along New York parks, valleys and waterways. The Empire State trail will link trails already in existence to become one cohesive trail.

“We’re going to see a new Penn station, LaGuardia airport and JFK International airport. We are also successfully reversing upstates cycle of decline with a new regional approach that is building a new economy, and the progress is stunning,” said Wright.

Wright highlighted the budgetary funds that will be allotted to statewide projects for the improvement of infrastructure, educational reforms and the betterment of New York state’s quality of life.

“In the capital region, the state has invested $470 million into nearly 608 projects. The state has invested $66.5 million to build a new convention center in downtown Albany; creating 157 permanent jobs,” said Wright.
The governor has proposed a cut for middle class taxes which will affect 6 million taxpayers. Households earning between $40,000 and $100,000 will see a cut of 5.5% down, and those earning $150,000 to $400,000 will see a cut of 6%. The governor has also opted out of any tax increases.

Wright also shared Cuomo’s initiative to have residents of New York rally their local governments for lower costs.

“County executives will put together plans to share service, find efficiencies and reduce costs. The public will get to vote on these plans as a referendum, and if the plan is rejected the job will not be over. The county and local government will prepare a new one for submission the following year,” said Wright.

A quick overview of the budget includes a deficit measured at $3.5 billion, education for K-12 at $1 billion, college affordability at $163 million and medicaid at $567 million.

The remainder of the agencies were measured with flat budgets. The state operating costs are $98.6 billion, bringing the total budget to $152.3 billion.

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