The Governor’s 2013 State of the State speech will spend some time on what was perhaps the biggest event of 2012, Superstorm Sandy. Cuomo, in the days leading up to his speech, has heard reports from three post-storm related commissions that he appointed. He says he’ll incorporate some of their ideas, like better standardized training for emergency response workers, privatizing the Long Island Power Authority, which had a poor track record restoring power after the storm, and stricter regulation of the other electric utilities.
“I pray that the situation that we went through never happens again, but I’m planning that it will happen again,” said Cuomo. “And I want to be more ready than we’ve been in the past.”
Cuomo also heard from his Education commission in early January. They recommended longer school days and school years, and all-day pre-kindergarten for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The governor says he may not be able to implement all those ideas right away, though, because the state’s finances remain precarious. The state budget’s been just barely in balance, and there’s a structural gap of at least one billion dollars.
“Frankly, it’s going to be a question of money.” Cuomo said. “That’s something that we’re going to have to weigh when we look at the overall financial scene."
To raise state revenues without increasing traditional taxes, Cuomo is expected to continue to push for a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in New York to up to seven new non-Indian run casinos. If state lawmakers approve the required second passage of the amendment, then voters could have their say by November.
The governor says he’ll also include some upstate economic development projects in his speech. But there’s one idea that may not be in his speech, and that’s hydrofracking. Cuomo has said his health and environmental agencies will decide by the end of February whether to open up the state to gas drillers. But he has not said yet if the thinks that’s a good idea. Anti-fracking protesters plan to rally outside the state’s convention center, where the speech will be held.
Gun control is also likely to be a major component of the speech, and a focus of the new session. Cuomo was hoping for an agreement with the legislature on a gun control package before the State of the State, but divisions remain between Cuomo and Senate Republicans. The GOP wants to focus on tougher penalties for using illegal guns, and expanding involuntary mental health treatment. Cuomo has said he wants a strengthening of the state’s assault weapons ban. Most Democratic lawmakers, including the Majority Party in the Assembly, support the governor’s ideas. Cuomo has threatened a public pressure campaign, saying he’ll go to the “people” if he does not get cooperation soon.
The governor says he’ll also lay out a plan for campaign finance reform. It will include more disclosure from not-for-profit Super PACs that are protected, through a loophole, from having to disclose donors.
Cuomo will also likely be pushing for an increase in the state’s minimum wage and the decriminalizing of the public possession of small amounts of marijuana, in response to issues raised by New York City’s Stop and Frisk policy.