New York State of the State Address 2000
By Stateline Staff
ALBANY, New York - Jan. 5 - Following is the partial text of New York Gov. George Pataki's 2000 State of the State Address:
Chief Judge Kaye, honorable members of the Court of Appeals, Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue, Attorney General Spitzer, Comptroller McCall,
Majority Leader Bruno, Speaker Silver, Leader Faso, Leader Connor, respected members of the Legislature, and distinguished guests.
It is a great honor to address this distinguished body for the first time in the year 2000. We've been looking forward to the 21st century for so long, it's hard to believe that it's finally upon us.
It seems like just yesterday that I stood up here proposing bold new initiatives to make New York a better place to live.
Now, we've succeeded to such an amazing extent that people from all around the country are recognizing that New York is the place to be. Why, even people from Hope, Arkansas understand that New York is the best state to live.
Five days ago, we celebrated the dawning of a new era in human history. And when that historic moment arrived, the eyes of the world were on New York. That is as it should be. Throughout our history, the world has always looked to New York. For it is here that people from around the world see what they yearn to be.
Into this new age, we bring the progress of yesterday, but more importantly, we bring high hopes for tomorrow. For today, New Yorkers are strong in the spirit that is the sustaining power of all great action. It's a spirit built on the confidence that we are not limited by mortal expectations -- that something within us is superior to circumstance.
Fate has given us a great opportunity. Born in the 20th century, we have been blessed with the extraordinary challenge of laying the foundation upon which a hundred years of history will be built.
Just as the first page of a book influences every page that follows, the future is largely shaped by the tone, the mood and the spirit at the beginning of a new era. The spirit of today is what provides color on the canvas of tomorrow.
It was the triumph of this spirit at the turn of the last century which sparked the flames of ingenuity that lit up the nation, inspired young minds to act on their ideas and dreams, and sent a message to the world that the future begins in New York.
It was then, at the beginning of a new era, that the unbridled, consuming hunger to invent, discover, and unlock the great mysteries of time shaped the destinies of generations to come. It was the vision of New Yorkers like George Eastman, Jonas Salk, and Thomas Watson that changed the world and laid the foundation for the high-tech age we live in today.
A hundred years ago, it was limited government supporting the growth of people and their ideas, instead of people supporting the growth of government and its ideas.
But somewhere along the way, the opposite became true. Ambition was taxed. Ideas were regulated. Ingenuity was discouraged. The spirit of New York had become a dispensation of government.
We changed that. We have reclaimed a destiny and a government which had slipped from our grasp. We have renewed the spirit of New York.
Today, we stand poised to shape the future, just as we have shaped the past.
As we embark on this new beginning, we must ensure that the threshold of time over which we have crossed is more than just symbolic.
History must say that we were not just marking time, that we were not content to merely carry the torch of time, but that we did all that could be done to make it burn as bright as possible before handing it on to the next generation.
So let us walk into the new century firm in our determination that what we set out to achieve, we will achieve.
Let us send a message to the world that the future belongs to the free, the future belongs to the bold, the future begins in New York.
And let us embark on this new beginning by reaffirming what I know is the shared vision of everyone in this room.
Some 700 children will be born in our state today. Among them are minds that are capable of curing our most dreaded diseases, correcting our most persistent injustices, and exploring distant worlds that today we cannot even imagine. You and I have the task of breaking down the barriers that stand between them and their creative potential.
If we do that -- if we fulfill our obligation to those children we can confidently put the fate of humanity in their hands.
A new era for New York must begin with a renewed commitment to our children's education.
At the turn of the last century, New York's schools provided immigrant children and native New Yorkers alike with a first rate education. We have a long history of educational excellence to be proud of. But today, although many of our schools still excel, some students are forced to settle for less.
Too many of our children are victims of the most insidious enemy of excellence, low expectations. We must refocus their sights -- and ours -- on academic excellence.
Gregory Hodge, the principal of the Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem, recently explained his educational philosophy -- an approach, I should add, that successfully graduates 100 percent of his students, and sends 98 percent of them on to college. How does he do it?
"You have to demand more of your students, while providing them with the structure to meet those demands," he explained. "The more difficult the curriculum, the greater the likelihood that your students will be successful."
I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Hodge. In every aspect of our educational system, we must set the highest standards for student success, and settle for nothing less. We must expect every student to succeed, and we must provide them with every opportunity to do so.
We've taken the first step, ending social promotion in New York City and establishing rigorous standards for student achievement. We've provided record financial aid increases to our schools in each of the last three years. Now we need to take the next step.
In the coming weeks, I will ask for your support for a five-point plan to attract new teachers to our schools.
First, we need to attract the best "Teachers of Tomorrow" to work in our neediest schools. Each year, thousands of new graduates are produced by New York's fine colleges. But many don't go into teaching, and often our most disadvantaged schools don't get the benefit of the best new teachers. We can change that.
This year, I will propose a new initiative to provide free tuition for students who commit to teach critical subjects in our most disadvantaged schools. If a SUNY or CUNY student chooses a career of helping our neediest students, we should reward that public service with free tuition. Private college students who make the same commitment will receive similar benefits. This program -- our new Teachers for Tomorrow program -- can bring 50,000 new teachers into our classrooms in this decade.
Second, let's give our best college juniors a chance to serve as tutors, classroom aides and student mentors in our city summer schools through a "Summer in the City" program. This will help summer school students immediately, by giving them more personal attention. And it will help summer school teachers as well, by providing them with help in their classrooms. And in the long run, it is our hope that many of those tutors will be inspired by their experiences and will choose to return to those classrooms as teachers.
Third, we need to do everything we can to open the doors of teaching to every truly qualified New Yorker. In our quest for educational excellence, we sometimes look only at a person's degrees, rather than their skills.
Right now, Colin Powell can't teach in the New York schools that he grew up in. Billy Joel is not "qualified" to teach piano to kids on Long Island.
Eileen Collins can pilot the Space Shuttle, but she can't teach science in Elmira, her home town. More importantly, thousands of less famous New Yorkers -- engineers, chemists, journalists -- could be great teachers as well.
Let's open the teacher qualification process so that people with valuable life experiences can share them with our children.
Also, we should allow retired public employees -- police officers, firemen and others -- to seek a second career as teachers, by eliminating the caps on the public salaries they can earn while still receiving full retirement benefits.
And finally, we must address the problem of uncertified and temporarily certified teachers working in our schools. Today, 10,000 uncertified teachers are working in our schools. These are New Yorkers who want to teach -- who are teaching -- but lack the skills to pass the tests. Let's help them become better teachers by providing support to cover the cost of the supplemental education and training that they need to pass certification tests.
With this program, we can ensure that every school has the best possible teachers, so every child gets the best possible education.
As we work to make all of our schools centers of learning and leadership, we're also extending freedom of educational choice to the students who need it.
Last year, we approved New York's first charter schools, and today they're allowing parents from Harlem to Albany to choose a better education for their children. This year, let's provide more support to expand charter schools across the state.
Charter schools place the responsibility for good education where it belongs: not on a remote and rigid bureaucracy, but rather on teachers and staff who can work as a team and who are accountable to parents and the public. In the coming decade, I believe the charter school movement will transform American education, replacing complacency with competition and results.
Underlying our quest for stronger standards is a fundamental principle: accountability. In some schools, we don't know how many students really attend classes. We do know that sometimes as much as 50 cents out of every education dollar doesn't make it to the classroom, but we don't know where the rest of the money goes. This is intolerable.
The problem is that no one's accountable. In New York City, the Board of Education has seven members appointed by six different elected officials. Responsibility is spread so broadly that it can disappear altogether. This year, let's put the authority, and the responsibility, for the success of our Big Five City school districts where it belongs -- in the hands of the mayors and City Councils.
But all of these efforts will be in vain if our schools aren't safe centers of order and character. Last year, Lieutenant Governor Donohue organized a Task Force to develop strategies to reduce the threat of school violence. In the coming months, I will ask you to work with me to act on her recommendations.
We need to get the most disruptive students out of our classrooms, so that the rest of the kids have a fair chance to learn. Let's give teachers that power.
Also, as the Lieutenant Governor has indicated, we need to do more to help shape the character of our children. We can give a child the finest education in the world, but without values, a solid student cannot be a solid citizen. This year, I will ask our schools to develop a curriculum aimed at promoting the values of common decency, compassion, tolerance and good citizenship.
New York's destiny is being written in our schools, and its watchword is knowledge. Knowledge is the chisel that severs the shackles of ignorance. It is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity. It is the light that shines through the darkness of despair, illuminating the road to a new life. Without education, there is no vision, no understanding, no dreams, no future.
As we enter this new era, we must not allow a single child to fall behind.
All New York children must have a fair chance to fulfill their dreams.
No challenge before us is greater; no reward will be richer.
In the middle of the 20th century, nearly two million American children took part in medical field trials to test the new vaccine for polio. I was one of those children. I remember the helpless feeling of a close family friend whose child was paralyzed by polio. It was the ingenuity of a New Yorker, Jonas Salk, that spared my parents and millions of others from suffering that same feeling of helplessness.
Most of us in this chamber are parents or grandparents. I ask you to think for a moment about your children. Now think of your children without health care. Think of how you would feel if they desperately needed medical treatment, and you couldn't afford to provide it for them.
Thanks to Child Health Plus, no parent has to feel that way because every child in New York now has access to the finest health care in the nation. Today, more than 400,000 children are getting the best health care through Child Health Plus. We will continue to expand enrollment in this model program because a child's health care is not a privilege, it is a right.
Of course, many of the parents who are enrolling their children in Child Health Plus need health care too. We have an opportunity to provide coverage to them as well. Our new HCRA law gives up to one million additional New Yorkers access to quality, comprehensive, and compassionate health care. It expands coverage while dramatically reducing the costs on businesses and consumers. It preserves our state's longstanding commitment to training medical students, and it allows us to fund innovative programs for cancer prevention and rural health care.
It gives us the resources we need to send a powerful message to our children about cigarettes. New York's Health Commissioner, Dr. Antonia Novello, said it well: "There is no other product in the market today that, when used as directed, will kill you."
It also gives us the opportunity to do more for New Yorkers with special needs. I applaud you for passing the New York State CARES program. This year we must take the next step and adopt a comprehensive program that will provide a broad range of expanded services for New Yorkers with mental illness, including additional treatment, and increased residential and case management services for both children and adults.
We've set incredibly high goals but we intend to do whatever it takes to achieve each of these goals over the next five years.
We will reduce potentially deadly asthma attacks by 50 percent.
We will ensure that every child in New York receives all of their vaccinations by their second birthday.
We will launch aggressive programs to eliminate the scourge of teenage smoking and reduce it by 50 percent in the next five years.
We will ensure that every child is screened for deafness. We will continue to protect infants born to HIV-infected mothers to ensure that virtually none of them develop AIDS.
We will expand the capabilities of the Wadsworth Center by increasing its infectious disease identification and response resources.
New York has the finest, most sophisticated health care system in America. There's no reason why we cannot achieve these goals. And we will.
Since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, New York has led the nation in environmental protection. Today, we are once again showing the world how sound environmental policies are the foundation for our future.
Today, more than 1,000 projects funded by the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act are under way. Clean?fueled buses and natural gas boilers are replacing diesel fumes and coal dust. New environmental technologies are being developed. Toxic waste sites are being cleaned up, and brownfields are being redeveloped. More than a quarter million acres of open space have been protected for public use. And we're making unprecedented progress at cleaning up our most precious water bodies, from Long Island Sound to the Great Lakes.
In every measurable way, New York's environment is getting better -- cleaner, safer, more accessible, and better protected for future generations to enjoy. We are on the right track, but we can do more. And we will.
One of our greatest accomplishments has been the restoration and protection of the Hudson River. Our vision for the future of the Hudson has been clear, and the river itself is cleaner as a result.
For centuries, New Yorkers have been learning the timeless truths of life on the banks of the Hudson, from the ancient art of fishing to the modern science of environmental protection. In fact, in 1820, Washington Irving wrote: "I thank God I was born on the banks of the Hudson."
Now is the time to share the secrets of the Hudson with the world. Now is the time to make the Hudson a world center of research and education for the study of rivers and estuaries, their ecosystems, and the central role they play in the lives of nearly every living creature on this planet.
Seventy years ago, a group of visionary marine biologists founded the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Today, it is the best in the world. But there is no comparable center for the study of rivers.
I have asked Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill to work with State agencies, public authorities, universities, private foundations, environmental groups and others to develop a plan for the founding of a "Woods Hole on the Hudson."
When people think of oceanography, they think of Woods Hole. In the next century, when people think of rivers, let them think of the Hudson, an American Heritage River, New York's lifeblood, and the center of worldwide river studies.
The pursuit of clean air remains one of our greatest challenges. Last year, we gave New Yorkers the opportunity to buy the cleanest cars in the country. And our electric power industry will substantially reduce its emissions of acid rain-causing pollutants as a result of a new program that I proposed this fall.
But we must not be complacent. We must set ambitious, long-term goals for the future. In 1995, New York State owned almost no clean-fueled vehicles. Today, almost 700 are on the road. This year, let's commit to ensuring that, by the end of this decade, every non-emergency vehicle purchased by State agencies -- roughly 1,500 each year -- are clean-fueled vehicles.
This initiative will help attract more green businesses to New York, like the Baker-Ford partnership, which is creating 300 new jobs building electric vans, not in Michigan, but in the Mohawk Valley. We can make New York the national leader in clean air technology in this decade.
And we will build upon our historic progress on open space conservation. We have much to be proud of -- opening Whitney Park and the Champion lands to public use for the first time in 100 years, the protection of Sterling Forest, and the creation of the Hudson River Park in Manhattan -- but there's more to do.
On Long Island, I am delighted to say that we have nearly reached our goal of protecting three-quarters of the land in the core preservation area of the Pine Barrens. We will move forward rapidly in the coming year on the remaining projects. And right here in the Capital District, we've made outstanding progress in protecting the Albany Pine Bush. With your support, the Preserve has grown to 2,400 acres. Over the next two years, we will expand the Preserve to 3,000 acres, bringing greater ecological stability to this unique area. And as we embark on this new century, let's build upon the success of the Hudson River Valley and Genesee greenways by creating an Empire State Greenway.
Using existing trails and open spaces, creating new ones and linking these "greenbelts" together, we can create connected corridors of open space stretching from Montauk to New York City, from the Battery to Buffalo, from Niagara Falls to the North Country. The Empire State Greenway will serve as a foundation for environmental protection, historic preservation and compatible economic development in the 21st century.
Working with local governments and our neighbors in Connecticut, we have made remarkable progress on the restoration of Long Island Sound. Today, for the first time in decades, the waters of the Sound are getting cleaner.
The recovery of the Sound creates a tremendous opportunity for all New Yorkers. Now that the Sound is getting cleaner, let's give more New Yorkers the opportunity to enjoy it. Within this decade, we will establish at least ten new sites, on Long Island, Westchester, Queens and the Bronx to provide greater public access for New Yorkers to enjoy this unique natural resource.
For 20 years, New York has run the nation's best program to clean up hazardous waste and other contamination. Now, after decades of experience, we are ready to make New York State's Superfund program the envy of the nation.
This year I again will submit legislation to make essential changes to our programs that clean up hazardous wastes and oil spills. These common sense reforms will help us clean up more sites, sooner, and using more private funds instead of taxpayer dollars. Most importantly, these reforms will establish the most protective cleanup standards in the country.
In the past, others have argued that environmental protection and economic growth were mutually exclusive. We have proven them wrong. In this new century, Americans will turn to New York to see the truth: environmental protection is the foundation for the quality of life that makes this a great state to live in, to do business in and to create jobs. Not only can we pursue these goals simultaneously, we must.
At the turn of the last century, New York was brimming with a visionary spirit of creative energy that inspired the nation and sent a message to the world that the future begins in New York.
But somewhere along the way, the era of innovation and experimentation became the era of over-regulation and excessive taxation. By 1994, New York's entrepreneurial spirit had been smothered by the heavy hand of big government.
New York's employers -- the men and women with the energy and vision to turn ideas and dreams into businesses that create jobs -- had come to believe that New York was no longer the place where their ambition and hard work would lead to the fulfillment of their dreams.
No economy can survive when individuals take the risk, individuals take the initiative, and government takes the profit.
Five years ago, you and I committed ourselves to renewing our economy by restoring the spirit of the men and women who make it strong. We have accomplished that.
Jack Ireton-Hewitt, who operates Titan Homes in Sangerfield, was one of the thousands of entrepreneurs who had lost faith in New York five years ago. Last year, his factory in Oneida County burned to the ground. With nothing left but ashes, he could have rebuilt his business anywhere in the country. As he put it, "If that fire had occurred in 1993 instead of 1999, I would have moved that plant 90 miles south to Pennsylvania."
Today, Titan Homes is stronger than ever with 170 employees. And Jack is in the process of creating more jobs -- not in Pennsylvania, but in Sangerfield, New York.
We've worked hard to restore the confidence of employers like Jack.
We cut the taxes that penalized investment and economic growth. We eliminated the crazy quilt of senseless regulations that discouraged innovative thinking and risk-taking. We've reduced the cost of doing business in New York by cutting energy rates and reforming the workers' compensation system. We've created a strong and healthy economy that is controlled by the people and not their government.
Today, New York is once again poised to inspire and lead the world into the frontiers of tomorrow.
In the last five years, we've helped to create over 560,000 new private sector jobs. Right now, there are more than seven million New Yorkers working in the private sector. That's an all-time high.
When I stood at this rostrum for the first time in 1995, New York was 47th in the nation in private sector job creation. Today, we're 21st.
Think about that -- in just five years, we've jumped past 26 other states in job creation. We are well on our way to leading the nation in job creation.
That's where we belong -- Number One. That is why we must continue to pursue a course of less government and lower taxes.
Since 1995, we've cut taxes 48 times, saving New Yorkers over $28 billion. Because of the taxes we've cut, a two-income family of four earning $45,000 has saved more than $3,500 since 1995. No other state in the nation even comes close to cutting taxes by that much.
We've cut income taxes on New York's working families by $18 billion. We've cut business taxes 30 times. And we've cut school property taxes on every homeowner in the state. Today, because of the STAR program, the average senior in New York is paying half as much in school property taxes as they did three years ago.
This year, the second phase of STAR goes into effect for all New York homeowners. When that cut is fully phased in, the average homeowner should see their property taxes reduced by 27 percent. STAR is an excellent program. Now, let's make it better.
First, we must preserve the fiscal integrity of the STAR program and protect the savings that it returns to taxpayers. I will propose capping local school budget increases at reasonable limits unless two-thirds of the local taxpayers vote to approve it.
Second, I will send you legislation requiring school districts to tell taxpayers how their proposed budgets will affect STAR savings.
Third, we will change the way homeowners receive their tax cut by sending the savings from STAR directly to the homeowner. That way, taxpayers can rest assured that when we say their tax cut check is in the mail, the check really is in the mail, and it's just as big as it was when it left Albany.
The tax cuts you and I have passed over the past five years have created an economy that continues to grow, year after year. Every year since 1995, we've cut taxes. And every year since 1995, we've created jobs. That's why we will enter the 21st century the same way we approached it -- cutting taxes and creating jobs.
The challenge now is to ensure that New York's thriving economy continues to reach every New Yorker in every corner of our state.
Several decades ago, the economies in many of our upstate communities began to fall into decline. By the beginning of this decade, that decline had become a full-scale economic crisis. In the early part of the 90s, upstate New York lost more than 100,000 private sector jobs.
We've ended that crisis. Five solid years of cutting taxes, eliminating regulations and lowering energy costs are creating jobs upstate. In the last five years, we've regained all of the jobs that were lost upstate in the early 90s, and we're adding more. Today, nearly two-and-a-half million people are working in private sector jobs in upstate. That, too, is an all-time high.
We can be proud of that number -- proud, but not satisfied. To create jobs, we've cut taxes five years in a row. Let this be the sixth.
Next week I will send you a comprehensive package of tax cuts, many of which will be targeted at upstate. These will reduce taxes by an additional $700 million each year.
We will cut taxes on our farmers who work sixteen hour days.
We will cut taxes on the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy.
We will cut taxes that will lower energy bills for New York's working families.
We will cut taxes that will unleash the creative power of entrepreneurs.
We will cut taxes on businesses that share our vision of a cleaner, greener New York.
We will cut taxes that will provide more affordable housing for low income families and seniors. And we will cut taxes that will reduce rail freight costs and promote competition and growth in the upstate economy.
But when you look at all the taxes imposed that hurt jobs, those on energy affect upstate the most. The high cost of energy is a drain on the upstate economy. Upstate has a little more than a quarter of the state's economy, but pays almost half of the state's energy taxes. So in addition to all the tax cuts I have proposed, let's do two more things:
First, let's abolish the Gross Receipts Tax that kills jobs.
Second, we must also expand the Power for Jobs program which is providing employers with low-cost energy so they can invest in the future. Already, that program has created thousands of jobs. That is why I will propose expanding the program by an additional 200 megawatts this year -- targeted upstate -- so we can retain and create even more jobs.
Lower energy rates mean the same thing as lower taxes -- more jobs for the people of New York.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Main Streets of New York were the heart of our communities. By day, the streets bustled with shoppers going to small businesses and workers pouring through factory gates. At night, the sidewalks were alive with couples strolling to soda fountains and parents taking their children to the movies.
Sadly, the social and economic changes of the 20th century left too many of our Main Streets behind.
With smart investments and targeted economic policies we can recapture that spirit and breathe new life into those Main Streets so they can bustle again with all of the vigor, energy and excitement of their glory days. Some call it Smart Growth. We call it smart. Period.
First, as part of our Main Street program, I will continue to seize every opportunity to move State offices from remote campuses to the Main Streets of New York. We've done it in downtown Albany. We're doing it in Schenectady and Troy. It's working. Now we will make it work in the downtowns of other cities as well.
Second, we will provide significant tax incentives for employers who start or expand businesses that create full-time jobs in designated downtown areas throughout the state.
Third, we must expand our successful brownfields program by providing substantial tax incentives to encourage the voluntary clean-up and redevelopment of these sites.
Fourth, we will create new technology enterprise zones in central business areas throughout the state. These zones will act as a powerful economic magnet, encouraging innovation in the heart of our communities and igniting a spark of high tech economic activity in areas that have fallen behind.
The businesses that locate in these high tech enterprise zones -- from Buffalo to Binghamton to Batavia -- would be eligible for a wide range of incentives that will include tax cuts, interest-free investments and lower energy costs.
Under my proposal, local officials will designate zones or even individual buildings, and the state will come in and work with those local leaders and leaders in the private sector to wire those buildings with high-speed data transmission lines to make them high-tech nerve centers for tomorrow.
This program will complement the aggressive new initiatives we will announce to attract more biotechnology investment in New York.
As part of that effort, we will provide the Main Streets of New York with the infrastructure they need to thrive in the future as they did in the past. Many of our smaller cities were centers for high tech at the turn of the 20th century. Now we must help these communities to become the high-tech incubators of the 21st century.
All of these initiatives will be complemented by the most comprehensive, aggressive and successful regulatory reform program in the nation.