During his State of the State address this afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo spelled out his 2014 initiatives. But few, if any, of the big ticket items came as a surprise.
He announced a plan to allow 20 hospitals to prescribe marijuana as treatment for some serious ailments, but that had already been leaked to the press. He outlined a plan to reduce some corporate taxes and provide tax credits to homeowners and renters, but he had already detailed that proposal on Monday. He has repeatedly called for ethics reform and public financing of campaigns. And he tried to get the Legislature to pass his 10-point Women’s Equality Act last year.
But he did push a few items that were new, or at least hadn’t received much attention. And that was particularly true when it came to his education proposals, which included:
- Putting a $2 billion borrowing measure on the November ballot to fund technology upgrades for the state’s school districts. Cuomo calls it the “Smart Schools Referendum,” and schools would be able to use the money to buy laptops, desktops, tablets, and high-speed internet infrastructure for classroom use;
- Establishing a statewide universal pre-kindergarten program;
- Starting a Teacher Excellence Fund to provide performance-based bonuses for teachers. Teachers who get the highest rating on their evaluations could be eligible for $20,000 in bonus pay, he said;
- Providing full scholarships to SUNY and CUNY schools for the top 10 percent of high school graduates, provided they pursue a science, technology, engineering, or math career and commit to working in the state for five years.
Cuomo also called for a Commission on Youth, Public Safety, and Justice to examine potential juvenile justice reforms. And he also asked legislators to change the state’s laws regarding 16- and 17-year-old offenders. Currently, the state treats offenders over the age of 16 as adults; the only other state to do so is North Carolina.
The governor announced a fourth round of the regional economic development council competition. And he also said that Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark Gearan will lead the state’s casino-siting commission.