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Governor Outlines Budget Proposals In Plattsburgh

WAMC/Pat Bradley

In a rare trip to Plattsburgh, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo discussed his executive budget proposal this morning.

The governor presented his Opportunity Agenda to a packed room of local and regional officials at the SUNY Plattsburgh Angell College Center.
He presented the budget proposal with a North Country perspective, noting that the region has made the most economic progress statewide over the past four years.   “The North Country is actually at the head of the pack. When you look at the drop in unemployment, which is a number that’s very important to me, the largest drop in unemployment in the past four years was in the North Country. And that’s the proof in the pudding.”

The governor outlined his budget proposals in each of its four priority areas: economics, education, public safety and ethics. He spent the majority of his time on education and ethics reforms.  “We’ve been talking about education reform for many years. But it’s hard to do. We want to recruit the best teachers. We want to close failing schools and we want to invest in early education.”
Cuomo has put forth a controversial teacher evaluation proposal that teachers unions oppose. Cuomo says his proposal is about what’s right for the students.   “We want to design a fair evaluation system that is fair to the teacher and is fair to the student. And off that evaluation system we would actually incentivize high performing teachers with a bonus. Teachers who are struggling we would get help. But teachers who are chronically ineffective, even despite support, then we have to think about the students. I love school teachers. My mother was a school teacher. I have a deep respect for the profession. But education is about  the student.”

Following the arrest of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver one day after Cuomo delivered a joint State of the State and budget address in Albany, ethics returned to the front burner in Albany. Cuomo says he wants strong ethics reform passed and has made it a condition of the budget.   “We call it the Clean Up Albany Plan. I’ve said to the legislature that I’ve made this a condition of the budget. I’d love to get five on-time budgets in a row. But I think it’s more important to get this ethics reform done.”

Republican 115th District Assemblywoman Janet Duprey supports many items in the budget proposal, but is concerned about the tax proposals and education initiatives.  “I think there’s a lot of concern across the state about some of his education proposals. His incentive pay, always concerned that that creates huge morale issues. And I know that there’s a feeling and there’s an attitude that teachers don’t want evaluations. I don’t find that. I met just last evening with teachers from across the district.  They’re not opposed to evaluations. They want them done appropriately and effectively and fairly. I think to say that we need to have a percentage of teachers who are not effective, because there has to be a certain percentage, is not the way to go into this process.”

The governor wants to continue to reduce local property taxes. He called broadband infrastructure crucial to the state’s economy and plans to invest $1 billion dollars to expand high-speed internet to the entire state by 2018.

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