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Cuomo Scraps State Of The State Address In Favor Of Regional Tour

WAMC image by Dave Lucas

This year, in a break with tradition, Governor Andrew Cuomo is scrapping the traditional State of the State address in Albany and will deliver a series of regional speeches instead.  Albany-watchers say lawmakers will take it as an insult.

Cuomo has shared plans to take the annual speech out on the road to several regions across the state. The Democrat will travel to specific areas to deliver localized talks in early January. Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the New York State League of Women Voters, says people have gotten used to the fact that you never know what the governor is going to do.   "The State of the State, by constitution, is to let the legislature know the state of the entire state, so he seems this year to be focused on his economic plans as he has done many times before. That's not new. He has gone around the state talking about his economic development initiatives. That seems to be what he is going to do this year instead of a State of the State."

The state constitution mandates that New York's governor address the legislature once a year, which Cuomo has done each year since taking office in 2011, at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.

Prior to 1923, when Governor Al Smith added the speech element, governors delivered written messages to the legislature. New York Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Blair Horner says Cuomo is thumbing his nose at state lawmakers.    "For nearly 100 years, governors have delivered a verbal presentation of the State of the State to state lawmakers. And in this amazing break in tradition, the governor won't do that. He's going to avoid Albany like the plague. The situation with the legislature now has become so toxic because the governor deep-sixed the pay raise for them as well as his own commissioners. I think the legislature will view this as sort of an act of war."

Bartoletti agrees:   "He might have been somewhat concerned that the legislature, given the acrimony that we see between the houses, as far as the pay raise is concerned, he may be afraid that he will get to the convention center and no legislators will show up, because there was some talk of a boycott."

The governor's website points out that there is no requirement on the timing or location of the governor’s message.   "I guess maybe, and I certainly wouldn't call him Trumpian by any means, but I don't think he ever thought of the State of the State the way his father did. His father was a real traditionalist, and I don't think Mr. Cuomo is," quipped Bartoletti. Horner added "The governor is trying to keep the word 'Albany' out of anything that he does, I think, given the low level of public opinion about what happens at the state capitol."

The speeches will take place the week of January 9th, and includes stops in:

New York City

Western New York

The Hudson Valley

Long Island

Capital Region

Central New York

Cuomo says the addresses will focus on development strategies and proposals planned for each individual area in the coming year. WAMC’s political observer Dr. Alan Chartock says it all goes back to the subject of pay raises for lawmakers.

Officials promise to provide specific times and locations for the speeches in the coming days.

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