In the week following Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, members of the administration are fanning out across New York to deliver smaller, regional presentations of the Democrat’s priorities for 2018. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard attended one in Glens Falls this morning.
It was Acting Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Terri Eagan who spoke to the crowd at Crandall Library in Glens Falls.
With a slideshow in tow, Eagan presented a quick version of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State address.
Republican State Senator Betty Little, who introduced Commissioner Eagan, told the audience that the governor’s vision is ambitious, but also described a bit of the legislative process between the year’s proposals and the budget that is typically hammered out by April 1st.
“The final product isn’t always like the beginning, but it’s working together. And that’s the whole point. And the point of this meeting and having Commissioner Eagan here is to hear from people,” said Little. “And I think that, to the governor’s credit, that’s what he’s all about: is hearing from people and having discussion on all of these issues.”
The State of the State message included 22 agenda items, including developing steps to crack down on sexual harassment, responding to the Republican-led federal tax overhaul, and, locally, the push for further review of the effectiveness of General Electric’s cleanup of the Upper Hudson.
The new year could bring fiscal challenges, as state leaders seek to shore up a $4 billion dollar deficit.
Commissioner Eagan echoed the governor’s sentiment that changes in federal tax policy, namely the elimination of the State and Local Tax deduction, will harm the middle class.
“We are looking at challenging the federal tax bill constitutionality,” said Eagan. “We believe it really is double taxation. Also, we will develop a plan to restructure the current income tax system to mitigate those effects of the federal tax plan.”
Governor Cuomo has suggested transitioning New York from a state income tax to a payroll tax.
Republican State Assemblyman Dan Stec is wary of changing the state’s tax code.
“I’m leery of saying the solution to this taxation problem is just to collect it from a different pocket. It’s still taxes,” said Stec.
But Stec, who previously signed onto a letter authored by neighboring 113th District Democratic Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner asking for further review of EPA’s Hudson River cleanup, agreed with the governor and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that it may not be time to deem the cleanup complete.
“I’m not sure if I want to go straight to ‘We’re going to sue the EPA,’ but certainly I think that the evidence is there that maybe it didn’t do all that we expected it to, so I’m not ready to close the books on it either,” said Stec.
General Electric has maintained that it has completed all of EPA’s mandated dredging and that it will remain on the river for monitoring efforts for years to come.
Newly sworn-in Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall is also supportive of the Cuomo administration’s position on the upper Hudson.
“Anything that is going to help the river, we’ll definitely want to look at.”
As it turns out, Acting Commissioner Eagan was in filling in for state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon.
Eagan told the crowd that Reardon had come down with the flu and couldn’t make the trip.
A small group of protesters had been planning to confront the Labor Commissioner on the administration’s proposal to re-evaluate the tipped wage for restaurant and service workers.
The restaurant workers fear that if the tip credit is eliminated and hourly pay is raised, it will cause restaurants to raise prices, lose customers, and potentially implement no-tipping policies.
Kyle Woods, who works at a nearby Outback Steakhouse in Queensbury, was wearing a black t-shirt that read “We Earned Them.”
“Restaurants still have to make their money. So you’re going to raise the prices on their menus, the guests are going to be impacted in a negative way. So what we’re saying is there’s no benefit to the server, there’s no benefit to the guest, so why are we doing this?”
The governor has suggested that it is unfair for workers to balance their paychecks with tips and has also said there are inequalities among tipped workers.
Though not her department, Eagan was asked about the proposed review. She said that no proposal is “set in stone” and invited the restaurant workers to attend any upcoming hearings on the issue.
“I think as Senator Little pointed out, many of these programs that have been discussed today will be subject to further open meetings and hearings and we certainly encourage all of you to come to those meetings because none of this is set in stone.”