Governor Cuomo. Lieutenant Governor Duffy. Senator Skelos. Members of the Legislature. Chief Judge Lippman. Esteemed Judges of our Court of Appeals. Comptroller DiNapoli. Attorney General Schneiderman. Rabbi Feinstein. Father Young. Distinguished Guests. Citizens of the Great State of New York.
On behalf of the New York State Assembly, may I wish everyone present here this afternoon and each and every New Yorker good health and good fortune throughout this new year. Let me also welcome you and welcome those who are watching and listening on-line or via broadcast to the annual State of the State Address.
About 12 years ago, 1999, then-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo, stood before the U.S. Conference of Mayors and after speaking to them about the need to revitalize the nation's cities, he closed by asking two simple but fundamentally important questions; questions that many New Yorkers are asking their government leaders today.
Can we make this place work together? My answer is YES! Do we have the intelligence, the strength, the compassion to see beyond our differences and come together? Plainly, simply, unequivocally my answer is YES!
We can work together. We will work together. We must work hand-in-hand: To resolve our immediate fiscal challenges and build the long-term financial stability of our state; To lighten the burdens that are affecting citizens and hard working families across this great State of New York; And to deliver the better government that all New Yorkers deserve.
As you know, like most states, we have a budget gap to close. Difficult choices must be made, but unquestionably, we must work together to reduce state spending.
Just as clearly, we must strive to make our state a more affordable place in which to live, to work, to raise a family, and to own and operate a business.
That means working together to cap property taxes.
And, we must work together to give New Yorkers government that is more transparent, more accountable, more efficient and more effective. We must do so by strengthening our ethics laws, reforming the redistricting process, consolidating government, and by expanding our oversight of the state's public authorities.
Additionally, there are critically important issues that we will not allow to be overshadowed by our budgetary challenges. This year, laws that keep housing affordable for more than one million New Yorkers are set to expire. Let us work together to extend and to enhance the protections for these rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments so that New York's middle-class families will not find themselves priced out of their homes and communities.
Together, we must continue to safeguard our environment and to protect our precious water supply by ensuring - first and foremost - that hydraulic fracturing does not threaten the health of our citizens.
When it comes to building a brighter future, there is simply no reason why our public colleges, universities and community colleges cannot remain affordable and also become the job-creating engines we need them to be.
That said, we must continue our effort to spur the creation of jobs in every region of our state and we must continue to build New York's innovation-based economy.
Yes, these are difficult times, but New Yorkers have endured economic hardship before, so let us demonstrate the same resolve and the same spirit of duty that our predecessors embraced as together they lifted New Yorkers from fiscal crisis.
In a few moments, our new chief executive - Governor Andrew Cuomo - will outline what I am confident will be a broad vision of the 21st Century Empire State. In less than a month, the Governor will articulate that vision through his executive budget.
So that there is no doubt, I will say this one more time. The Assembly is ready and willing to work with the Governor and with our colleagues in the Senate to fully address New York's economic challenges and to restore faith in our government.
We have already established a record of achievement working in partnership with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo during his highly successful tenure in that office. Together, we instituted groundbreaking measures to consolidate local governments, made possible dramatic reforms to protect student borrowers, and forced Internet service providers to be more vigilant in their monitoring of social networking sites.
Again, we earned these victories for New Yorkers by joining forces and by tackling these challenges head on, and this is how we will resolve the issues facing us now.
Given the nature of Albany politics and the journey that is ahead of us, I am reminded of something the American scholar William Arthur Ward once suggested. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
At this crucial juncture in our history, let us - the leaders of New York - adjust the sails together and set our great state on a course toward hope, prosperity, and the promise of better days.
Thank you and best wishes Governor and best wishes to your team.