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Cayuga County state reps offer mixed reviews of Cuomo's State of the State

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State of the State Cuomo

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his state of the state address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

After listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for 90 minutes Wednesday, members of Cayuga County's state legislative delegation questioned the governor's agenda for the 2018 session. 

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican who may challenge Cuomo for governor this year, blasted the State of the State presentation as a "political speech." While Cuomo outlined several proposals for the 2018 session, he also railed against the federal tax plan and the impact it will have on the state's economy. 

DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, found Cuomo's remarks to be hypocritical. 

"When the governor stated that this terrible federal tax reform is going to cause people to leave the state of New York someone ought to give him the hint that they are already leaving the state of New York," DeFrancisco said in a phone interview. He was referring to Census Bureau estimates that show more than 1 million people have left New York for other states since 2010. 

A concern for lawmakers this year is the multi-billion dollar budget deficit. The gap is an estimated $4.4 billion and there are differing views on how the deficit should be addressed. Boosting revenue is one approach, but Republicans believe spending cuts are necessary. 

With Cuomo proposing so many initiatives that will require significant state investments, some lawmakers wonder how it will be paid for while erasing the budget deficit.

Assemblyman Bob Oaks predicted a difficult budget season for the state. 

"We want a budget that, I think, needs to be put together cautiously," he said. 

One idea floated by Oaks, R-Macedon, is greater transparency for economic development initiatives. Cuomo has launched several economic development programs since taking office in 2011, including the regional economic development councils and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

In his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed an eighth round of the regional council awards, a $750 million investment, and a third round of the $100 million downtown revitalization grant program.

Before the speech, Assemblyman Gary Finch panned the governor's agenda for failing to address "what's really wrong with New York state — corporate giveaways and rigged development programs work very well for wealthy donors but always fail the middle class." 

State Sen. Jim Seward had a similar view on economic development — he believes the programs should be reviewed — but shied away from harsh criticism of the governor. 

Some of Seward's priorities for the 2018 session align with Cuomo's agenda. The governor wants to combat sexual harassment and strengthen the state's response to the opioid epidemic. Seward agrees that those proposals are needed. 

But he also stressed the need to ensure New York is a good place for businesses and families. 

"The governor has laid out an ambitious and expensive plan but we cannot lose sight of the bottom line," Seward, R-Milford, said. "A permanent property tax cap and cuts to energy taxes need to come first before we start doling out money for new, untested pursuits. And I repeat, new taxes are not the answer."

The State of the State marks the kickoff of the state legislative session. But the real work will begin in a couple weeks when Cuomo delivers his 2018-19 budget address. Once he unveils his executive budget, the state Legislature will begin to develop its own proposals. 

Cuomo and lawmakers hope to finalize the new state budget before April 1, which is the beginning of the next fiscal year. 

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