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Cuomo plans for development

Educational reform, fiscal responsibility, public-private partnerships on Guv's list of reforms

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposes that the state teams up with private companies on capital projects. File photo
February 01, 2012 | 03:38 PM
To aid the state in recovering economically and educationally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has laid out a plan that includes creating jobs through public-private partnerships on capital projects and offering school districts aid incentives to implement new teacher evaluation systems.

Kenneth Adams, commissioner of the state Department of Economic Development, presented Cuomo's Regional 2012-13 Executive Budget & Reform Plan at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on Jan. 25.

Fiscal discipline
Adams said the state would stay the course put forth by the governor last year, which he called a "significant act of fiscal discipline." He said the state trimmed its deficit by about 20 percent last year and would continue to do so by reducing spending.

The 2012-13 proposed budget is $132.5 billion, a decrease of about $225 million from this year's budget.

"Albany is getting its house in order," Adams said at the SBU event. "State government living within its means sends a very positive message to business owners on Long Island and to people who were a little bit concerned about" taxes and state spending.

The governor wants to restructure government by eliminating hundreds of obsolete and redundant programs throughout the state, as well as cap compensation for CEOs and executives at agencies that receive portions of their payment from the state. Adams said state pay for executives could not exceed $199,000, though there's no limit on the private portion of the salary.

Improving education
Adams, who is also the president and CEO of Empire State Development, said the state is also looking to improve its education system, which currently ranks No. 38 in graduation rates, even though New York has the highest education costs in the country. He said districts must shift focus away from policy and toward the individual student to get results.

The governor hopes to institute a policy that would require districts to create a teacher evaluation plan by Jan. 17, 2013. Districts that meet the deadline would become eligible for a portion of a $250 million grant program.

If the districts and teacher unions cannot agree on a deal, a state-mandated evaluation system would be instituted and the district would lose its 4 percent increase in state aid in 2013-14 that Cuomo has already said districts will receive.

Infrastructure and development
Adams said the state must look to public-private partnerships to get large-scale infrastructure projects done while continuing to live within its means. By doing so the state could fund construction projects throughout the state — for example building a new Tappan Zee Bridge — without putting the bill on taxpayers' shoulders.

The state will be allocating $1.3 billion next year in funding for projects like road repair and other infrastructure projects, and hopes to secure up to $25 billion in investment from other sources like the federal government, state authorities and private partnerships.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Empire State Development, in a phone interview said Cuomo's plan of private-public partnerships would "be critical in creating jobs on Long Island without burdening taxpayers with a mounting bill."

Arguably the most grandiose project in the budget is a new state-of-the-art convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, which would total about 3.8 million square feet with a 3,000-room hotel. Adams said the state has already found a private partner in Genting, a Malaysian-based resort company. He said the company is willing to pay $4 billion to construct the facility.

Adams said the governor would also be working toward legalizing gambling in New York, which could bring in as much as $1 billion in annual revenue.

In addition, the state is expected to release an additional $200 million in competitive resources for the Regional Economic Development Councils. Last year, Long Island received $101.6 million in grants for economic growth and job creation. Companies will submit applications again to receive portions of this most recent funding.

Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley said he was very impressed with the ideas the governor had, and was especially pleased to see both SUNY and CUNY would receive additional funding through tuition increases.

"Governor Cuomo is taking some very innovative approaches to some very significant issues that we have in the state," Stanley said in an interview. He added he valued the governor's belief in considering Stony Brook and SUNY as a whole, to be "strong partners in economic development."

Adams said these measures should please business owners on Long Island and throughout the state because it shows New York is ready to work with businesses.

"I really think we're on our way to building CEO confidence here on Long Island, all across the state, and from there beyond our state's boarders, which is imperative," he said. "We have to have that so people will come back here and make investments and keep their companies here, instead of going away like they have for so long in the past."

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