The skeleton of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s legislative plan hasn’t changed much since he detailed it back in December, with many of the gaps still unfilled after his State of the State address on Tuesday. Few enough changes and details have been provided that his previously unannounced plan to legalize sports betting in New York’s four upstate casinos is noteworthy.
“We invested in upstate casinos. Let’s authorize sports betting the upstate casinos,” Cuomo said. “It’s here, it’s a reality, and it will help generate activity in those casinos.”
The casinos, which were first authorized by the State in 2014, have previously failed to meet revenue expectations and have been lobbying for the ability to handle sports betting since last year. A bill authorizing the move made it to the Assembly floor last year, but was never voted on. If Cuomo’s plan passes, sports gamblers will be able to participate in state-sanctioned, casino-run versions of the wagers they have already been doing unofficially.
“Members raised significant issues, so I would say at this point there isn’t enough support within the Democratic conference to want to go forward on sports gambling,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in 2018.
State of the State: less revolutionary, more evolutionary
Otherwise, while Cuomo has not backed away from any of the headline points of what he calls his “Justice Agenda,” much of his proposed legislation was closer to the “incremental” kind he swore against at his first address.
“I believe we can have the most productive first 100 days in state history,” Cuomo said in his State of the State address. “In the old days, too many good ideas went to the State Senate to die. Now, we’re going to have good ideas going to the Senate to be born.”
While many of Cuomo’s points sounded grand, some say their actual effects may be less so. Cuomo promised to make Election Day a state holiday, but, as Senator Julia Salazar pointed out on Twitter, it may not reach the people who actually need it.
“While I recognize the intent of making election day a federal holiday, I don’t think it would actually make voting more accessible to many working people,” Salazar stated. “Consider service industry workers who often work fed[eral] holidays, or otherwise lose a full day’s wages.”
Additionally, after his announcement of legalizing marijuana use sparked a flurry of debate as to its implementation, Cuomo stated that communities and cities would be able to opt out of the plan if they chose, and continue to enforce existing drug laws. Senator Salazar described the idea as “unacceptable,” and when asked about the possibility earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio stated that it would not work.
Cuomo likewise continued to advocate for executive control of the MTA and planned to split future maintenance costs for the train system with the city, something that de Blasio has stated will “never happen.”
On health care, Cuomo promised to codify the Affordable Care Act and force insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, while many Democratic presidential hopefuls and even Mayor de Blasio have endorsed a much-more-expansive universal health care system. Meanwhile, after repeating his intention to have New York carbon-neutral by 2040, Cuomo’s Green New Deal so far consists of a $1.5 billion investment into offshore wind farms, a committee on environmental policy, a fund to subsidize lost property taxes for communities closing down power stations and job training programs at SUNY.
Cuomo’s earlier promise to “publicly finance campaigns” has become a promise to match donations to candidates with public funds and “significantly reduce the various contribution limits for statewide and local offices.” In order to fight corporate influence in politics and elections, he proposed legislation to force lobbyists to disclose possible conflicts of interest under penalty of up to a five year ban on lobbying.
“It’s a lot, no doubt about it,” Cuomo said “There’s a lot that’s been bottled up for many many years that we couldn’t get done.”
And while Cuomo lamented the state of public education in the state of New York and promised that his administration would be fiercely pro-union, he made no mention of CUNY’s budgetary shortfalls or growing pressure from their professional union to raise wages for teachers.
“Keep applauding,” he stated. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”