(The Center Square) – Standing in the War Room inside the New York State Capitol in Albany Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo kicked off his State of the State address by outlining several initiatives he plans to unveil in the coming days.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo had noted the annual address would take on a different format this year. Rather than one speech, he plans on giving presentations over several days.
The governor used Monday’s speech to give a high-level overview. The initiatives he touched on include defeating the virus, vaccinating up to 90 percent of New Yorkers, addressing the state budget deficit, restarting the economy, investing in new infrastructure and addressing systemic racism.
“If that wasn’t ambitious enough, all of these plans must move forward simultaneously,” Cuomo said. “It will be hard. It will be the greatest test for government.”
Republicans remain skeptical and want more details.
Minority Assembly Leader Will Barclay said in a statement he agreed with the goals Cuomo outlined.
“But he presented far too little on help for small businesses, direct assistance to families, future logistics on the state’s slow vaccination roll-out or how he plans to address New York’s mounting debt and precarious budget deficit,” the Pulaski GOP lawmaker stated.
Cuomo has spoken about several of these topics during the COVID-19 briefings he’s given over the past 10 months, but a couple of new items did make their way into Monday’s address.
He said that COVID-19 has shown a need to make public health reforms as the nation was not ready to handle the outbreak that’s led to millions catching the virus and 375,000 people dying from it in the U.S.
As a result, the governor wants to work with Cornell University and Norwell Health to establish a “public health corps.” The state will hire 1,000 fellows who agree to serve for a year as part of the vaccination rollout. It also includes an online training program Cornell will design.
That program will help people protect themselves, their families and co-workers, he said, and have those individuals ready to serve when the next pandemic hits.
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“Our goal is to train and certify 100,000 New York health emergency volunteers,” he said.
State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy, in a blistering response, said Cuomo knows how to put on a show and even referenced the Emmy Award he received. But when the lights were off, Langworthy said Cuomo has badly mishandled the response to the virus that has crippled the state.
“Cuomo was right about one thing – New York is suffering and abused – but it’s at the hands of our own state government,” he said. “Our problems started long before COVID and they aren’t the fault of anyone else, including the federal government – they are the direct result of bad state policies. They are the direct result of a governor who is only consumed with his own power and publicity, while everything he touches is corrupted, mismanaged or destroyed.”