On Wednesday, January 3, 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his eighth State of the State Address. As usual, the Address laid out the Governor’s goals and priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
Gov. Cuomo organized his speech around three sets of challenges: Old challenges, such as racism and sexism; new challenges, such as terrorism and the opioid crisis; and “‘federal and economic challenges never experienced before.’” To his credit, the Governor has some good ideas on dealing with sexual harassment, including barring the use of taxpayer funds to pay for public officials’ sexual harassment or misconduct and banning nondisclosure agreements by governments regarding sexual harassment allegations. Unfortunately, Gov. Cuomo also called for the passage of the abortion-expanding Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would force some employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs; these measures have nothing at all to do with sex discrimination and sexual harassment and everything to do with further devaluing human life.
The clear focus of Gov. Cuomo’s speech was the recently-passed federal tax law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Governor used his address to position himself as a leading opponent of the law, and of the policy agenda of the Trump administration. Describing the new law as part of an “assault” on the State of New York, Gov. Cuomo accused the federal government of “robbing the blue states to pay for the red states,” of starting an “economic civil war,” and of “aiming to hurt” New York. The Governor’s three-point strategy for opposing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes challenging the law in court, launching a “repeal and replace” movement, and reforming the state’s tax system to minimize the impact of the new law. While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not a perfect law, Gov. Cuomo’s complaints about it are exaggerated; furthermore, his attempts at litigation and repeal are likely to be futile.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address revealed that he lacks solutions for our state’s problems.
At some points during his speech, Gov. Cuomo accurately identified problems facing the state, but seemed unable to cast a vision for solving them. For example, the Governor acknowledged that homelessness is increasing in the State of New York; however, his main “solution” was to threaten to withhold state funding from cities and towns that fail to effectively engage in “outreach” to the homeless. Similarly, while he lamented the opioid crisis, the Governor offered few ideas on how to help aside from suing pharmaceutical companies. How many New Yorkers struggling with opioid addiction will get clean because of litigation? As with many others on the Left, Gov. Cuomo’s main government reform idea is taxpayer funding of political campaigns. In addition to being constitutionally and morally problematic, this proposal is unlikely to be effective in cleaning up Albany so long as the Governor and legislative leaders continue to dominate and control the legislative process.
At other points during the speech, Gov. Cuomo appeared unwilling or unable to clearly identify the causes of our state’s problems. For example, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may raise some New Yorkers’ taxes, and the Governor blames this reality on the federal government. However, the real reason that the bill will raise some New Yorkers’ taxes is simple: New York is a high-tax state. The law limits the existing deduction for state and local taxes; if New Yorkers’ taxes weren’t so high, this limitation wouldn’t hurt us. Therefore, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act isn’t an “assault” on New York; rather, our sky-high taxes are a self-inflicted wound. Is Gov. Cuomo oblivious to this fact? Or does he simply choose to ignore it? In similar fashion, the Governor appears unaware that he has contributed to the politically divisive atmosphere in our state. In an almost-surreal moment during the Address, the Governor said that his “greatest fear” was “division.” The Governor is correct that the State of New York is divided; the radical leftism now in vogue in New York City is alien to the many conservatives and moderates that inhabit the rural areas of upstate New York. However, Gov. Cuomo’s empty platitudes about diversity, tolerance, and inclusion (which he has used in prior State of the State Addresses) are completely ineffective in healing that division. Furthermore, Gov. Cuomo’s calls for unity ring hollow in light of his record of mean-spiritedness, bullying, and inflammatory rhetoric. New Yorkers have not forgotten the Governor’s 2014 declaration that “extreme” conservatives have “no place in the State of New York.” When it comes to divisiveness, Gov. Cuomo is a big part of the problem.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address did not focus heavily on the issues that mean the most to New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms: Protecting human life, promoting strong families, preserving religious liberty, and proclaiming justice and mercy. This is a great blessing, given that the Governor’s views on these matters are almost always at odds with the Christian perspective. If the Governor is not prioritizing anti-life, anti-family, or anti-freedom measures, it will be much easier to block such measures when they arise this year.
In this year’s address, Gov. Cuomo did call for the passage of the abortion expansion bill known as the Reproductive Health Act; he also called for the passage of the misleadingly-named Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would force faith-based charities to provide insurance coverage for abortion-causing drugs. However, the Governor spent very little time on these issues. Pro-life New Yorkers may recall that in his 2013 State of the State Address, the Governor made a forceful push for abortion expansion, repeatedly bellowing “Because it’s her body, it’s her choice!” Throughout 2013, NYCF and our pro-life allies fought an intense political battle that culminated in the defeat of abortion expansion by a one-vote margin. The Governor’s decision not to highlight abortion expansion this year likely means that the issue is no longer on his front burner of priorities; most likely, the Governor and his allies recognize that the bill’s prospects are slim to none under a Republican-led State Senate. This is cause for thanksgiving.
While the Governor spent very little time on abortion in this year’s State of the State, he spent even less time on LGBT issues. The Governor did remind the audience of the 2011 legalization of same-sex “marriage.” However, the three major items on LGBT activists’ wish list—paid surrogacy, the Bathroom Bill, and the Counselor Coercion Bill—were not even mentioned. This, too, is a good sign, as is the Governor’s failure to bring up physician-assisted suicide.
As always, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms will watch the Governor and the Legislature carefully in 2018, and will continue to fight against any anti-life, anti-family, or anti-freedom measures that may advance.