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“The Time Is Now”

Governor Cuomo’s 2019-20 Budget Address On January 15th, Governor Cuomo delivered his ninth Executive Budget Address, proposing a $178 billion spending plan, closing a $3.1 billion budget deficit. In this plan, which adheres to a self-imposed 2 percent spending increase cap, Cuomo seeks to increase funding for education and health care by 3.6%. Framing his Executive Budget Proposal as the “Justice Agenda,” the Governor cited the new majority in the Senate as an opportunity to pass progressive legislation previously impossible under the Republican Senate leadership. Governor Cuomo’s intention is to pass a number of progressive measures in the first 100 days, including: legalizing adult use marijuana; codifying aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); addressing the opioid crisis; passing the Child Victims Act; protecting and enhancing women’s’ rights; and implementing election law and campaign finance reforms. Cuomo estimates that the legalization of adult-use (age 21 and over) marijuana would eventually generate $300 million in revenue. This revenue would be realized through taxes placed on producers, wholesalers, and retailers and be used to pay for the regulation of marijuana programs, the Governor’s traffic safety committee, small business development, mental health treatment, and research on cannabis uses. Citing a “sustained federal assault” on the Affordable Care Act, the Governor is proposing to codify key ACA aspects, including banning pre-existing condition limitations, protecting contraception coverage, and establishing an annual open enrollment period for individual coverage in state law and continuous open enrollment for large group coverage. The Governor also proposed passing the Reproductive Health Act, the Contraception Coverage Act, and enshrining Roe vs. Wade into the NYS Constitution. During his presentation, the Governor pushed back against the “attacks” being made by the federal government against New York, including the elimination of State and Local Tax (SALT) exemptions and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Payment funding cuts. Governor Cuomo stated that New York would lead the way in justice for all and be the progressive leader in the nation. “We are going to pass this progressive agenda as New York's declaration of true democracy restoring fairness, progress, and pride.” Executive Budget legislation has been introduced and lawmakers will begin examining the details before introducing their One House Budget proposals sometime next month. Negotiations will then begin in earnest as the State Budget is due April 1.