Homeland Security

New York State

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Updates New Yorkers on State's Progress During COVID-19 Pandemic

April 19, 2021

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Okay, good morning everyone. Happy Monday. It is a beautiful day. To my far left, good Dr. Howard Zucker. We thank him for being here. We thank him for his extraordinary service. To my immediate left, Robert Mujica, budget director. Also sits on the MTA board, also sits on the CUNY board. To my right, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the Governor, secretary to the Governor's an official title. It's nothing to do with being an actual secretary. It's the top position in state government.

Let's talk about where we are today. What are the priorities, what are the goals? Define the goal and prioritize the goal. We have two goals, two priorities, both important. First, keep the COVID rate down, vaccinate New Yorkers. We work at that 24 hours a day. Second, spring is here, we're reopening. We're not just building back New York, we're building it back better than ever before. After you've gone through a trauma in life, whether it's a natural disaster or whatever, that's a moment to learn and to grow and to improve. That's what we did post-9/11, that's what we did post-Hurricane Sandy, that's what we're going to do post-COVID.

On the COVID numbers today, the overall positivity rate is 2.9. The statewide deaths, 44. Obviously, one is too many, but relatively that is good news, and they are in our thoughts and prayers. Hospitalizations, 3,700, that's good news. ICU, 836, that's good news. Intubations, 521, that's actually good news. If you look at the numbers, you don't really look at the numbers day to day. We look at the trend of the numbers, and where we are now is the lowest since November 13th. Why is that important? November 13th is pre-Thanksgiving, pre-holiday surge, pre-any of the increase. So we're actually back to where we were before we hit the holiday increase. So that's very good news. Hospitalizations also continue to decline. Lowest number since December 4th. December 4th, that's also before we started to feel the effect of the holiday surge starting on Thanksgiving.

You look at the positivity across the state, you see a different picture. I hate to repeat myself, but I do it all the time, you look at Western New York and the number in Western New York, and then look at the numbers in the rest of the state, look at the variants among the regions in the state, what accounts for that? We don't believe there's anything that accounts for that other than the variation in human behavior, and the precautions that people take and how seriously they take COVID. COVID is still a risk, it's still a threat. But you go from 4.7 in Western New York to Southern Tier, .8, which is right next door. You know, your community determines your positivity rate. I don't know how else to say it. New York City, you see Staten Island with the highest infection rate. Not as high as it was, but still higher than nay borough in New York City? How do you explain that? Your community determines your infection rate. Your behavior determines your infection rate. Your family determines your family's infection rate. We've been very aggressive on vaccinations. We're doing it every way we can. We're advertising it. I'm going to be traveling across the state, stressing this message.

Get vaccinated. Now, this has been a constant adjustment, dealing with COVID. Look at this graphic, I do, because I like it, nobody else likes it, but it's a prerogative of being Governor. But it actually says something. It says watch the dials, watch the gauges, watch the positivity increase, watch the hospitalizations increase, and that informs you as to the calibration of economic activity versus protections. So the numbers are stable and going down, right? So we can start to open up more economic activity.

Museum and zoo capacity will be raised to 50 percent starting next Monday. The weather is nice. We have magnificent zoos in this state. You want to get outside, you want to take the family somewhere, museums and zoos will be at 50 percent. Movie theater capacity will go to 33 percent, that will also start next Monday, April 26. Indoor large arenas, basically sports arenas, will be raised to 25 percent. That begins May 19. May 19 is not a random date, we've been speaking with the teams, we're optimistic and that would be a time when playoffs would begin.

At the same time, it's about pivoting from COVID close-down to post-COVID reopening. There's a season for everything and this is the season for renewal and for change. This is a season where New Yorkers do what New Yorkers do best, get in the mindset of post-9/11, post-Hurricane Sandy. We're not just going to rebuild, we're not just going to replace, reimagine what we should be. Renew what we should be and let's build to that standard.

When I was in the federal government, I dealt with a lot of federal disasters all across the country. You don't replace what was in the home, you build back a better home. You don't replace what was the infrastructure, you build it back modern, better, newer. COVID showed a lot of ugliness. How do we build back better? How do we take this moment when everyone has to rebuild? This is a reset for the world. It's a reset for the nation. How do we use this to our advantage?

The State, the region that rebuilds best and fastest will have economic opportunity in the future. I believe that. Everyone is going through the process. Post-COVID, what did we learn? How did we rebuild? Whoever does that best has an economic opportunity and that's where New York has to excel. People ask me all the time, well what will New York be post-COVID? There is nothing that is pre-determined, New York will be what we make it to be.

At one point in life, your destiny is in your own hands and our destiny is in our own hands. It's what we make it. Our goal, our ambition is to make it better than it ever has been before. We're not just thinking about it and talking about it, we're already in the action phase. We're in the implementation phase. We have the most aggressive building program in modern history that is going on now. New airports, the new Moynihan Train Hall — which if you have not seen it, you are in for a treat. We're going to rebuild Penn Station, should have been done decades ago, but we're going to seize this moment to make it a reality.

The new Port Authority bus terminal. It's been an eyesore for the West Side of Manhattan for a long time, but now is the time. If you commute from Long Island on the Long Island Rail Road through Penn Station, which has been a daily torment, now is the time to put in a new track. The Belmont Arena, I was there the other day, it's going to be the home to the Islanders, it's going to be a new music venue. It's a place of identity for Long Island. It's going to be magnificent and it's going to open this fall. We accelerated the schedule.

Many cities still suffer from the mistakes made in the 50s and 60s where we blocked off the waterfront and the waterfront is now the attraction. You want to reconnect with that waterfront and we're doing that in Buffalo and Rochester and in Albany.

We just went through remote learning and kids having to learn from home and we saw the inequality in education. Well, remote learning. Yeah, if you have a computer, if you have someone who can work with you and if you have broadband internet. Too many families had to go to the local fast food place or library to get broadband because they didn't have it at home. This remote learning discriminated against people of, once again, the haves and the have nots. Universal broadband that is accessible to everyone and affordable. First state in the nation if you're a low-income family $15 and an internet company has to provide you high speed internet for $15. We're also going to be the green energy capital of the nation. Not by talking about it or by demonstrating or signing goals, but by actually implementing a program.

And we have to — we have to reform public safety. This nation is still in turmoil with the relationship between members of the community and the police. We see it every day. There will be no economic recovery unless a city is safe. We have seen that in the past. And I'm going to speak more about this over the coming days. But public safety is directly related to the economy. The economy will not grow if people don't feel safe. It's that simple. We're in New York City today. I can tell you because I've been born in New York City. You look at the periods of high crime in New York city, they are the periods of economic decline. You see periods where the crime rate goes down, the economic rate goes up. And we are at a point of crisis in this nation and in this state. And if you want to rebuild the economy, we have to reform public safety.

We also have to help the middle class especially at this time and the best way we can help them is to lower taxes. In the budget we just passed we actually reduce income taxes for the middle class. The rate goes from 6.09 to 5.97 for those making between $43,000 and $161,000. From $43,000 to $161,000, your tax rate goes down. From $160,000 to $323,000, your tax rate goes down. $323,000 per year middle class. At one point that would be rich people. But times have changed. So we want to get those taxes down for people in those brackets and we do it this year. And we also do it for the $20,000 to $80,000 bracket and $80,000 to $215,000 for individual taxpayers. So middle class taxes come down as soon as I sign this bill, which I'm going to do in a moment. This tax change affects 4.8 million New Yorkers and it's $2.2 billion, so it is real.

We are also instituting a property tax credit for people under $250,000 because property taxes are the worst tax in the state of New York. It's not the state income tax. It is the property tax. And when people talk about high tax New York, they're talking about the property taxes. That's what they're talking about. We passed a permanent property tax cap at 2 percent. First time ever in history. We passed it nine years ago. It has saved almost $60 billion in nine years. But there's no doubt that if you want to make a difference from a tax point of view in this state, it's about the property taxes.

With all we've done, we still have the highest property taxes in the country right here in the state of New York. In New York State, the average middle-class taxpayer pays more in property taxes than they do in income taxes. So people tend to focus on the state income taxes. No, that is not where you're paying the taxes. You're paying the taxes in your property taxes. For example, we're in New York City today downstate, most people $10,000 in property taxes and $7,000 in income taxes. The problem is property taxes. Property taxes in the Hudson Valley and Long Island are among the highest in the nation — Nassau, Westchester Rockland -highest property taxes in the nation by dollar amount of how much people pay. Upstate, highest property taxes in the nation as a percentage of your home value, so Nassau, Westchester, Rockland, highest absolute property tax payment. Upstate New York, highest property tax as a percentage of the value of your home. Home values are lower in upstate New York but the property tax is higher. This situation has always been a problem.

We made major progress when we passed the property tax cap first time ever. But then what happens, in 2017, the federal government actually made it worse. The federal government passed a federal tax reform plan that reduced taxes for the rich, the wealthy, the corporations, but removed the deductibility of state and local taxes, called SALT. They got away with it for two reasons. Number one, it was a little confusing. It was hard to communicate. You no longer can deduct your state and local taxes, you know, what does that mean? And second, it was President Trump and a federal government that was trying to help Republican states and they took from the Democratic states. That is not a partisan statement. That is mathematics. Money came from the Democratic states under their tax reform and they transferred it to Republican states and it was a direct attack on New York because the federal government was no friend to New York as we know for many reasons.

It cost New Yorkers $30 billion over the last three years. What they did cost New Yorkers an additional $30 billion. I call it the SALT assault. It affected virtually the entire state. It limited deductions to $10,000. Most New Yorkers have deductions twice that level. It cost on average $2,600 per home and because of SALT in 2017, New Yorker had the largest tax hike of any state in the nation. That's why it was personal and that's why it was devastating.

To make matter worse, New York already ad more into the federal government than any other state and got back less than any other state, so it was already an unfair system and they actually aggravated the injustice of it. Now, it's 2017, it's Trump, it's a Republican Senate, Democratic House. All the New York officials, federal officials, condemned what the federal government did. All of them got up and gave a speech. Senator Schumer condemned what they did. State and local deductions are the bedrock of middle class deductions to help steady the cost of middle class families. Senator Gillibrand, same thing. Congressman Nadler, the head of our Congressional delegation in the House. Republicans didn't want to pay for the tax cut. They didn't care about this. They did this. They wanted to punish the state, the 12 states. They wanted to punish us for voting for Hillary Clinton but they wanted to coerce us to have lowered taxes and lesser services. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, they all gave a great speech. Moderate Republicans, not the hyper conservatives or the blind Trump loyalists, but reasonable, moderate Republicans like Congressman Peter King how I believe was just that, moderate, reasonable, pro-New York Republican, said it was outrageous what they did. Okay, that was their position, but for me, in life it's not what you say, it's what you do.

Since January, President Biden who is a friend, Democratic Senate, Democratic Congress, no excuses, no Donald Trump, no Republican Senate. The Congress has passed multiple bills. They all promised to

The congress has passed multiple bills. They all promised to repeal SALT. They have not repealed SALT and they must. There's another big federal package being proposed. They must repeal SALT. I understand a little bit about politics, but it is still about results at the end of the day. New Yorkers are bottom line people. Did you get it done? "Well, I'm trying. Well, I believe I made a good effort." Did you get it done? And we need results from Washington. SALT repeal means $12.3 billion to New Yorkers. SALT repeal is so powerful, it would lower the effective tax rate on New Yorkers, highest payers, by 37 percent. We just put a surcharge on the state income tax for the highest earners to finance our reconstruction in essence. Our top rate went to 10.9 percent, from 8.8. If they repeal SALT, the effective tax rate on the high earners goes to 6.9 percent.

So, if they repeal SALT, which I believe they must, the net effect in New York will be that we didn't raise taxes on anyone, we lowered taxes on everyone. Because when the SALT repeal happens the top tax rate is now 10.9 in New York, it's really 6.9, and 6.9 is lower than what the taxes were. So, when we did this budget and we did this surcharge on the high earners, we anticipated that SALT would be repealed, because there is no justification not to repeal SALT, especially after the way it was done, especially after every federal official pledged to repeal SALT.

So, to congress my message is simple on behalf of all New Yorkers who pay taxes: don't pass another bill until you fully repeal SALT. No political deals, no political games. Fully repeal SALT. It was a political attack on this state. It was a partisan political attack on this state. You promised to repeal it, now is the time to do it. Lower our taxes. Help our economic recovery. Reverse the 2017 SALT in the wounds bill. I can't say it more clearly, but trust me it is what every New Yorker knows and feels. And my job is very simple at the end of the day: I represent the people of the State of New York, I represent the people who are paying hard earned tax dollars, I represent the people who were assaulted by the federal government in 2017, and I represent New Yorkers who demand justice. And for them to have justice they need action, and they need action from President Biden, from Senator Schumer, from Congressman Jerry Nadler. These leaders must deliver and they must deliver now. There are no excuses.

What will New York's future be? It will be what we make it. You have to have the vision, dream big and then do it. Build big, make it happen. Reform chronic problems, like public safety, and make it happen. Reform chronic problems, like high property taxes, and make it happen. We can be better than we have ever been. It's who we are. We just have to make it happen, and I am going to fight with you to make it happen every day.

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