Cuomo’s Budget Address: Congestion Pricing, Marijuana, And More

January 15, 2019 - 6:25 pm
Categories: 

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined his budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year Tuesday, looking at two key proposals to raise revenue.

In his first State of the State Address since Democrats took control of the New York legislature, Cuomo called on lawmakers to “fully enact a justice agenda.”

Progressive legislation proposed by Cuomo has been stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate for years, but now has a chance to pass.

The Democratic governor's budget is around $175 billion, with most of that money going toward education, healthcare, a middle class tax cut and the MTA.

Congestion Pricing

Cuomo stressed that nearly half of all New Yorkers utilize the MTA and that the agency is crucial to the state's growth.

He then reiterated his call for congestion pricing to fix the subways, proposing all drivers pay a toll at 60th Street, while traveling south. Cuomo believes that would avoid “bridge shopping,” in which drivers opt to take the Queensboro Bridge instead of paying a toll at the Midtown Tunnel.

“This would say, basically, everyone pays the toll if you're going into the central business district. There would be no toll on the FDR, so if you're just coming into Manhattan to go north or south there's no toll on the FDR,” the governor said.

Revenue generated by the toll will be used to fund improvements to the city's aging subway system. It also has the possibility of reducing gridlock traffic throughout Manhattan.

Recreational Marijuana

One of the most closely watched issues this legislative session will be Cuomo’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older.

The governor doubled down on his proposal, arguing that legalizing the drug would raise an estimated $300 million in tax revenues.

Cuomo’s framework would aim to benefit communities hit hardest by past law enforcement efforts. But, it also could be one of the most restrictive.

While he wants New York to legalize marijuana as a whole, he would let cities and counties prohibit retail marijuana shops.

New York would become the 11th state to legalize the drug.

“We want to know are the existing registered organizations gonna have an opportunity to jump in on this or individual consumers going to be able to cultivate their own marijuana,” said Doug Green, of Empire State NORML.

The group advocates for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Limousine Safety

Gov. Cuomo also said he'll be looking into safety reforms for limousines, in response to the October crash of a stretch limo that killed 20 people upstate.

He wants stricter limo and large passenger vehicle regulations and a ban on reconfigured limos, like the modified SUV that crashed into a store's parking lot in Schoharie on Oct. 6.

Authorities have charged the operator of the limo company with criminally negligent homicide. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Education

The governor’s budget plan also calls for an increase in education spending by $1 billion, bringing the school funding to $27.7 billion.

Cuomo is hoping to increase spending on pre-kindergarten by $15 million to serve thousands more students in deprived communities.

The announcement comes just days after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a proposal to provide free eyeglasses to any kindergartener and firs-grader who may need them.

Environmental Spending

Gov. Cuomo also wants to ban the use of single-use plastic bags at stores across New York and add a 5-cent deposit to most non-alcoholic beverages not already included in the state's bottle bill.

Cuomo's effort to get a plastic bag ban passed last year was shot down by the then-Republican-controlled Senate.

His bottle bill expansion would include sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages, and ready-to-drink bottled tea and coffee.

Products such as dairy milk and infant formula would be exempted.

Cuomo also wants to spend another $500 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and allocate an additional $110 million in capital funding for state parks and historic sites.

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)