Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his 11th annual State of the State address Monday that will largely focus on taming the coronavirus, its devastating economic impact and two key ways New York can help to dig out of it: legalized gambling and marijuana sales.
Cuomo, who’s been criticized for restricting the pool of New Yorkers eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, just expanded the criteria to include elderly residents age 75 and over and essential workers including firefighters, police, teachers and transit workers.
“After 10 long months, the expansion of eligibility for additional New Yorkers to begin making their COVID-19 vaccination plan is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Cuomo said in a press release ahead of the speech.
“The vaccine is the weapon that will end the war, and as we continue to prioritize healthcare workers as hospital capacity necessitates, New York is proud to have reached this milestone and we strongly encourage all who are newly eligible to schedule their free vaccination appointment as soon as possible.”
Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, faces his toughest budget challenge since 2011 — his first year in office — when Albany had to close a yawning shortfall as the state was still recovering from the Great Recession.
Cuomo won’t get into the nitty-gritty of his budget proposals. He will discuss more details of his spending plan in the coming days.
But the governor has already embraced money-generating proposals he has opposed in the past.
For example, Cuomo recently introduced a proposal to legalize mobile sports betting to raise tens of million of dollars. Under current law, bettors can only wager on sports at upstate casinos.
Cuomo, for the first time during his governorship, faces a more left-leaning state Legislature where Democrats hold a potential veto proof majority. For much of his tenure, Republicans led the state Senate.
The governor is banking a lot on President-elect Joe Biden, with whom he shares a warm relationship, steering more federal aid to help struggling state and local governments balance their budgets and avoid massive tax hikes and spending cuts after he takes office.
While initially speaking out against tax hikes that could hurt New York’s competitive
position with other states, Cuomo now says tax hikes and spending cuts are inevitable if the White House and Congress failed to deliver more funding to state and local governments.
Cuomo also is pressing to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, a proposal that has been blocked the previous two years but is more likely to be approved by lawmakers this year because of the state’s fiscal woes. Currently, marijuana can only be used for medicinal purposes in New York.
The governor predicts the weed proposal will rake in roughly $300 million yearly in tax revenues when fully operational, but it will take several years to set up.