Is Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship his next hollow promise?

January is always an interesting time in state government, as the governor and other legislative leaders outline their yearly agendas and priorities.

As custom has had it for the 240 years of our state’s history, the governor has made an impassioned plea in his State of the State and budget addresses given before the Legislature. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has broken with this custom by regional addresses.

Inherently, I have no problem with this method with the exception that the governor planned most of these speeches on days where legislators could not attend.

He’s playing a big trump card, almost bullying his agenda on the legislature. This is problematic, as he has a habit of using this important part of state governance as a testing platform for ideas and agendas, exploiting the hopes and dreams of New Yorkers, and raising their expectations in a more than obvious attempt to further thrust his widely presumed presidential aspirations.

This year, the governor seems to be doing all this with a greater tenacity. Before the Senate and Assembly even gaveled in for business on January 4, he announced his first proposal for free college tuition with progressive-liberal darling Bernie Sanders at his side.

At face value, this program would sound like welcome relief, as college costs for lower- and middle-income families have become more difficult to meet and student debt burdens New Yorkers for decades. No doubt, the governor’s plan makes for great headlines, but according to the governor, the program would cost $163 million and at a time when the state is already stretched thin by its spending.

The program as the governor has described, would pick up the cost of tuition after federal and state college aid is applied. What we know of this plan shows just how the governor misses underlying causes of rising costs, or in this case, student debt.

For example, the plan would do little to help lower-income families who are eligible for higher federal and state tuition aid, and it would still fail to help them afford the rapidly rising costs of college housing, food, living expenses, supplies and textbooks. These associated costs are harming middle-income students as well.

The struggle to pay for higher education is a real and emotionally difficult matter faced by diverse families that live in my district. Everyone hopes to provide a better future for their children and grandchildren; it is something parents and grandparents lovingly fret over.

Upstate New Yorkers need jobs, so the governor created START-UP NY and then launched the costly $53 million advertising program for it, with underwhelming results. He’s said he’d help struggling families by aggressively increasing the minimum wage, forcing local job creators to take a big hit, the very people providing the needed jobs in our communities.

Property taxes were crippling homeowners, so a tax cap was imposed without providing relief from unfunded state mandates on municipalities, the real cost driver of property taxes. Oh, and he had the state issue paltry rebate checks just in time for elections, which barely made a dent in the financial burdens faced by homeowners.

Gov. Cuomo has shown repeatedly that he is unable or, unwilling, to address the deeper issues that has both the people and the government of this state facing crippling costs. I am listening, and I will not allow the governor to continue to mislead the public on his efforts.

Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, (R,C,I,Ref-Newport), welcomes input on this or any other legislative matter. For mor information call his Herkimer office at 315-866-1632, Johnstown office at 762-6486, or by email at butlerm@nyassembly.gov.

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