Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cuomo: Build three Upstate casinos, lengthen school year

The governor, a Democrat, thematically built his speech around recent events: Superstorm Sandy, which ravaged downstate communities, and shootings in Newtown, Conn. and Webster, a Rochester suburb.

In a wide-ranging presentation that will set the state’s governmental agenda for the coming year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed broadening the definition of banned assault weapons, offering merit pay for teachers and a longer school day, raising the minimum wage to $8.75 and adding three casinos in Upstate New York.

“We saw New York at its worst, but we also saw New York at its best,” the governor said. “We can accomplish anything we want when we work together, so let us begin.”

But the governor started his speech — which started roughly 50 minutes after its scheduled time, lasted over an hour and was accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation of dozens of slides — by addressing the economy.

He said the government needed to focus on “tech-transfer,” where innovations from laboratories, often rooted in universities, are translated into manufacturing. The governor proposed a system of “hot spots,” which have echoes of the defunct and oft-derided Empire Zones program, which would be business incubators in which companies would be freed from business, property and sales taxes.

The governor said he would start coordinating the state’s marketing funding among counties, and hold a whitewater rafting competition.

“We have the assets, we just need the marketing,” he said.

Cuomo proposed three casinos to be located “upstate,” and hoped they would be “magnets” for people from New York City and Long Island to come north.

“We’re losing revenues every day because people are going to those casinos” in other states, Cuomo said. “We have to get them there. I believe casinos in upstate New York would be a great magnet to bring the New York City traffic up.”  POST

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