Gotham Gazette

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The Assembly Majority Response to the State of the State Address

Delivered by
Sheldon Silver Speaker of the NYS Assembly
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The New York State Assembly congratulates the Governor on the occasion of this, his 12th and final State of the State Address.

As he concludes his tenure in elected office, we commend the Governor for his efforts on behalf of the State of New York.

We look forward to receiving the Executive Budget and we look forward to working with the Governor and with our colleagues in the Senate to enact an on-time state budget, to address the needs of the state, and to further the government reforms that were achieved in bipartisan fashion last year.

Two weeks ago, the Assembly acted on a series of bills that will make our state safer by stiffening penalties for gun traffickers and more effectively protecting our brave law enforcement officers.

When it comes to halting gun violence, the Governor and the Legislature have much more work to do.

We must remove illegal guns from our neighborhoods.

We must prohibit the sale of assault weapons.

And we must ban armor-piercing bullets once and for all.

To give police officers bullet-proof vests and allow criminals to legally purchase bullets that can penetrate those vests is foolishness, plain and simple.

This month, the Assembly will again advance its comprehensive legislation to curb gun violence.

We urge the Governor and the Senate to join us in closing down illegal gun dealers.

In the next few weeks, the Assembly will again pass legislation to better safeguard New Yorkers from sexual predators.

Our new agenda will be the toughest and most comprehensive in the history of New York State.

We are making penalties more severe.

We are providing for civil confinement.

We are enhancing victim assistance.

We are improving community notification and the monitoring of sex offenders.

Once again, I call upon the Governor and the Senate to join us in making the safest big state - New York - even safer.

As we commence our work in this legislative session, the Assembly is also preparing for the future.

We foresee a new era of optimism and opportunity;

A new era of courage and collegiality;

A new era of vision and vitality;

A new era of responsiveness and gubernatorial leadership.

We are preparing for an administration that will demand integrity, accountability, and transparency from every level of government.

We are working for a future where the health, education and welfare of the people are the moral obligation of government, and not the fodder for wasteful television ads.

We are working for the day when New York's job-creation efforts reflect each region's unique assets;

The day when economic opportunity begins in the classroom;

Extends to skills improvement and job training at our excellent community colleges;

And reaches its pinnacle in the myriad research and development projects taking place in our world-class colleges and universities.

Realizing this vision requires that we keep our promises to the future.

Like all of the mothers and fathers in our court rooms who are demanding that this state honor its constitutional obligation to educate our children, we look forward to the fast-approaching day when the school funding issue is settled once and for all.

This new era of government was defined by the distinguished historian, Barbara Tuchman, in this way:

If we can be open enough to perceive that a given policy is harming rather than serving public-interest, if we can be confident enough to acknowledge it and wise enough to reverse it, then we will reach the summit in the art of government.

Right now, that summit is still a long way off.

To the families of Corn Hill in Utica;

To the families of Dunkirk and Niagara Falls;

To those residing on the South Side of Syracuse and in Rochester's 14621 Neighborhood;

To the families in Riverhead, in Monticello, and in Newburgh City;

To those working families struggling to pay your bills in cities, towns and villages across this state, I ask you:

Have twelve years of Republican leadership improved your lives? Your schools? Your communities?

Is your faith in government stronger today? Are you hopeful for the future?

Remember the early years of the Pataki Administration?

New Yorkers were reaping the dividends of that extraordinary and history-making Clinton economy.

The state's coffers were filled to the brim.

The ability to strengthen the core elements of New York State's economy was never better.

Yet, the Pataki Administration purposefully under funded education and higher education;

Under invested in mass transit, roads and bridges;

Under financed health and mental health care;

And under capitalized housing and the other essential aspects of our infrastructure.

Then came September 11th, 2001.

New Yorkers were the target of the single most devastating act of mass murder and economic destruction ever perpetrated by a terrorist entity in this country.

Today, four-and-a-third years after the towers thundered to earth, Ground Zero remains a sad and empty space, and the Lower Manhattan economy continues to sink in a swamp of competing visions and misguided priorities.

For eleven years, through the highs and the lows, New Yorkers have endured an administration that has been defined by a reluctance to lead; an administration unable to back up its rhetoric with action, and unwilling to conduct its business in the sunlight of public scrutiny.

For eleven years, New Yorkers have watched their governor raise millions of dollars for a national political party that is shortchanging our state billions of dollars in federal aid.

For eleven years, we have endured an administration that has defined health-care reform as cuts in Medicaid funding for the elderly and disabled.

And now, after an economically crippling transit workers strike, the Governor's absence from the negotiating table proves yet again that he is reluctant to lead.

In refusing to work with the Legislature, this Administration has consistently acted in opposition to the best interests of New Yorkers.

Yes, a school-funding agreement could have been reached, but only if the Legislature sold out our school children.

We could not act so callously. We would not!

Instead, the Legislature stood together and chose to lead. The budgets we crafted are directly responsible for the recent upgrade in the state's credit rating.

I assure you that we will continue to lead this state in the direction that is best for New Yorkers and for our future.

This is the commitment of your State Assembly.

We will pass an on-time budget.

We will strengthen our education system in every part of this state.

We will target real property tax relief to our hard-pressed communities, our working families and our senior citizens.

We will strive to expand job growth in every city, county and town.

We will keep the dream of a college degree alive for every New Yorker who needs and is prepared for the challenges of higher education.

We will do all that we can to ensure that affordable, quality health care is accessible to every New Yorker.

We will work even harder to make energy less costly to businesses, homes, and especially to those New Yorkers on fixed incomes.

We will strive to make New York State a place our children want to stay, where they can afford to own a home, where they can find good jobs and build a secure career, where our schools are the finest in the nation, where our communities are free from violence, where the environment is clean, and their government is responsive to their needs.

The Governor has the opportunity in this, his final year in office, to establish this kind of legacy; a legacy of leadership, of bipartisanship, of dedication to working families and to helping them address the challenges they face every day.

This Governor has the opportunity to guide this State to that brighter future all New Yorkers are hoping for.

In a spirit of optimism, the Assembly stands ready to work with the Governor and with the Senate to help him craft the legacy New Yorkers deserve.

We are eager to begin our work. We are eager to prepare for the future. We are eager to restore the people's faith in their government.

I am Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly urging all New Yorkers to get ready, brighter days are coming.


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