Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveils the first signature proposal of his 2016 agenda – his push to restore economic justice by making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage for all workers. (181367)
Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered the first of his many State of the State addresses in Manhattan this past Monday. Union leaders were quick to praise the governor, particularly for his education and child care proposals.

Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, called Cuomo’s proposal to offer free tuition to CUNY and SUNY students a “conceptual and political breakthrough” because it makes free tuition at public colleges the new standard to aspire to. Bowen, in a statement, also said that with rising student debt and an uncertain future, New York State can reset the national agenda for college education.

“At a moment when college costs are rising, student debt is out of control and Americans are wary of what the future holds, New York State can re-set the national agenda for college education by enacting a fully funded investment in free public college education for low- and middle-income students,” stated Bowen. “Everyone in the state will benefit if college education is in reach of all. Now is the moment to make a similarly bold commitment to providing the resources CUNY and SUNY need to fulfill the Governor’s promise to students. To enable students to graduate within two or four years, CUNY will need to be able to offer essential courses, support services and academic resources.”

DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido also praised Cuomo for his free tuition proposal and for his child care proposals.

“We strongly support the Governor’s proposals for free tuition at CUNY and SUNY for middle-class families earning less than $125,000,” said Garrido. “We are also in support of the governor’s plan to create a tax credit for child care and are looking forward to working with him on other important issues impacting working families, including the funding of a safety net for our public hospitals, which are facing a critical fiscal crisis that threatens their existence.”

During his first State of the State address Monday, Cuomo said of his education proposals, “It will change lives. It will restore hope for thousands of children who never believed they would make it to college.”

The governor then referred to his CUNY and SUNY free tuition proposals as “a statement of New York values.” He added, “Education is a right, not a privilege, it shouldn’t be about income, ZIP code, or ethnicity and that’s why I will also propose the Dream Act to help make all our children’s dreams come true.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew also approved of Cuomo’s proposals on education.

“We are very pleased with what the governor has laid out on education,” said Mulgrew in a statement. “He is talking about substantially increasing funding for education, and then advocating for programs that we know will make a difference for our students: expanded pre-K, more after-school programs that are tied to instruction and college for all.”

During his State of the State address, Cuomo proposed a Middle Class Child Care Tax Credit. Citing that the average cost to send a child to day care is $25,000, the governor said he would help double the tax credit to help reduce child care cost for more than 200,000 working-class families.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, told the AmNews that Cuomo’s child care proposal shows that the governor’s leading the nation with “a bold progressive vision for working Americans.”

“The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU applaud Governor Cuomo’s plan to make child care more affordable for middle-class New Yorkers,” said Gresham in an emailed statement to the AmNews. “His proposal to double child care tax credits will provide more financial security to more than 200,000 families, and boost our economy by allowing more parents to enter and stay in the workforce, especially women.”