New York State of the State Address 2004

Albany, N.Y., Jan. 7- Following is the full text of New York Gov. George Pataki's (R) 2004 state of the state address:

Chief Judge Kaye, honorable members of the Court of Appeals, Lieutenant Governor Donohue, Attorney General Spitzer, Comptroller Hevesi, Majority Leader Bruno, Speaker Silver, Leader Nesbitt, Leader Paterson, respected members of the Legislature, distinguished guests...

It's an honor to stand before you in this majestic chamber, the seat of New York's democracy. Each of us has taken a solemn oath to uphold this democracy and has the privilege of serving the most courageous people and the greatest state in the nation.

It's exciting to be here today to deliver my 10th State of the State address. For those of you who have sat through the previous 9 hours and 46 minutes of my State of the State speeches, you know they tend to be long. I just want to make sure everyone is comfortable in their seats - Eliot, Alan, Senator Balboni, Secretary Daniels - is everyone comfortable? Because I may be here longer than you think.

We're joined by a great New Yorker and good friend who addressed the opening session of the Legislature eight times as New York's Governor. Governor Carey, on behalf of everyone in this chamber, I want to thank you for being here today as we work to build on your proud legacy.

Libby, Mom, Allison, thank you for being here with me today and everyday.

As we look towards a new year with hope, let us remember the good friends we lost this past year.

The Catskills couldn't have had a more dedicated public servant than Assemblyman Jake Gunther. He was a friend and trusted colleague to us all, and he will be sorely missed. His widow, Aileen, is Jake's successor. Aileen, I want you to know that we all share your loss.

Just last week, we were all shocked to hear that Dick Miller passed away. Dick was loved in Binghamton, and here in Albany. We'll miss him dearly.

And all of us who work in the Capitol will never forget Trooper Bill Dooley. He was, quite simply, everyone's friend - a wonderful, funny, intelligent, outgoing man whose presence in our Capitol made us proud.

Let us bow our heads for a moment of silence in memory of these three friends and great public servants.

Let us also remember the brave New Yorkers who made the supreme sacrifice for their nation and its people this past year:

The police officers and firefighters who laid down their lives to protect New Yorkers from harm...

And the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines we lost in the fight for freedom abroad...

We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude that can never fully be repaid.

These brave men and women fought and died for the source of our unity, the bedrock of our democracy and the promise of our future. They fought and died for our freedom.

Today, with our nation engaged in a War on Terror, both here at home and abroad, it is appropriate that we reflect on that concept of freedom.

Like all of you, I learned about freedom from my parents and teachers. But I also watched it unfold from a farmhouse in Peekskill. For it was there that I sat with my grandparents watching as the streets of their native Hungary blazed with revolution. On that day, my father told me freedom was worth dying for.

Later, we would witness and become part of a new fight for freedom. Only this battle wasn't being fought in a far away country accessible only by television. No, this battle was being waged right here on the streets of New York, and not by brave strangers but by our own friends and neighbors.

Today's children - our children and grandchildren - are part of a new era of freedom. Years from now, they will mark September 11, 2001 as a turning point for humankind - a date when those who believe in fear were overcome by those who believe in freedom.

One of those children -- nine-year-old Jessica Hefferon of Appleton in Niagara County -- understands these lessons well. Jessica wrote the winning essay for a national contest of the Weekly Reader. "Freedom," she wrote, "is great to have, so I think we should try and share it with people who don't have the freedom that we have in our country."

That is, of course, what America has always sought to do - bring the blessings of freedom to oppressed people throughout the world.

She went on to write that "Being free means that you can make your own choices in life." Her words remind us that freedom is ultimately a simple principle, one that we sometimes take for granted. They remind us, also, of our solemn obligation to enhance these precious freedoms...

The freedom to live in safety and security...

The freedom to find a good job and build a strong family...

The freedom to live, breathe and dream in a clean and healthy environment...

The freedom that comes with knowledge and a quality education...

...And the freedom to persevere over adversity.

Today, I will ask you to join me in setting ambitious goals for New York's future that strengthen these freedoms. And if they sound too ambitious, remember that in each case, we've done it before, which means we can do it again.

Together, we've led the nation in fighting crime, and today New York is the safest large state in America. Let's pledge action so that in five years we will be the safest of any state in America. Today, I will outline a series of administrative and legislative actions to meet that goal.

Together, we helped create almost 500,000 new jobs since 1995. Let's work together to create one million new jobs by the end of this decade. Today, I will outline a detailed economic plan, which includes Phase II of our nationally-recognized high tech efforts, that will help to get us there.

Together, we've led the nation in our commitment to clean air and water. Let's be the nation's leader in clean and renewable energy technologies, and preserving open space. Today, I will advance a new environmental agenda to achieve both of these goals.

Together, we've made record investments in education. Let's work together and seize an historic opportunity to reform our education system so it's the best in the nation. Today, I will outline the guiding principles to lead us there.

And together, we can pay further tribute to those we lost on one of the darkest days in our nation's history. Today, I will update our timeline for revitalizing Lower Manhattan so that the heroes we lost are never forgotten.

To achieve these bold initiatives and new goals, I will ask you to join me in taking action on the 45 specific measures I outline today - some new, others long overdue - that will allow us to build upon our past success and ensure that New York is not only the world's greatest symbol of freedom - but its greatest example.

It is an aggressive, detailed and bold agenda that will require each of us to cast aside the petty divisions that often distract us from realizing our goals.

We've done it before. We can do it again.

And in doing so, we will pay tribute to the principle that unites each and every New Yorker - our deep and unequivocal love of freedom...

...the freedom Jessica so ably described in her essay.

Jessica is joined by her little brother Brian, her Mom, Tobi and her Dad, Major Steve Hefferon, a Squadron Commander in New York's Air National Guard...

Major, thank you for your service -- and Jessica thank you for your beautiful words, and for being here.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Steve and all of the men and women of New York's National Guard.

I have regularly called upon the Guard over the past nine years in times of crisis - the attack on the World Trade Center... eight natural disasters... four plane crashes... eleven crippling blizzards... two major wildfires, a statewide blackout... and now of course... the threat of global terror.

In each case, the Guard responded quickly and heroically, and they've met every mission asked of them to protect our State and our nation.

And today, 3,400 guardsmen are serving across the globe, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Canadian border and Grand Central Station.

The New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing, based in Westhampton, Long Island, has just returned from deployment in Iraq.

Most of us sadly recall hearing the news on November 2nd that a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter had been shot down outside the city of Falluja in Iraq, killing 16 soldiers.

On that tragic day, members of the 106th proved why they are considered among the very best at what they do.

Within minutes, helicopter crews from the 106th arrived at the site and rescued survivors from the smoldering wreckage.

Four of the heroes who took part in that rescue are here today. Your actions are a great credit to our country, and a great source of pride to the people of New York State.

...Lieutenant Colonel Graham Buschor

...Senior Master Sergeant Robert Marks

...Staff Sergeant Erik Blom

...Technical Sergeant Arthur Kakis

On behalf of a grateful State, thank you.

The Guard's support for New Yorkers is strong and unconditional. Our support for them must be the same. Last year, we passed the Patriot Plan -- the most comprehensive package of new benefits and protections in the nation to support New York's citizen soldiers and their families when they are called to active duty.

This year, I ask you to strengthen the Patriot Plan. Let's exempt our military Guard's pay from state taxes. Let's help local governments deal with the absence of these men and women, many of whom are public servants, until they get back. And my budget will increase the active duty pay for our troops on the front lines of the war on terror.

In a salute to freedom and those who defend it, let's pass a Patriot Plan II this year.

The freedom the men and women in our armed forces are fighting for is more than a birthright. It is a gift that each generation must, in some way, fight to preserve for the next.

During our nation's history, that has meant sending our sons and daughters off to war - in France and Germany, Korea and Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today, however, we live in a world where the enemies of freedom have no homeland from which to wage that war. So they wage their war against freedom in the form of terror. They wage it against America, the greatest bastion of freedom, and New York, its greatest symbol.

We know what they are capable of, we know that New York will always be a target of their evil, and we know that nothing is more important than preventing them from striking again.

As New Yorkers we are fortunate to have leaders with the courage to confront this threat with force.

On behalf of the people of New York, I want to thank President Bush for his strong support of our security efforts, and commend him for his determination to take this war to the spider holes of Tikrit and away from our city streets.

We have another leader here with us today who has shown defiance against threats of terror. Mayor Bloomberg, New York and America watched with pride as you made Times Square the safest place in the world on New Year's Eve. Congratulations and thank you.

Shortly after the September 11th attacks, I assembled a team of the top law enforcement officials in America.

That team was the foundation for New York's Office of Public Security (OPS).

Today, New York's Office of Public Security is the best in the nation... And it has to be, because New York embodies the very principles of freedom the terrorists despise.

OPS' first priority was -- and still is -- to enlist the eyes, ears and experience of every law enforcement official in New York State in the fight against terror.

We began by creating 16 Counter Terrorism Zones, utilizing a secure network to keep tens of thousands of law enforcement officials advised of the latest threat information.

We've assigned more troopers than ever to protect New York's borders, its points of entry and transit hubs.

We've provided almost $160 million in equipment and direct funding to local governments.

We've deployed some 150 Weapons of Mass Destruction response units across the State - at least one in every county. These units include everything from individual protective equipment to state-of-the-art chemical, biological and radiological detection equipment.

I'm proud to report that the United States Department of Homeland Security has just designated New York's Cyber Security Office as the national information sharing center. Today, we are providing protection from terror, not just for New York, but for the entire nation.

We've accomplished much, but we live in a new era of danger.

We must confront that danger with firmness and resolve.

As we gather here together under the sober reality of Orange Alert, let us pledge a new era of public security.

Today, I ask you to reinforce the strong steps we've taken with new legislation...

...Less than a week after the September 11th attacks, you and I passed a strong Anti-Terrorism law.

I applaud you for taking such swift action.

This year, I ask you to strengthen it with legislation I proposed jointly with Attorney General Spitzer.

This critical legislation gives prosecutors and police the tools they need to detect, prevent and punish terrorists.

Our proposal provides severe punishment for those who possess or use chemical or biological weapons.

It cracks down hard on money laundering operations that are used to support terrorism.

And it will empower our 75,000 state and local law enforcement officials with the same investigatory powers given to their federal counterparts.

This is the single most important piece of legislation you will consider this year. New York has waited too long. I urge its swift passage.

And as we fight to protect our freedoms from the threat of terror, we must continue to fight for our most basic freedom of all - the freedom to walk on the streets of New York with confidence, and without fear.

It doesn't matter where in America you live -- if it's in a community where gangs rule the schoolyards, drug dealers own the playgrounds and violent criminals control the streets, you're not truly free.

That was the New York we inherited nine years ago. But it is not the New York we will leave to our children.

Stronger, smarter, tougher laws reduce crime. It's that simple.

Over the past nine years, you and I have passed more than 100 tough new anti-crime laws. Those laws have helped to reduce murders in New York by 56 percent and the overall rate of violent crime by 49 percent - more than any other state in the nation.

We are the safest large state in America.

Let's pledge, over the next five years, to make New York the safest of any state in America.

To achieve this goal we will need both administrative and legislative actions.

First, we will strategically target areas in the State where crime is disproportionately high.

This year we will aggressively target communities within the 15 counties that account for 80 percent of all crime outside of New York City.

Operation IMPACT, or Integrated Municipal Police Anti-Crime Teams, will draw upon all of our State criminal justice resources and consist of over 300 State Police officers.

IMPACT Units will be mobilized at the request of local officials and will work with local police and community leaders to combat crime on an unprecedented scale.

Operation IMPACT will use crime mapping technology to track crime hotspots, bringing the full force of State and local law enforcement to bear on the most crime-plagued areas of our State.

Operation IMPACT will save lives.

Second, through eJusticeNY, we will give police officers instantaneous information on any criminal in New York. If a police officer in Buffalo is holding a criminal wanted in the Bronx, he should have every piece of information he needs to arrest that criminal on the spot.

By the end of this year, 90 percent of New York's police agencies will be linked to eJusticeNY.

These measures will save lives. But we can save even more if you pass additional common sense crime-fighting pieces of legislation.

Let's pass a law that will allow us to collect DNA from all convicted criminals.

And let's end the statute of limitations for rape, sexual assault, and other serious violent felonies this year.

Let's end parole for all felons.

Let's give police and prosecutors the laws they need to take those who use, sell or possess illegal guns off our streets.

Let's aggressively fight domestic violence by strengthening our laws against those who terrorize their spouses, partners, or children.

We must pass a law to guarantee that violent felons who murder a child in the course of committing a crime spend the rest of their lives in prison.

We must ensure that sexually violent criminals who still pose a threat to society are not released into our communities.

Let's strengthen Megan's Law to provide the public with additional information and impose penalties on sex offenders who fail to comply.

We need a gang sexual assault bill to prosecute these despicable crimes as felonies.

We can prevent needless tragedies on our roadways by passing the Pena-Herrera DWI legislation.

Let's lock up chronic misdemeanor offenders and stop career criminals.

Let's severely punish those who violate the trust placed in them by endangering a child in their care. And let's agree to strengthen our laws against criminals involved in child pornography.

We must help keep our schools, college campuses and day care facilities safe by imposing tough new penalties for crimes committed on school grounds.

Let's pass a law so those who commit an assault are punished more severely if their victim dies or is seriously injured.

Let's pass my Criminal Procedure Law Reform package to get rid of the absurd technicalities that too often let criminals go free and deny justice to their victims.

And finally, let's launch a new effort to put an end to the needless tragedies we read about all too often. Let's enact new measures to rid our streets of deadly drivers. I will send you a five point plan to do just that.

More than six decades ago, in his famous Four Freedoms speech, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke about Americans' right to the freedom from fear. While he was speaking about the unfolding events of the war, freedom from fear begins at home with government's obligation to protect its citizens from crime and violence.

No piece of legislation that passes through this chamber is more important than one which saves lives.

These are common sense bills that have broad support, and will save lives.

Pass them and New York will become the safest state in the nation.

A family feels a greater sense of freedom when it has the security of a good-paying job. That's why building a strong economic climate that creates good jobs is one of our highest priorities.

We've worked hard to do that, and we've done well.

Over the last nine years, we've cut billions of dollars in taxes, kept spending growth below the national average, streamlined government bureaucracy, enacted sweeping debt reform, and eliminated burdensome regulations that stifle economic growth.

However, we all know that the combined impact of September 11th, the national recession and the upheaval in our financial services industry presented our State with tremendous fiscal challenges -- challenges that still must be overcome.

This isn't the first time New York faced tough economic times. The previous national recession - over a decade ago - was four times longer and six times more severe here in New York than in the rest of the nation. We lost more than 500,000 jobs - because the State simply was not prepared to compete.

In less than two weeks, I will address you again, and present my Executive Budget. I will urge you to work with me to put these fiscal challenges behind us once and for all, by restraining spending and budgeting responsibly.

I am pleased that both Senator Bruno and Speaker Silver have said they don't think New Yorkers' taxes should be raised this year. Obviously, I agree.

The tax cuts we've passed have helped to create nearly a half million new jobs and made New York the place to do business again.

Today, the Empire State's economy is fundamentally stronger and holds the promise of a better future because of the steps we've taken. Today, we are ready to compete.

New York City's recovery is beginning to take hold as the recent sharp decline in the City's unemployment rate demonstrates. And over the last year outside of New York City, we had job growth of over 12,000 private sector jobs while the rest of the nation had job losses of over 160,000.

Despite all the challenges, we have reason for optimism because our tax cuts, regulatory reforms and investments in job-creating programs like Empire Zones and high-tech initiatives have laid a solid foundation for our success in the global economy.

...A recent study ranked Rochester as one of the top knowledge-based economic regions in the world...

...many small to medium sized companies in information-intensive industries have been created throughout Long Island...

...the nation's newest chip-fab plant has been built in the Hudson Valley...

...Glens Falls grew at a faster rate this year than all but one city in the nation...

...and, as we announced two weeks ago, GEICO has decided to bring 2,500 jobs to Western New York when they could have gone anywhere in the country...

This gives me confidence that as we come out of recession, we are poised for success.

That's why today I present a challenge. Let's work together and commit to this: by the end of this decade we will have one million more private sector jobs than we do now. It is an ambitious goal. But if we do our part that goal is well within our reach.

As one example of why it is within our reach, I am pleased to announce that BassPro has formally indicated its desire to locate a multi-million dollar flagship center in downtown Buffalo. This new BassPro project will bring in hundreds of jobs and thousands of visitors to Buffalo.

I look forward to working with Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver, the Western New York delegation, County Executive Giambra, Mayor Masiello and Congressman Jack Quinn in taking the necessary steps to make this critical downtown Buffalo economic development project a reality.

In the weeks ahead, let us work together to build additional partnerships to move forward on other key projects...

Let's work with County Executive Maggie Brooks to make the downtown Renaissance Center a reality for Rochester;

Let's work with County Executive Nick Pirro and Mayor Matt Driscoll to bring Destiny to Syracuse;

Let's work with Mayor Jerry Jennings to make sure the nation's greatest state capital gets a new convention center.

And in the North Country, let's modernize the convention center to continue Lake Placid's standing as the number one winter resort in the East.

And let's once again extend our hand of cooperation to the Mayor of the world's greatest city and work with Mike Bloomberg to build on the success of our AirTrain project and develop a new job hub at Jamaica station. At the same time, we'll work with the Mayor to redevelop our valuable waterfronts in each borough... build a true convention center at Javits... transform the West Side, and bring the world to our door by hosting the 2012 Olympics in New York City.

Every community in our State has great potential for economic growth.

To meet that potential, let's build on what we know works.

Empire Zones are one of our greatest economic development tools. They've helped New York State jump from 25th to our current 3rd in the nation in attracting new facilities and investment.

Today, I am announcing new Empire Zone legislation that builds on our success while making the program stronger. This legislation will improve accountability, focus benefits to communities and neighborhoods that need it most, and provide flexibility to target projects with large job creation potential - all while preserving local decision-making authority.

Let's work together and pass this legislation this session.

While we work to strengthen our Empire Zones, let's also reaffirm our commitment to our State's manufacturers.

Today, I am announcing a five-point plan to do just that.

I am directing the Department of Labor to create new targeted job-training assistance programs to ensure our manufacturers have the most skilled and most productive workforce in the nation.

I am also directing the Empire State Development Corporation to create a new Manufacturing Assistance Program, or MAP, that will coordinate Federal, State and local assistance programs and will link manufacturing companies to the appropriate research and development grant funding.

Three parts of the plan to help manufacturers in New York will require us to pass new laws.

Let's help New York-based companies better compete and encourage others to locate here by phasing-in reforms of the State's tax law to benefit firms that have a majority of their jobs, factories and capital investments in New York.

We must improve our Power for Jobs program to continue providing low-cost power to our State's manufacturers.

And we must build on our past successes and further reform workers' compensation.

In the coming weeks, I will be submitting legislation to make this plan a reality. Let's pass it quickly.

Two years ago we embarked on an unprecedented endeavor to transform the State's economy through our Centers of Excellence program. Our efforts have launched New York State into the forefront of high technology across the nation. The Empire State High Tech Corridor, stretching from Buffalo to Albany, through the Hudson Valley, into New York City and out to Long Island, is the backbone of our transition to a high tech global economy.

Our investments in the Centers of Excellence program are paying off with new jobs and new attention from companies around the globe. These investments are complemented by investments through the Senate's Gen*NY*sis plan and the Assembly's RESTORE program.

Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver, as we proved with SEMATECH, working together we can out-compete anyone in the world.

States across the country have awoken to our success. A front page article in the Austin American-Statesman said: "Albany's early success has set off alarms in Texas, nowhere more than in Austin. Upstate New York is a direct threat to Austin's standing as a top-tier semiconductor research and manufacturing center."

We've set off the alarms, now it's time to feed the fire.

Today, I'm pleased to announce Phase II of our high-tech strategy that will do just that.

Our Centers of Excellence program has established powerful partnerships between State government, the private sector, and our top flight universities and research institutions. To further enhance these partnerships, this year I will establish a High Tech Council comprised of academic and business leaders. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize winner, former Director of the National Institutes of Health and President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has agreed to chair the council.

Second, let's help our promising biotech companies flourish. To grow, New York's biotech industry requires access to capital, and particularly in New York City, Westchester and Long Island, access to facilities.

Our investments in biotech at the University of Rochester have proven enormously successful. This year, my budget will provide funds for critical wet-lab facilities, making institutions in places like Farmingdale, North Shore, Stony Brook, New York City and Rochester eligible to advance their biotechnology research, development and commercialization efforts.

Because biotech is a research-intensive business, many small biotech companies make huge investments and have significant losses that often take many years to recoup. My budget will provide a new tax benefit so that these entrepreneurs can access new capital and create more jobs.

And finally, let's build on our existing Centers of Excellence as we enhance our high tech efforts across the State.

In Utica-Rome, let's build on our efforts in cyber-security.

In Binghamton, let's create a High Technology Commercialization Center that will transfer ideas from our Centers to the marketplace.

In Albany, at our Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics, we will work with the University at Albany to create a new College of Nanotechnology -- the first of its kind in the country -- to provide our industry with the high quality workforce it needs to grow in New York State.

A number of years ago we advanced a State policy to relocate state government employees to the center of our cities. We have brought workers to downtown Troy, Schenectady, and Albany, to help reinvigorate our cities and in the process we are freeing up the Harriman Campus. This year, we will create a Harriman Campus Development Corporation to bring new high tech companies to Albany and to provide space for Center spin-offs.

I am pleased to announce this corporation will be chaired by someone who has served the Capital Region with great skill and expertise. John Egan, thank you for your continued service.

Today I am announcing we are expanding the core mission of the Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems in Syracuse to include research and development in renewable and clean energy sources.

By reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources we can not only stop sending our energy dollars to unstable parts of the world, but we can become a world leader in clean energy technologies, from wind and solar power to geothermal and fuel cells.

The worldwide market for clean energy technologies is expected to grow to nearly $100 billion dollars a year over the next ten years. I want New York companies to be the major beneficiaries of this emerging market.

The Syracuse Center, in partnership with Cornell University, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, NYSERDA and the private sector, will position New York at the forefront of this new market.

And, a strong New York biofuel industry will create new markets and opportunities for our farmers, help clean the air and water, and keep our energy dollars here at home.

That's why I'm directing NYSERDA to create a similar partnership with the Syracuse Center of Excellence to make New York's bio-fuels industry one of the strongest in the nation.

In addition to becoming the center of clean energy research, the Syracuse Center will also be a model for future urban development. I'm pleased to announce that, working with University and local government officials, we will locate this new facility downtown, on a brownfield, at the site of the old Smith-Corona building.

We will reclaim the blight and replace it with a new, green building that will be the genesis for new ideas and will bolster our efforts to bring new life to downtown Syracuse.

That is exactly the type of program Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue's Quality Communities Task Force envisioned - revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, turning empty lots into new buildings and new job opportunities. The Lieutenant Governor's task force provided us with numerous specific recommendations, 16 of which we've already adopted. Actions like this will make the Quality Communities initiative a national model as well.

Our environment, like our freedom, is inherited from our ancestors and borrowed from our children. Both are given to us in the trust that they will be preserved and improved for the next generation.

Together, we've worked hard to live up to that trust.

Theodore Roosevelt once observed that "The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value."

Over the last nine years we have made remarkable progress in realizing an environmental vision that would make T.R. proud.

We greatly enhanced the Environmental Protection Fund, put record numbers of clean fuel buses on our streets, enacted the toughest acid rain regulations in the nation, and last year we passed historic Superfund Brownfield legislation.

Two years ago, I announced an ambitious ten year goal to protect one million acres of land.

We're more than on track to meet our goal.

I'm proud to announce that, with the purchase of development rights on 6,000 acres of active farmland, we have now protected more than 500,000 acres.

Every child, regardless of where they live deserves clean air, clean water, and pristine open space. Our programs are guaranteeing that.

Today, I am announcing a new urban forestry initiative that partners DEC and NYSERDA with local communities to plant thousands of trees throughout our urban neighborhoods and parks to save energy, create habitat, raise property values, and improve the quality of life for urban residents across the State.

In 1996, using the resources of the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, we set a goal to convert all of the State's public school furnaces from coal to clean burning sources of energy. That goal has been met.

Now let's set another goal: that every new public school bus that operates in New York will run on clean fuel. This will require legislation. Let's work together to pass it this year.

Since 1995, we've created 18 new State parks from Woodlawn Beach to Brooklyn Bridge to Camp Hero in Montauk.

In the next two years, five new State parks will be opening, including prime waterfront parcels on Long Island Sound and the Great Lakes, and in rural and Central New York.

And today, I commit over the next five years that we will open or expand 20 more State parks, including additional sites on Long Island.

Working together we have made the Hudson River cleaner than it's been in generations. Water quality has improved and old industrial sites are being reclaimed.

The Hudson River Valley Greenway is thriving.

Before I took office only eight communities had joined the Greenway. Today, the Greenway has reached its 201st community. It is a model of state government offering guidance, expertise, and assistance to local communities so they can shape their own future.

But a momentous event in the history of the Hudson lies before us. In just five years we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's first voyage up the river that would later become America's first great corridor of trade and transport.

We must act so that this 400th anniversary celebration will be held along a river that is healthier in every way than it was when it was handed to our generation.

Let's make it our objective to ensure that by the year 2009, the Hudson River will be swimmable from its source high in the Adirondack Mountains all the way to New York City.

But the health of a river cannot be measured by water quality alone. We must also ensure that the communities along the river have riverfront access and are healthy and vibrant.

We will ensure that every community along the Hudson has at least one new or upgraded access point to the River.

By 2009 we can transform the waterfront of the Hudson River into a series of world class destinations for business, culture, tourism, and research. By the 400th anniversary of Hudson's voyage, we will ensure that Hudson himself would recognize the river's original beauty while the vitality of the riverside communities will surpass anything he could have imagined.

And building on our successful efforts to revitalize Niagara Falls and its park land, and by working with the western New York delegation, let us create a Niagara River Greenway that stretches from Buffalo to Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario.

Because you and I have consistently united behind the goal of enhancing our natural resources, our children and their children will have the freedom to grow in a cleaner and healthier environment...

...And because we have consistently come together to improve New York's health care system, they can walk confidently into a brighter and healthier future.

Today in New York, hundreds of thousands of children get routine check-ups, immunizations and hospital coverage when they are ill or injured through Child Health Plus.

Women are ensured appropriate diagnosis, treatment and insurance coverage when facing breast cancer.

And, tens of thousands of lower-income workers receive the health care coverage they need to build their careers and support their families.

This month, a new initiative targeted specifically to Hispanic New Yorkers stressing the importance of cancer screening and prevention will begin. And, long before Washington acted, we helped more than 325,000 seniors afford the medicines they need to live longer, healthier and productive lives.

This year, let's do more.

Let's enhance long term care for our seniors. I will propose comprehensive reforms of our long-term care system.

These efforts will provide the services that help the elderly stay in their own homes - where they've lived their lives, raised their children and built their memories. And, for those that need a more intensive level of care, we will promote a variety of options - from assisted living to state-of-the-art nursing homes.

While Medicaid has played an important role in our achievements, we are now faced with a Medicaid program that is quickly outstripping our ability to afford it.

Clearly, we need to improve the Medicaid system. We must start by providing our growing population of aging citizens with the quality healthcare they need while preserving the system for their children and grandchildren.

And we must address Medicaid costs borne by local governments. Senator Bruno has already identified this as an important issue. Senator, I commend your initiative. Let's work together to reduce state and local Medicaid expenses this year and begin to reverse the costs that have squeezed the finances of so many county governments.

Knowledge fosters freedom. And education illuminates the path to that freedom.

Together we have made great strides. We have created innovative programs and initiatives like Project SAVE to enhance safety in our schools, Advantage After-School programs and charter schools. And we created the STAR program to help homeowners, particularly seniors, with the burden of school property taxes. We have invested in school facilities and enacted historic school governance reform with Mayor Bloomberg, to provide him with accountability for New York City's schools.

We have invested record resources, increasing state support for education. This year, schools receive $4.7 billion more than they did when I took office. New York City alone receives $2.1 billion more. No other state in the nation spends more per student than New York.

In 2001, though, I stood before you and called our school finance system a dinosaur. I said we should scrap it altogether and create a new school aid formula that is fair, simple and sustainable.

This year we are presented with an historic opportunity to answer that call and, indeed, we must do so by July 30th. To assist in this effort, we have assembled a group of our most capable, talented and creative minds from across the State.

This Commission on Education Reform will develop sweeping changes so that all our children have the opportunity to receive the first-class education they need to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We are fortunate to be able to call upon Frank Zarb to chair this Commission, a man who is uniquely qualified to lead us in this effort, having served five Presidents and as Chair of the Nassau Interim Finance and the Long Island Power Authorities.

And as we work together, rising to meet this historic challenge, there are a series of guiding principles that are critical for us all:

First, we must finally throw out our archaic system of education finance. This year, let's replace it with a new formula that is fair, sustainable and understandable.

Second, our new education finance system must appropriately focus resources, as they become available, on New York City and our other high need school districts.

Third, our efforts must not pit one family against another in a divisive Robin Hood approach. We can not be taking resources from one school district to meet the needs of another.

Fourth, recognizing the fiscal challenges the State faces this year, working together with each of you, and with educators, parents and community leaders, we need to build consensus on a multi-year commitment of resources that will ensure that our reform effort is sustainable and successful in the years to come.

And finally, New York's new funding system must be linked to reforms in the education system as a whole.

Reform is the key to our effort to provide every child in New York with the best possible education. We cannot simply provide additional resources and maintain business as usual. Rather, we must enact broad based reforms that ensure more of the money we spend on education makes it to the classroom, and that someone is accountable for how it's spent and how it helps our children.

We have been presented with an historic chance to improve our schools and we must put aside our partisan or parochial differences and champion change that will provide the education every New York child deserves.

Every New Yorker can take pride in the fact that we already invest more per student in our public schools than any other state in the country. We already have the most expensive education system in the entire nation - now let's work together to make it the best.

There can be no better proof of the power of educational reform than our own SUNY and CUNY systems. When we set about changing CUNY, the naysayers said our reforms would not work. They were wrong.

Today, CUNY enrolls more students than it has in more than 25 years and its minority enrollment is at its highest level in 30 years. SUNY enrollment is at an all time high and its minority enrollment is higher than ever before. And SAT scores have gone up across the board at both SUNY and CUNY.

This year, to continue the renaissance of our higher education systems, I will advance detailed, multi-billion dollar capital plans for SUNY and CUNY, to build state of the art academic facilities and make important repairs to the physical infrastructure.

As part of that effort, I will advance resources so important historic facilities like the HH Richardson Complex in Buffalo and Governors Island in New York City become part of the fabric of our universities, bringing them back to their former splendor. And in Binghamton, I will advance a new academic facility to contribute to the rebirth of the city center, in cooperation with private business.

And for the first time, I will advance a new capital initiative that includes our independent colleges and universities - a critical part of our State's higher education system.

This initiative will enhance our high technology efforts, meet academic infrastructure needs, and advance partnerships in economic development.

We can invest these resources with confidence knowing we have made reforms and those reforms have worked.

But reform can't stop with our education system.

We must, this year, enact sweeping and comprehensive reforms to bolster New Yorkers' confidence in all areas of government. Our progress must be forged within the framework of our democracy - upon a strong, open and free system of governance.

This year, I will ask you to work with me to enact the most comprehensive package of reforms to be proposed in Albany in generations - political and governmental reforms, economic reforms, and criminal justice reforms.

Let's adopt reforms throughout all three branches of government and fundamentally change the way business is done in Albany.

Let's give the people of New York a voice in the legislative process with Initiative and Referendum.

Let's give them greater confidence in the political system with campaign finance reform.

And let's give them a wide-ranging budget reform package, that will enable New York to meet its budget deadline.

But we can't stop there.

Let's give local governments relief from the enormous costs of endless, unnecessary and often frivolous litigation.

Let's pass pension reform and binding arbitration reform and Wicks law reform to further ease the financial burden on local governments.

Let's bolster our energy systems by reforming our plant siting laws.

And let's have proportionality in our laws. The Rockefeller Drug Laws allow non-violent drug offenders to be more severely punished than rapists. We need to change that. Let's reform these antiquated laws this year.

Let's make this the most productive legislative session ever.

When I addressed you one year ago, I promised that 2003 would be the year of renewal for Lower Manhattan. And I promised that we would never forget the brave heroes we lost on that sacred ground.

Later, I outlined an aggressive timeline to ensure that promise would be kept. Then, we followed it.

We selected a plan for the future World Trade Center that was created by Daniel Libeskind, but shaped by the heartfelt comments of millions of people around the globe. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation launched what became the largest design competition in history to select a memorial, with 5,201 individuals from 61 nations taking part.

We restored a sense of normalcy to the site and its surroundings with new improvements; and we restored the normal commute for thousands of people by resuming PATH service.

To cap off a year of tremendous progress, Mayor Bloomberg and I unveiled the design for the Freedom Tower, the tallest building in the world. When completed, the Freedom Tower will reclaim our skyline with a proud symbol of our nation's resilience and a new beacon of opportunity opposite its inspiration in the harbor.

Now, as we begin a new year, we must look anew at the challenges that still lie ahead in Lower Manhattan, and build on our blueprint to meet them.

I'm pleased to announce that on Thursday, January 22nd, we will unveil Santiago Calatrava's design for the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Akin to Midtown's Grand Central Station, it will serve as a new architectural icon for the ages, born of hope and forged of steel and glass. It will create a new grand civic space for Lower Manhattan, carrying natural light down to the platforms and into a place once made dark by evil.

This new terminal will unite the PATH with pedestrian passageways connecting west to the World Financial Center and east to the MTA's Fulton Street Transit Center.

Later this month, the LMDC, Port Authority and the MTA will announce four options to provide direct access from Lower Manhattan to JFK and Long Island. It is an ambitious project, but one we must pursue if New York City is to join the ranks of Chicago, London and other central business districts that provide direct access to its airports. Over the next four months, the options will be vigorously analyzed. In April, we will announce the selected option, along with a concrete plan to fund it and to build it.

These new initiatives bring us closer to fulfilling a pledge we made while the fires were still burning at ground zero: we will never forget the heroes who died on September 11th.

We must honor their memory in all that we do in Lower Manhattan - not confined to a tract of land or work of art, but throughout the entire 16 acre World Trade Center site as one living memorial. The Freedom Tower will soar to the heavens and recall the loss of our two icons in the sky. The museum will tell the countless individual stories of lives cut short and the unprecedented heroism we witnessed. The performing arts center, the transportation hub, the commercial buildings, will restore culture and commerce - and life - to the site in defiance of terrorism.

And at the centerpiece of this 16 acre memorial will be a special place to remember and reflect on all that we lost, and pay tribute to those we will never forget. Yesterday the jury selected the design, "Reflecting Absence" and soon it will be unveiled. I want to commend the jury for their tremendous dedication to this effort.

In the end we know that there is no right way to remember, only that it is right that we do remember. And in the end, I know that the same spirit, that same love of freedom that united New Yorkers on September 11th and everyday since will prevail.

The advancement of freedom is not the sole obligation of the men and women in uniform we have honored here today - who courageously accept sacrifice as part of their oath to uphold the founding principles of our great state and nation.

We are, as Lincoln said, a government "of the people," which means that each American in some way, contributes to our freedom. Some volunteer at blood drives; others coach little league. We do it as representatives of the people, here assembled.

Lincoln, speaking of a great American, said: "He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity, and glory."

I have laid out a bold agenda for New York's future. Let us honor the trust the public has placed in us by burning with that same zeal for the advancement, prosperity, and glory of this state we love, and are sworn to serve.

Together, let's do our part, and pass on to the next generation, not what we had, but what we truly struggled to achieve.

Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless New York.
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