New York State of the State Address 2002

Chief Judge Kaye, honorable members of the Court of Appeals, Lieutenant Governor Donohue, Attorney General Spitzer, Comptroller McCall, Majority Leader Bruno, Speaker Silver, Leader Faso, Leader Connor, respected members of the Legislature, and distinguished guests.

Senator Goodman, I'm sure I speak for everyone in the chamber today in thanking you for your 33 years of distinguished service to the people of New York.

Governor Carey, I want to express my profound gratitude to you. When your tenure as Governor of this state ended, your dedicated service did not. Representing our state, you've attended dozens of funerals of those who died on September 11th, letting families know that New York stands behind them. Thank you and God bless you.

Libby, Mom, Teddy... your love and support has always been a source of strength for me and our family, this year more than ever before. Thank you.

On this day that reaffirms our allegiance to the Democratic process, we cannot help but think about the dark day when Democracy itself was attacked. Most of us lost someone we knew on that awful day -- a friend, a co-worker, a relative or a loved one.

Among the thousands of innocent victims were more than one hundred dedicated state workers -- committed public servants who performed their duties with honor. Three court officers. Three employees of the Department of Transportation. Forty employees from the Department of Tax and Finance. Seventy-four from the Port Authority.

Our family of state workers has suffered a devastating loss, just as our state and nation lost so many bright, shining stars. Among them was Neil Levin, a dear friend of mine and of so many others in this chamber. Let us bow our heads for a moment of silence to reflect on the lives of the special people who are no longer with us.

This century began with high hopes for a bright future, a future we believed would be largely shaped by the tone, the mood and the spirit we set at the beginning of this new era.

Now, some may be asking if we still have the faith to feel confident about a century that began in horror. Or whether the forces of unmitigated evil have handed us a somber and uncertain future.

New Yorkers have already provided us with the answer. Our response since the early morning hours of September 11th was unequivocal: it was a defining moment when New Yorkers answered that question in no uncertain terms. We responded to evil with good. We answered terror with strength. We met adversity with resolve. We will defeat hatred with tolerance.

We will rebuild, we will succeed, we will meet tomorrow as we meet today, with the same confidence, the same optimism and the same belief in the unlimited potential of our future that we had on September 10th.

The spirit of New Yorkers was shown to the world on September 11th and in the days since. It is an invincible spirit, a spirit of compassion and courage... tempered, but not harshened... tested, but not weakened... bent, but not broken. And because of this spirit, the terrorists failed.

Their goal wasn't just to destroy two towers and kill thousands, horrible though that was. Their goal was to divide us, frighten us, take away our freedom and weaken our confidence. They failed. Inspired by the courage and sacrifice of thousands of New Yorkers, New Yorkers and Americans are more unified now than ever.

More committed to defending our freedom, and more committed to building a bright future founded upon the very principles of freedom the terrorists sought to destroy.

When I addressed you for the first time as Governor in 1995, I invoked the spirit of New Yorkers at the Battle of Saratoga. At that crucible of American freedom, ordinary New Yorkers, farmers and merchants, fathers and sons, left their daily lives, rallied by the thousands to defeat the greatest empire on earth, and gave rise to American freedom.

A hundred years from now, another Governor will invoke the spirit of September 11th. For on that day, thousands of New Yorkers -- firefighters, police officers, EMTs, Port Authority police, court officers, teachers and people from all walks of life -- responded to unspeakable horror with unrelenting heroism.

Through them, we saw the triumph of the human spirit over the worst evil known to mankind. And so, the story of September 11th is very much the story of Saratoga, the story of New York, the story of one generation of New Yorkers who fought to secure freedom, and another who rallied to defend it. It's the story of heroes, a word that's been used often to describe New Yorkers over the past four months, and rightly so.

The members of New York's uniformed services, living and dead, have left an example for the ages of what "love thy neighbor" means. There's a reason they are called "New York's bravest" and "New York's finest." And as we read the biographies of those civilians who perished in the flames and building collapses, we appreciate anew the talent, the ambition and the determination of these silent heroes.

It's been said that in peace, children bury their parents, but in war parents bury their children. On a day of unspeakable infamy -- a day that started with peace and ended with war -- parents and children perished together. New York City firefighters Joseph Angelini Sr. and Joseph Angelini Jr. evacuated countless people from the towers on that fateful morning. They saved many lives. Tragically, that meant laying down their own.

Zack Zeng -- a 29-year-old employee at the Bank of New York -- emigrated to America from mainland China as a teenager. He worked his way through the University of Rochester, built a promising career in business and became an EMT to help his neighbors. He was living the American Dream.

Zack wasn't at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th. But he knew that his emergency training could save lives. So he ran toward the danger and confusion. He was last seen on television caring for others. He died an American hero.

Deputy Chief Jim Haggerty of the NYPD Traffic Control Division is retiring this week after 34 years on the force. His final year on the job was his most heroic. Despite being blinded several times by debris, he evacuated countless people from the towers, and saved many more on the ground before the towers collapsed.

Fire Lt. Joseph Torillo was severely injured when the buildings collapsed around him. His name appeared on the list of missing persons for two days until his family found him in a New Jersey hospital.

Supreme Court Officer Edwin Kennedy, despite serious injuries to his shoulder and lungs, located NYPD Officer Nancy Ramos in the smoke and rubble just after the south tower collapsed. He carried her to safety, thus making possible her marriage three weeks ago and the return to work of both brave officers.

Gene Flood is an ironworker who has spent every single day since September 11th cutting through the mountain of debris, searching for victims.

And Trooper Gerald Wienckowski of the State Police Mobile Response Team has spent every day but one at Ground Zero enduring the smoke, the digging and the collapse of buildings. He doesn't stop because he knows that his efforts bring comfort to so many families.

Thanks to Port Authority Police Officer David Lim, hundreds of people who were trapped in a smoky stairwell are alive today. By urging them to continue downward rather than switching stairwells, he led them to safety just moments before the North Tower collapsed. He was trapped in the rubble for nearly five hours before being rescued.

To Chief Jim Hughes, head of the Capital District Regional Response Team, the rescue effort was especially painful. Upon returning to the Capital Region from Ground Zero, Jim tearfully recalled: "The men who trained us were now the people we were digging out."

Betty Nelson, a nurse in the ER of NYU's Downtown Hospital, is a shining example of how New York's health care professionals respond in times of crisis. She treated some 300 patients on September 11th, removing soot from their bodies so thick that it prevented doctors from giving medical care.

Going door-to-door, Nicholas Buck of Steuben County raised $500 to help police and rescue workers at Ground Zero. We've seen countless acts of compassion like his over the past four months. But Nicholas is just five years old. Already he represents the best of New York.

All of us have been especially inspired by the courage of family members of those who died, people like Jennie Farrell. Through the "Give Your Voice Foundation," Jennie and other family members are working to comfort and strengthen one another. They are coming together, as one family, born of tragedy, and united in strength. In doing so, they are providing an inspiration to the world.

Other New Yorkers are risking their lives to defend freedom overseas. Lt. Col. Paul LaCamera is among those heroes. He is one of the many men and women of the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum near Watertown who are in Afghanistan today, searching for the terrorists who attacked his fellow New Yorkers.

We are joined today by these heroes and the family members of those who died. Zack Zeng's mother is proud that we are honoring her son. Unfortunately, she couldn't be here. But we are joined by Anne and Michael Angelini. I know that nothing any of us say can ease your pain. Your loss, the loss of one father, one son, two heroes, was a tragedy no one should have to suffer. But I hope this day reminds you that this state and this nation continue to stand beside you during this difficult chapter of your lives.

  • Deputy Chief Jim Haggerty
  • Trooper Gerald Wienckowski
  • Chief Jim Hughes
  • Lt. Joseph Torillo
  • Court Officer Edwin Kennedy
  • Port Authority Officer David Lim
  • Betty Nelson
  • Nicholas Buck, and his mother Helena BuckJennie Farrel

    They say that the worst of times bring out the best in people. We see that in you, in your courage, in your compassion, in your selfless acts of heroism. You make me proud, you make us all proud, to be New Yorkers. Theresa and Katy LaCamera

    We all look forward to the day when you are reunited with your husband and your dad. There is no higher purpose than those who fight for freedom. And Katy, I know you miss your father, but I also want you to know that he is a hero in my eyes and the eyes of all New Yorkers, and all Americans. They represent some of the thousands of heroes who symbolize the compassion, the strength and the spirit of New York.

    We're also joined today by someone I'm proud to have had as a partner over the past seven years, and especially the past four months. Thanks to a great Mayor, even before September 11th, New York City's spirit, its morale and its confidence, were stronger than ever before, and just when we needed it to be. On behalf of all New Yorkers, Mayor Giuliani, thank you for your eight years of dedicated service and for all that you have done for us since September 11th.

    No words can convey the greatness of New York with clearer accuracy than to hold these men and women up as examples of who we are. No statistic is a better measure of the State of our State than their demonstration of what we can do. No evil in the hour of our past can match the power of their spirit to shape our future. Indeed, they remind us of a fundamental truth: heroes are not just reflections of what has already happened, but also harbingers of what is to come.

    Despite the enormity of the attacks, and despite the magnitude of the challenges we now face, we can be confident about the future. Confident that the heroic spirit that guided us through this disaster will guide us to a brighter tomorrow.

    Following the attacks, all of us understood the importance of standing together, united, and of passing anti-terrorism measures and emergency funding bills without delay. And on September 13th, we did.

    Majority Leader Bruno, Speaker Silver, and members of this great Legislature, I thank you for the spirit of cooperation you have helped to foster. Since September 11th, partisanship has given way to a new spirit of unity. That doesn't have to change and it shouldn't change, because New Yorkers need us to stay united.

    People want an end to partisan politics, and they deserve it. I pledge to work with you to keep that unified spirit alive for as long as I am Governor. And in speaking of unity, I know we are solidly united in our unwavering resolve to meet the challenges we now face.

    The human cost of September 11th was devastating. Only time's healing touch, and a continued outpouring of compassion and support, can ease the profound suffering that has been inflicted upon so many New Yorkers.

    Addressing the other costs -- the economic fallout, the damage to our state's finances, and the threat to public security -- will require more than that. It will take time. It will take perseverance. It will require courage. And it will require new laws to protect us from further acts of terrorism.

    Today, New York's war against crime is being fought, not just on our own streets, but on an international stage. Our enemy in this war is armed, not just with guns and knives, but with terror, fueled by a truly evil level of hatred. Their weapon of choice is fear and it can be deployed in many forms -- through cyberspace, the mail, the air, or the millions of vehicles that cross our borders each year.

    This country cannot afford to assume a defensive posture in the campaign against evil. That is why I know we all stand with President Bush and our troops as they wage a just war against terror. And no state is doing more to protect its people from terrorism than New York. I couldn't have chosen a more qualified person to lead that effort than Jim Kallstrom.

    As Director of the Office of Public Security, Jim is coordinating all facets of our aggressive anti-terrorism campaign. Under his direction, the full resources of the state have been deployed to protect New York's water supplies, bridges, tunnels, communications and transportation centers and other sensitive locations.

    The federal government has passed legislation to improve airport security. But we can do even more to make our airports models of safety for the nation. In the weeks to come, we will outline a plan to further improve security at our airports, beginning with LaGuardia and JFK.

    And let me just say how proud I am, and all New Yorkers are, of the finest National Guard Force in the nation, which has been providing security in our airports since September 11th.

    Since becoming Governor, I've deployed the Guard more than 30 times. They've responded to ice and snow storms. Forest fires. Airline disasters. And on September 11th, they responded quickly and heroically, as they always do. It was the largest sustained deployment of the Guard since the beginning of World War Two. They are the busiest Guard Force in America, and in my view, the best. General Maguire, to you and all of the men and women of the National Guard, New York salutes you.

    Today, I ask you to strengthen our efforts to protect New Yorkers by passing additional anti-terror measures developed in conjunction with Attorney General Spitzer.

    Our laws should show no leniency for those who possess chemical and biological weapons. And we certainly shouldn't have to wait for a criminal to unleash these weapons on the public before we put him in prison. Someone in possession of these weapons should face life in prison with no chance of parole. Period.

    We also know that penetrating the vast networks of terrorism takes time. That is why I strongly urge you to abolish the statute of limitations for all terrorist crimes, this year. New York's laws must reflect the gravity of the threat we face.

    Our strong anti-terror measures are aimed at an enemy that's engaged in a war they know they can't win. To them, fear is victory. With the right laws on the books, they won't win that war either.

    The damage to our state's finances, like the act of evil that inflicted it, is beyond anything we could have expected. In Lower Manhattan alone, some 25 million square feet of commercial real estate was destroyed or damaged. More than 14,000 businesses have been harmed. 377,000 jobs have been disrupted or displaced. Economic activity was severely stalled, decimating tax revenues, as the nation enters a recession. Our projected revenue losses will reach into the billions this fiscal year and next. We will lose more in revenue than many states collect.

    Now, we must turn to the crucial task of guiding our state through these difficult times. Fortunately, thanks to the decisions we've made over the past seven years, we are poised to confront the crisis at hand.

    This wasn't the case when we gathered for the first time in 1995. Then, we faced an economic crisis compounded by a crisis in spirit. Today, like then, we are met with the great challenge of restoring, renewing and rebuilding New York. But we do so supported by the progress of the last seven years, and strengthened by the perseverance and unity of the last four months.

    In 1995, our first order of business was confronting the economic and financial crisis we inherited. Failed government policies left us with a $5 billion dollar deficit, massive job losses, a bloated government bureaucracy, an oppressive regulatory climate, and the highest taxes in America.

    We reduced the size of government. We controlled spending. We cut regulations. We cut taxes, not one or two years, but every year. We created jobs. It took time... not months, but years. And by the turn of the century, New York had its strongest, most prosperous economy in over a generation -- and our new challenge was managing that prosperity.

    We did that by maintaining our commitment to the sound fiscal policies that fueled New York's economic renewal, while making wise investments to spark growth and create jobs.

    We created the Debt Reduction Reserve Fund. We made six consecutive deposits into the state's Rainy Day Reserve. We cut every major tax. Income taxes. Gross receipts taxes. Corporate taxes. Sales taxes. School property taxes. We've cut taxes on working families, seniors, businesses, farmers, shoppers, homeowners, and store owners. In all, the laws we've passed will provide New Yorkers with more than $100 billion in tax relief.

    In rewarding New York State with its highest credit rating in 22 years, Standard and Poor's cited New York's "consistent and successful efforts to improve its financial performance, definitively reversing a longstanding pattern of imbalance." It added that, "the fiscal disciplines adopted, in parallel with substantive tax cuts, have yielded solid results for the state."

    We made the right decisions in the past. Together, we cut taxes. We set aside record amounts in reserves. We built up our rainy day funds. We held the line on spending. And last year, as the national economy began showing signs of a downturn, we again made the right decisions. We took the necessary steps to ensure that New York would be able to maintain its economic and financial strength.

    We set aside $1.8 billion of last year's budget surplus in a newly created Fiscal Responsibility Reserve Fund. We planned for the best, and we did all that could be done to prepare for the worst. But no one could ever have prepared for the complete destruction of the World Trade Center.

    Now, in the aftermath of the most devastating attack on American soil in our nation's history, we face new challenges. The decisions we face will be difficult. But our choices are limited to two: either we control the crisis, or the crisis will control us.

    Now more than ever, it's important that we stand together and make the right decisions. If we do that, as we did in 1995, we will lead New York right back to the state of economic strength we worked seven years to achieve. We turned crisis into comeback once. Together, we can do it again, and we will.

    Before I outline what I intend to do, let me tell you what we will not do.

    We will not sell prisons to ourselves. We will not slash education funding in the middle of the school year. We will not use fiscal gimmicks to conceal reality. In short, we will not resort to any of the irresponsible measures that were taken in prior years, when the circumstances were not nearly as grave as they are today. And unlike 1989, 1990, 91, 92, 93 and 94, we will not delay tax cuts. Tax cuts will go forward. They must go forward, because we know that tax cuts create jobs.

    This year, next year, and beyond, we will cut taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars. It's what our economy needs, and what our people deserve. It is these policies, guided by the principles of fiscal prudence and lower taxes, that have provided us with the economic momentum and fiscal discipline necessary to withstand the events of September 11th. It is these policies that gave us six straight budget surpluses, more than a half million new jobs, and the best credit rating in over a generation.

    Now, we must continue to make the right decisions. Already, smart decisions have been made. Senator Bruno, Speaker Silver, my colleagues from the legislature, I applaud you for proposing no increase in spending for Assembly and Senate operations in the fiscal year that begins April 1. It is that kind of responsible non-partisanship that New Yorkers want from us. And we will give it to them.

    Later this month, I will submit a budget that reflects the challenges we face. It's a budget that, of necessity, not only holds the line on spending, but reduces general fund spending substantially.

    We've made these decisions before, and they were the right decisions. We reduced spending in 1995, and it was the first step towards ending the crisis we inherited. Now, the new challenges before us demand that we do it again so we can lead New York out of the financial crisis we face today.

    As we meet here today, recovery and clean-up efforts are still underway at Ground Zero. As that work goes on, we have already begun the monumental task of rebuilding the world's financial center.

    We created the new Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to oversee our rebuilding efforts. This joint State and City corporation will have powers similar to the successful corporation that's bringing about the historic revitalization of Times Square.

    We've begun to receive billions of dollars in aid from the federal government. And we will continue to work with the Bush administration, and a united, non-partisan congressional delegation to get the additional funds that are needed.

    But as we work to rebuild Ground Zero, we must also honor those who died in the way they deserve to be honored. For we must never forget that Ground Zero is, as Lincoln said about Gettysburg, "a final resting place for those who gave their lives that a nation might live."

    The economic challenges we face today are by no means limited to Lower Manhattan. The rest of the City and metropolitan area have also been dramatically affected and we will work to ensure that investment and growth reaches every corner of the city and the metropolitan region. The upstate economy has been profoundly impacted as well.

    Prior to the attacks, Upstate was on the road to recovery. Since 1995, we had created more than a hundred and fifty thousand new private sector jobs in Upstate New York. Thanks to seven years of tax cuts, combined with initiatives like Empire Zones, our high-tech Centers of Excellence and STAR Centers, and programs like Power for Jobs and Build Now, the Upstate economy was recovering from the staggering job losses of the early `90s.

    Now, in the wake of a disaster that threatens that progress, we must redouble our efforts and pass bold new initiatives to address the economic impact the attacks have had on our upstate economy.

    In the coming weeks, I will ask you to pass a broad package of initiatives that, combined with the innovative and successful investments already underway, will help to reinvigorate our economic progress.

    I will propose a new Empire Opportunity Fund to support economic development projects that will create jobs and spark growth in Upstate New York and on Long Island. Over the next several years, the Empire Opportunity Fund could be used to finance projects like inner harbor development, downtown commercial revitalization, crucial infrastructure improvements -- including to our Build Now and Semi NY sites -- fast ferry projects, and waterfront development projects in communities across New York State.

    This new Empire Opportunity Fund is the first part of an ambitious plan to attract new private and public investments across the state. This innovative new approach will create thousands of new jobs while moving New York in the right direction on the road to recovery. And as we spur these important investments to create jobs, we know that small businesses create the majority of new jobs in New York State.

    Lieutenant Governor Mary Donohue has traveled the State this past year, and spoken with small business owners across New York to find out what they need to grow and prosper. There was a common refrain -- access to capital, and that refrain came not just from traditional small businesses, but also from high-tech, start-up enterprises.

    To answer this call, we will dramatically expand the highly successful Excelsior Linked Deposit Program this year, which provides low cost loans to small and start-up businesses across the State. We will add $100 million in new funds to provide small businesses with access to these resources allowing them to grow and create new jobs.

    I will also propose the Security Through Advanced Research and Technology, or START, program to help colleges and universities secure federal and other high-tech research funding for the emerging national homeland security industry.

    We already have a head start in this area, with the development of a portable system to detect potential biological weapons, such as anthrax, and several of our academic powerhouses are seeking to create the uniform of the future for the military that will both protect soldiers from injury and shield them from detection. The innovations that will result from this work will mean new industries and new jobs in New York State.

    Our high-tech efforts are already bearing fruit. The private sector and the federal government have already pledged more than $400 million for Centers of Excellence in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and Long Island. These efforts are moving forward, but we will do more to make New York State an international leader in high-tech and bio-tech.

    I will propose that this year we invest $250 million for initial funding of the Centers of Excellence. In Rochester, we will build innovative partnerships between the University of Rochester Medical Center and bio-tech companies, to develop new approaches to treat illnesses such as AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

    At Cornell we will strengthen our commitments to the life sciences to create more productive, healthier foods, to better detect devastating livestock diseases, and to decipher the human genome.

    In Syracuse we will establish a Center of Excellence in Environmental Systems which will lead the nation in environmental quality and energy efficiency innovations.

    On Long Island, we will build on the strengths of institutions like the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Long Island's nationally ranked cluster of bio-tech firms, to create new medical treatments, devices and processes. And in New York City, I will advance a biotechnology corridor drawing upon the strengths of industry and premier institutions like Sloan-Kettering, Mt. Sinai and Albert Einstein College of Medicine -- and many others.

    These initiatives will not only nurture new discoveries, but it will ensure that these innovations will carry the label "Made in New York". There's no denying that we have a financial crisis. But that can't stop us from investing in our economy and the future. Rather, it demands that we make these investments so we can lead New York to prosperity.

    The past seven years have been marked with extraordinary success. To build on those successes, this year we must commit ourselves, as we did in 1995, to an agenda of sweeping reform.

    This year public schools will receive $4.4 billion more than they did in 1995, bringing us to the highest level of state support for education in our state's history.

    We've more than doubled aid to renovate and construct new schools, spending $1.4 billion this year alone. We've established innovative teacher recruitment programs. Under Lt. Governor Donohue we've enacted landmark school violence prevention legislation.

    We've established school report cards and state testing that let parents know how their children and schools are performing. And we've provided unprecedented school tax relief to our deserving senior citizens and homeowners.

    It is not just how much we provide though, but how we provide it. Our local school boards, school leaders and educators have asked for flexibility in spending these resources, so they can meet the specific needs of our children.

    We need to provide them the flexibility they seek and recommit ourselves to the education funding goals I set forth last year -- to throw out the existing school aid formula and to achieve equity -- without pitting one school district against another. This year, we should answer that call.

    And we must reform the way our city schools are governed. In his inaugural address nine days ago, Mayor Bloomberg said, "The public, through the Mayor, must control the school system." Mayor Bloomberg is in the chamber today.

    Mayor, you are right. Real education reform means giving you and the Mayors of our other big cities that control. I will fight to give you that power this year.

    We need to reward schools and teachers who work together to improve learning, and I will advance schoolwide performance incentives for teachers at our urban schools that show the most improvement in meeting our high learning standards.

    I will propose to expand our successful Advantage After-School programs that give children a safe haven from the streets, and better opportunities for learning. And let's set the goal of ensuring that every child -- not just some children, but all children -- pass the standardized tests in fourth and eighth grades, as a foundation for graduation with a world-class diploma.

    SUNY, CUNY and our private colleges are second to none. Let's use those world-class institutions in innovative ways to help our children and teachers succeed. In the coming weeks, I will propose a new initiative to use our SUNY and CUNY campuses to provide our students with additional learning opportunities, and provide our teachers with the tools they need to achieve our educational goals.

    We must reform government at all levels. Together we have made state government smaller, smarter and more efficient. In the coming weeks, I will create a task force to advance this goal at the local level by exploring innovative reforms and new ideas aimed at making government more efficient at the village, town, city and county levels. This task force will have the important role of recommending how we can bring the structure of local government in line with the 21st Century, and make it smarter and more efficient as well.

    Let this year be the year we reform the democratic process. The courage, perseverance and integrity of New Yorkers ove
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