Gov. Cuomo: Budget priorities include legalizing cannabis, police reform, rent relief and more

State News

NEW YORK CITY, (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a briefing Wednesday to update New Yorkers on the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response efforts as well as state budget negotiations and priorities.

New numbers

Wednesday’s coronavirus data in New York is as follows:

  • 207,496 COVID-19 tests reported Tuesday
  • 7,278 new cases
  • 3.51% overall positivity rate
  • 71 new deaths statewide
  • 4,641 hospitalized
  • 918 in ICU
  • 596 intubated

“We peaked post holiday surge and we have come way down from there,” Gov. Cuomo said. “As a matter of fact, we are lower now then before the holiday surge, so we were stable. We went up for the holidays and we’ve now come down to a lower level than before the holidays themselves.”

Vaccination

The governor announced that New York crossed the milestone of 8 million vaccine doses administered statewide.

“Vaccines are everything,” Gov. Cuomo said. “This is the way we beat this situation, this is the way we turn the page this is the way we end this chapter, but we have to do it, and the vaccination process is much harder, and much more complicated than I think anyone really appreciated. It’s a relatively simply process, but the volume is just so large it’s hard.”

The governor said the White House was working on acquiring more vaccine supply, and said the state’s distribution network is ready when supply ramps up.

“April, May, June; the focus will be vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The government side is operational, organizational — the citizen side is you have to come and get it. We have to talk our way through the distrust.”

The governor reinforced the emphasis on equity in the vaccination process, saying Black, Hispanic, and poor communities are still lagging in vaccination rates. The state is partnering with houses of worship and opening pop-up vaccination sites statewide to remedy the situation.

Rebuilding NY

The governor also said that as COVID declines, and vaccination increases, the focus turns to rebuilding New York for a post-COVID world.

“COVID is going to decline, more people vaccinated — we get it under control,” Gov. Cuomo said. “OK now you have to bring New York back. New York is not going to self remedy, the economy is not going to come back on its own. It doesn’t automatically inflate. It is going to be dependent on what we do. We have to rebuild New York we have to stimulate the economy. The public sector has to stimulate the private sector and it is going to be a function of how good we are at doing that.”

The governor said that a pivotal part of rebuilding New York is creating a better infrastructure for public health emergency management and preparing for the next disaster, whether it’s a pandemic, severe weather event, or otherwise.

“Let’s not make the same mistake twice,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Let’s learn the lesson and make the changes to our public health emergency system. We need an emergency management public health capacity that is much more sophisticated than it is now. We have to get serious about a public health emergency management plan. Look at all the things we had to scramble to do and do on the fly here in New York for COVID.”

The governor announced a citizen public health training program for New Yorkers to be informed, educated, and trained for the end of COVID and “the next one.”

“The time to get the training is now,” Gov. Cuomo said. “Cornell University has created a curriculum that is eight sessions, 16 hours of self-paced content. It’s interactive sessions where you hear Cornell professors, SUNY professors, and national experts the most up-to-date information to educate yourself. Cornell has done a fantastic job. The curriculum talks about COVID-19, preventing COVID-19, but remember COVID-19 is the third coronavirus we faced. SARS, MERS, COVID, are all coronavirus.”

The governor said New Yorkers who complete the course will be certified and could ultimately help their community in the event of another pandemic or public health emergency.

“Why wouldn’t you want to inform yourself after the hell we just went through?” Gov. Cuomo said. “The best person to protect you is you, an informed you — it’s about information and knowledge. The information and the knowledge, I think, will help reduce anxiety and restore a sense of control.

The governor said the course is free for New Yorkers, and folks interested can register online.

“I expect another pandemic,” Gov. Cuomo said. “You look at that timeline — every few years there was something. I expect it because that’s what history tells us.”

State budget

The governor said the state’s budget is due April 1, adding that he’s “obsessed” with getting it done on time, but because of public health concerns and virtual negotiations, he said he would expect it with being a few days late this year.

Top priorities of the budget, according to the governor, include:

  • Legalize cannabis
  • Public safety and police reform
  • Green rebuilding program
  • Universal broadband access and affordability
  • Rent relief
  • Nursing home reform
  • Funding gap: State needs vs. federal funs

“We’ve been trying to legalize cannabis for three years and it failed every year,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’re close, but we’ve been close three times before. If we were playing horseshoes we’d be in good shape, but this is not horseshoes — you either get it done and sign a bill or you done.”

The governor said he acknowledged that some New Yorkers are against legalized marijuana, but said legalization was still “essential” because of neighboring states that have recreational cannabis programs.

“I understand there’s opposition to legalizing cannabis, but we are there,” Gov. Cuomo said. “In a perfect world, you could argue no gaming, no gambling, no casinos. We don’t live in a perfect world. We didn’t have casino gambling, but it was in New Jersey, and reservation land, and Connecticut. So we had gaming. We have passed the point of illegal cannabis, its in New Jersey, it’s in Massachusetts. To say we’re going to stop it is not an option — it is here. The only questions are do we regulate it here, do we gather the revenue here, or have people drive to New Jersey or Massachusetts? But it is here. This year we have to get it done and getting it done by the time the budget is passed is essential.”

The governor said police reform also played a key factor in economic recovery.

“For the area to recover, the area has to feel safe and people have to believe it is safe,” Gov. Cuomo said. “We’ve had rising crime in New York state, not just New York City, but cities across the state and cities across the nation. We’ve had tension between police and the community. The community still lacks trust in the police. The police still feels mistreated by the community. This is not a situation where we van get divorced. We need public safety and it doesn’t work unless there is trust in the community.”

The governor said nursing home reform is focused on for-profit facilities.

“I don’t want for-profit nursing homes squeezing profit out of the nursing home and maximizing profit by minimizing the quality of care — so those are top priorities for me in the budget,” Gov. Cuomo said.

For federal funding the governor says the American Rescue Plan helps the state with $12 billion, but still leaves a gap to cover.

“I said to the federal government: We need $15 billion and I implored Washington in their funding program $15 billion would allow us to restore everything that was cut and address the new needs that COVID presented,” Gov. Cuomo said.


On Monday, the governor announced that vaccine eligibility would expand to include those who are 50 years old and older. That went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

During that Monday briefing, the governor said he would not comment on the ongoing investigations into his conduct, or allegations made against Rep. Tom Reed.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we update this developing story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Latest News

More Top Stories

Local News

More Local News