Advances Pro-Family Tax Cut Plan, High-Tech Initiatives, Renewable Energy Measures and Education Reforms To Help Secure New York’s Role as Leader in the Emerging Global Economy -- Makes Strong Call for New Laws to Protect Children and Families from Dangerous Sexual Predators Calls Upcoming Year an Indispensable Opportunity to Build on Strong Foundation of Progress “New York is a Stronger, Safer, Cleaner, More Prosperous State Than It’s Been in Generations ... We Can Achieve Even Greater Things.”

Governor George E. Pataki today opened the 2006 Legislative Session by delivering his twelfth and final State of the State Message. In his address, he called the upcoming year another indispensable opportunity to build on the great foundation of progress that has been made in the past 11 years and said that he and the Legislature must work together in partnership to seize that opportunity.

“The totality of our achievements over the past 11 years, the new course for New York that we charted back in 1995, has made New York a stronger, safer, cleaner, more prosperous state than it’s been in generations,” Governor Pataki said. “So today, January 4th, 2006, I am pleased to report to you the state of our State is strong and getting stronger every day.”

But the Governor said that there is more to do and that the 2006 Legislative Session represents an invaluable opportunity to build on the tremendous progress that’s been made and enact an agenda that will provide even greater hope, prosperity and security to the people of New York.

“My work, our work, on behalf of the citizens of this great state is far from done – indeed, so long as opportunities exist to better the lives of New Yorkers, our work is never done,” the Governor said. “Let me be clear on that -- I swore an oath to serve New Yorkers until my very last day in office and I intend to fulfill that oath in its entirety.”

In setting forth his priorities for the coming year, the Governor recounted the philosophy and precepts that have guided him for the past 11 years.

“I believe in active but limited government -- a government that is engaged and effective, but never intrusive or over-reaching; a government that works vigorously and diligently to identify problems and then creates opportunities for people to solve them; a government that staunchly protects its citizens’ freedom to work, live and raise their families, yet never dictates how they should do so.”

During his address, the Governor laid out an aggressive agenda of new policies and initiatives that he will work with the Legislature to achieve in 2006 – one that will continue to protect New York families from crime and empower New York to excel in the emerging global economy. The 5-point comprehensive agenda advanced by the Governor in his speech includes:

A comprehensive series of measures that will provide New York’s children with every possible protection from sexually violent predators and keep New York’s families safe;
A pro-family tax cut plan that continues to cut taxes on working families and their employers to provide New Yorkers with greater opportunity and financial freedom;
A new series of initiatives that will renew New York’s commitment to educational excellence to better prepare our students for global competition;
New investments that will help build the intellectual capital and research infrastructure New York needs to succeed in the high-tech economy of tomorrow; and
New energy measures that will take decisive action to cut New Yorkers’ fuel bills and protect the State’s environment by reducing our dependency on foreign oil.
In closing his twelfth and final State of the State address, the Governor thanked the Legislature for their partnership over the past 11 years and for their partnership over the next 12 months. He called on them to work together with him this year to achieve even greater things for the people of New York.

“Let’s heed destiny’s clarion call. Let’s promote freedom and opportunity at every turn. Let’s dare to dream of all our great state can be. Let’s pursue that dream relentlessly, in partnership and unity. Let’s fulfill New York’s limitless promise.”

The comprehensive agenda advanced by the Governor today includes:

Protecting New York’s Children and Keeping Families Safe

In describing one of the most important roles that government plays in people’s lives, Governor Pataki said, “I’ve said it many times, and it bears repeating -- government has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of its citizens.”

The Governor noted the strong progress that has been made in reducing crime and ensuring public safety and thanked the Legislature for their help in enacting policies that have made New York the safest large state in the nation. Just three weeks ago, the Governor and Legislature enacted two crucial new laws; one that will keep illegal guns off of the streets and one that provide greater protections to police officers by imposing stiffer penalties on those who commit crimes against law enforcement officials.

He called on the Legislature to build on that momentum and enact even tougher legislation which will help New York become even safer. The Governor announced he will submit legislation that would:

Prevent the release of sexually violent predators into neighborhoods;
Create longer sentences for those convicted of sexually violent crimes;
End the statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault;
Make New York’s Megan’s Law statute even stronger; and
Require every criminal who commits a crime to give a DNA sample.
A Pro-Family Tax Cut Plan That Includes Property Tax Relief for Seniors and Working Families

The Governor noted the success of past tax cuts and the need to further reduce the tax burden on New York’s working families. In his speech today he said, “First, let’s strengthen families and create jobs by lowering the burden taxes place on New Yorkers.....If our goal is to position New York State to thrive in the face of evolving global competition, our fight to cut taxes must continue.”

The Governor called on the Legislature to join him in renewing New York’s commitment to cutting taxes. Under the Governor’s leadership New York has led the nation in cutting taxes, including 81 cuts to 19 different State taxes that have pumped more than $140 billion back into New York’s economy and led to the creation of over 600,000 new jobs. To continue this momentum, the Governor announced he would send the Legislature a pro-family tax cut program that would:

Completely eliminate the marriage penalty to encourage marriage in New York;
Provide a $500 heating fuel tax credit to thousands of seniors to help meet soaring home heating costs;
Eliminate the estate tax to help family farms and small businesses, and encourage seniors to spend their golden years in New York;
Cut the income tax rate that most New York families pay; and
Cut taxes on businesses to give New York’s employers even greater freedom to grow and create jobs.
To continue providing needed tax relief to New York’s families, the Governor also called for providing real, additional property tax relief to property owners across the State by adding two new enhancements to STAR program. These measures would provide:

An increased STAR benefit for seniors; and
A direct school property tax rebate check for homeowners across the State.
An Accelerated Commitment to Preparing Students for Global Competition

The Governor noted that New York must continue making improvements to the educational system and prepare students for global competition. “In tomorrow’s economy, our stiffest competition for jobs, investment and opportunity will not come from places like South Carolina or Indiana; it will come from places like South Korea and India......It is clearly time to re-align our educational priorities to meet the ever-changing demands of the 21st Century,” the Governor said.

The Governor called on the Legislature to work with him to build on the record of success New York has made in education over the past eleven years, which includes record investments in New York’s schools, coupled with innovative measures to improve accountability and performance in the classroom, such as: tougher standards and testing, Charter Schools, the Teachers of Tomorrow program, and school report cards.

Today, the Governor set a goal of making New York the national leader in preparing students for careers in math, science and engineering. To accomplish this, he announced he will propose a comprehensive package of educational reforms and enhancements that will provide new opportunities for students and empower parents. The package includes:

A commitment to providing additional funding to high-needs schools in NYC and across the State;
A plan to allow parents of students in under-achieving schools access to additional tutoring, after- school programs and other educational opportunities;
A dramatic expansion of charter schools throughout the entire state;
New math and science summer programs for middle school students at community colleges across the State;
A commitment to create more math and science high schools across the State specifically focused on teaching the skills students need to succeed in the high-tech economy of tomorrow; and
Free SUNY or CUNY tuition to students who pursue math and science degrees and commit to teaching in New York State.
Investing in the Global High-tech Economy of the Future

The Governor pledged to continue the historic investments that have led to unprecedented success in high-tech and biotech development in the State. “Over the last two centuries, the economic strength and stability of a state or a nation was determined largely by its ability to out-produce the competition......Over the next decade, our ability to compete in the emerging global marketplace will depend more and more on our ability to innovate -- to break new ground -- to develop, apply and produce the technologies of tomorrow,” the Governor said.

The Governor thanked the Legislature for working with him to make the Centers of Excellence program a success. The Centers have already attracted over $8.5 billion in new investment across the State, and are propelling New York toward a future as a global leader in university-based research, high-tech business creation, and job development.

Included in this investment is the announcement yesterday of a brand new, $435 million semiconductor research and development center at Albany Nanotech – one of only two being built in the nation, with the other located in the Silicon Valley in California. The Governor offered a series of proposals which will allow New York to continue this success. His package of proposals would:

Make even greater capital investments in the Centers of Excellence;
Accelerate the Empire Zone process to ensure that every county currently without an Empire Zone – which includes Delaware, Greene, Hamilton, Putnam, Rockland, Schoharie, Tompkins, Yates and Wyoming Counties – has one by the end of this year.
Create new “Tech Zones” to be affiliated with the Centers of Excellence that will provide Empire Zone-like benefits to help turn research and ideas into jobs;
Create five hubs of high-tech education, innovation and manufacturing, which will combine the Centers of Excellence, new Tech Zones and the new math and science high schools in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and on Long Island; and
Invest an unprecedented $600 million in a bio-tech research initiative -- a combination of public/private matching funds that will capitalize on the strength of great institutions like Sloan Kettering, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Cornell, NYU and Columbia University.
Reducing New York’s Dependency on Foreign Oil

Governor Pataki noted that since 1995, New York has been an unparalleled national leader in environmental protection. He called on the Legislature to join him in building on that record of accomplishment by making New York State the leader in reducing dependence on imported energy. The Governor outlined a plan to do so that would make New York the worldwide center for clean, renewable energy research, product development and job creation. His program would:

Make the entire state a tax-free zone for companies that develop clean, renewable energy sources;
Make renewable fuels available at service stations all across the State, starting with the Thruway;
Make the renewable fuels used in automobiles “tax-free” throughout the entire State;
Establish refineries that make ethanol out of agricultural products;
Create shovel-ready sites and help finance advanced clean coal power plants; and
Spur the development of efficient hybrid vehicles that can actually be plugged in at home or alternatively run on renewable bio-fuels.