Elected officials from Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties who attended Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech at SUNY Purchase on Tuesday each found different proposals to applaud in the statements they put out afterward, which had none of the barbs that two Republican county executives from across the Hudson – each a potential opponent for Cuomo in 2018 – fired at the Democratic governor.
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, a Republican, cheered Cuomo’s announcement that a $115 million reconfiguration of the Route 17 interchange in Woodbury will begin this year instead of next, saying that infrastructure needs are the only factor slowing economic development in the county. “Improvements to this vital corridor have been discussed for decades,” he noted. He applauded Cuomo’s proposal to distribute $2 billion for local water and sewer projects, and had a more positive take than some of his fellow Republicans on Cuomo’s proposal to make tuition free at New York’s public colleges for families making less than $125,000.
“The cost of higher education in New York and across the United States is outrageous,” Neuhaus said. “I know this personally, as I continue to pay for my own higher education loans. At a minimum, student loans should be interest free. Governor Cuomo has started an important dialogue on college affordability. The better educated our population, the stronger New York state and our country will be.”
Neuhaus was receptive to Cuomo’s proposal to have county executives and managers develop cost-cutting plans with local governments, something his counterparts in Dutchess and Westchester – Marc Molinaro and Rob Astorino – ripped as an unfair deflection by the governor. “There is always room for improvement and fiscal savings in government,”Neuhaus said. “We can and should continue to do more together to reduce the size and cost of government.”
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, a Democrat, focused his remarks on Cuomo’s idea of building 350 miles of recreational trails that would connect existing paths and form two giant trails that would cross the state in two directions, running north-south between New York City and Canada and east-west between Albany and Buffalo.
“This has the potential to further expedite Ulster County’s goal of creating a world-class trail system right next door to over 22 million people in the metro New York area,” Hein said. “I am pleased to see a state initiative align with the work being done in our area that will further boost our $532 million tourism industry while also helping to provide an amazing quality of life to the great people of Ulster County.”
Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez, a Republican, praised Cuomo for his free-tuition plan and his proposal to raise the state’s child-care tax credit. “For too many working mothers and fathers throughout this state are faced with mounting financial expenses that are forcing them to sacrifice between providing their children with the very best care and education, and making a living,” Alvarez said. “No parent should ever have to make this compromise. Thankfully, under Governor Cuomo, New York State is taking action and championing policies to put New York families first and help working parents take care of their children, from birth to college.”