Cuomo recaps accomplishments of new budget

Tariq Nawaz has a lengthy commute.

The Buffalo resident drives to New York City to work as an Uber driver. He stays there for weeks at a time, comes home for a break and to spend time with his family and then returns to work. But those days will soon be over.

Now that New York state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have passed a $153 billion budget that contains provisions for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft in upstate, Nawaz has the opportunity to work closer to home.

“Uber is here, so why go to New York? I’m going to stay with my family,” Nawaz said. He has been working with Uber for the last four or five years.

“It’s a great company to work for, you make your own schedule, you can make decent money and honestly, I was surprised (that Uber wasn’t) in Buffalo yet.”

He celebrated the news that ride-sharing was coming upstate in a big way. Nawaz picked up Cuomo from a Buffalo school and delivered him to the Family Life Center on Michigan Avenue, where he discussed the budget, some of its more high-interest elements and ongoing investment in the Western New York region.

In addition to announcing the arrival of ride-sharing services, Cuomo touched on another of the hot-button initiatives to come out of this budget — tuition-free SUNY education for some New Yorkers.

The budget will provide a free education for middle class students who come from a household with annual income less than $125,000, provided they stay in the state after graduating for at least as long as they were in school.

“Fifty years ago, we said as a society, people need high school, so we’re going to have free public high school,” Cuomo said. “Why? Because people needed that education to do well, and we needed that education as a society. So everybody got a free public high school. Today, high school is not enough. Today, college is necessary.”

Cuomo said that, in addition to a being the morally right thing to do, subsidizing college education is the economically smart thing to do. Businesses come to the place where an educated workforce already exists, he noted.

Another key budget issue that Cuomo mentioned was the decision to “Raise the Age” of criminal liability in New York state. The purpose, the governor said, is to prevent people from being forever scarred by a bad decision they made in their youth.

“Once you get a criminal record, you’re sent to a jail or prison with hardened criminals, you make a bad situation worse,” Cuomo said. “Once you have a young person with a felony conviction on their record, forget them trying to get a good job. No employer wants to go near them. Once you take a young person and you send them in to a jail or a prison with hardened criminals, with real predators, don’t be surprised when they come out hard and they come out worse.”

In addition, Cuomo continued making a push for municipal governments to work to find ways to share services in an effort to minimize property taxes, He also gave a preview of what he hopes to accomplish with the $500 million earmarked for Western New York development as part of the next phase of the Buffalo Billion campaign.

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