By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Throughout the nearly 80 minute State of the State address by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, local officials were encouraged hearing his plans for economic development, education and energy.
"It was the longest and most comprehensive State of the State that I've ever heard in all my years there," said state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna. "It's a very ambitious agenda that he's put forth."
Throughout Cuomo's address, a large emphasis was placed on economic development, specifically in the upstate New York area, which Farley said was very encouraging and a worthwhile topic to focus on.
"Economic development for upstate New York is very, very important for us, and I think you're going to see exciting things happening in that area," Farley said. "I think the Mohawk Valley in particular could use the jolt from economic development."
Farley also commented on Cuomo's plan for education.
Part of Cuomo's proposed changes included the possibility of a lengthened school day or school year, and if schools were to opt in to that change, Cuomo said the state would pick up the tab for that added expense.
And while Farley was happy to hear an emphasis being placed on education changes, changes he said were "significant," he admitted that they "could be quite expensive."
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said he wants the schools here to be able to compete with other nations and wants quality education for every child, but doesn't necessarily want to burden the local property taxpayers.
"I think it could be something good, but I want to see the specifics of the proposal before I side on it," he said.
Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Thomas Perillo said the changes are good measures, but all need to be thoroughly taken into consideration.
"The ideas are good, but there's got to be some detail," he said. "Now that the state is out, the next thing he will be releasing in the next few weeks is the state budget."
Perillo said only then would it determine how those extra hours would be funded.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger said Wednesday that these two topics of economic development and education were the big ticket items for him.
"Those are two very important things to me and to the region," Swanger said. "It demonstrates, I think, the governor's support of trying to revitalize New York and make it again a leader in the country."
As for the relationship between economic development and higher education, he said the two have a direct relationship.
"He (Cuomo) talked about technology transfer and research on university campuses and transferring that to a viable product in the economy," Swanger explained. "That is an important aspect and certainly something SUNY has been talking about for some time.
"It is a tremendous growth opportunity I think for New York state as it has been in California, which probably leads the way in technology transfer."
But Cuomo also touched on the importance of community colleges in preparing the work force.
"Meeting with local employees and talking on the state and national stage, there are job opportunities available and there are people unprepared for that work, so there's a disconnect there," Swanger said. "We need to work on that and community colleges, the governor specifically mentioned community colleges, have a specific role in that."
Santabarbara said the workforce and job growth is critical to the region.
"I think Gov. Cuomo unveiled a blueprint to help make New York a better place to live and a better place to work in," Santabarbara said. "Going forward, we definitely want to work with the governor, hitting on his points and creating good paying jobs right here in our communities, especially in the 111th (Assembly District)."
Santabarbara said he appreciated the governor's focus on upstate New York when it came to that topic.
"Jobs are what we want because it keeps family together," he said. "It's about quality of life and bringing those good-paying jobs back home here, especially in upstate New York. It's really going to make a difference in our area."
And part of those jobs could come from Cuomo's focus on energy, including ensuring that there are young members of the workforce with the skills for the energy sector.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said that as a newly-appointed member to the Energy and Commerce Committee, his focus is on continuing to build the economy of the region and was encouraged hearing Cuomo talk about the Green New York fund, electric cars and solar energy innovation, and the Innovation Hot Spot program.
"I just believe that with our area, our area being the hottest real estate in the country, the hub with the greatest job growth in clean energy and innovation economy jobs, anytime we can reinforce that message and reinforce the investments ... this will only further inspire that kind of growth," he said.
Tonko said it couples perfectly with economic development.
"When you get innovative science as it relates to how you grow and generate our energy supply, how we transmit them and how we use them, there are great opportunities for research and innovation that provides jobs from skilled labor over to Ph.D.'s," he said.
Though economic development, education, and energy were larger topics in Cuomo's address, he also spoke about a myriad of other topics that local officials couldn't help but touch on, like the gun control effort, easing the possession of marijuana, and changing the state's minimum wage.
In the end, all officials said it was an ambitious program, one that Swanger said will likely take more than a year to complete.