Cuomo visits Buffalo State, breaks down NYS budget


James Janik/Record file photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Buffalo State to detail his upcoming NYS budget and his economic plans for Western New York.

Francesca Bond, Executive Editor

No, there are no updates to the state’s legalization of marijuana.

When Gov. Cuomo stood at the podium inside SUNY Buffalo State’s Social Hall on Wednesday, he outlined the upcoming New York State budget, focusing on the funding allocated towards Western New York revitalization efforts and education, while switching slides at a pace too fast for the classmate with seven different colored pens to write down.

Last time Cuomo came to campus, he announced his Excelsior Scholarship (free college) which is, arguably, more enticing than a budget breakdown. But two years later, Cuomo provided updates on the scholarship’s implementation and state funding for several other hot-button issues, such as the Green New Deal, plastic bag ban and incoming investments towards Elmwood Village and Buffalo landmarks.

Here’s our breakdown of his budget components that relate most to students and local issues:


“No mother, no father has to worry about, can I afford my child’s college tuition?” Cuomo said.

As far as the Excelsior Scholarship, Cuomo is increasing the economic threshold to $125,000, its third and final increase since its inception two years ago. Now families who make up to $125,000 can send their children to any SUNY college for free. Cuomo said this will affect 15,000 Western New York students.

Cuomo also said he will “protect student borrowers from abuse,” by the student loan industry in this budget.

The José Peralta DREAM Act is protected in this budget, letting undocumented children who are already New York State students apply for state funding for college.

Buffalo State will receive $250 million in the state budget.

Investing in WNY

“Buffalo Billion was like the first stage on a rocket,” Cuomo said, referring to his economic development plan for Buffalo, which led to investments in Canalside, tourism and manufacturing, and was also wrapped up in a bid-rigging scandal last year.

So far, Cuomo said Western New York has seen $12.7 billion from New York State, which has gone towards economic development, transportation, academia and quality of life.

Cuomo’s budget gives $10 million to the winner of the Western New York downtown revitalization initiative, aimed at developing downtown after years of residents leaving and spreading out into the suburbs.

“Now we’re reinvesting into downtown areas because the Millennials want to be there, the infrastructure is there, the nightlife is there,” Cuomo said, pointing to a slide of a 2017 article from The Buffalo News about Millennials moving back to Buffalo.

Especially interesting for commuter students, $106 million will be fueled into the first major renovation of the city’s metro rail, as well as its extension.

$58.6 million will go towards the NFTA, increased by $5 million. (Buffalo State students receive a free NFTA transit pass funded by our transportation fee.) $25 million will go towards Buffalo’s new train station. $16 million will be dedicated to road improvements.

Cuomo said $500 million in the budget will be given to “capital investments” in the Elmwood Village surrounding Buffalo State, such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Richardson Olmsted Complex, Buffalo Psychiatric Center, Elmwood Avenue Bridge and the college itself.

Investments in the East Side

Buffalo’s East Side will see improvements from the state budget this year.

To break it down: $4 million will be given to MLK Park, $2.2 million will go towards the restoration of the Buffalo Museum of Science, $4 million for the Broadway Market, $2 million for the Northland Workforce Training Center, $7 million for the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, $5 million for the East Side Workforce Training Program, $5 million for the preservation of historic East Side buildings, $10 million for small business renovations and $10 million for street improvements.

“The greatest success is shared success and yes, Buffalo is doing well, but we don’t consider it success until everyone everywhere is doing well,” Cuomo said.

Skyway competition

Cuomo announced he would open up a national competition for the Buffalo skyway redevelopment.

“When I was HUD Secretary and I worked literally in every state in the nation, we always make the same mistake,” Cuomo said. “We blocked ourselves from the water. We built highways along the water. We built elevated highways along the water. Why? Because we thought that was the easy place to do it, along the shoreline.”

Options for the Skyway redevelopment include tearing it down, keeping it and developing the area beneath it, transforming it into a High Line similar to the park in New York City or leaving it and enhancing the surrounding Outer Harbor.

Cuomo has chosen an 11-member panel to choose the contest winners. The first place winner will receive $100,000; second place will receive $50,000; third place will receive $25,000.

New York State’s Green New Deal

Cuomo plans to ban plastic bags, joining Hawaii and California, which he said is long overdue, in the state’s “aggressive” Green New Deal.

$500 million more will be dedicated to clean water within the state. $300 million is allocated for the environmental protection fund.

Marijuana legalization

“Conceptually, people support the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. It’s one of those issues where the devil is in the details, because you don’t want to do it wrong,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo said that the legislature will be working on a plan for recreational marijuana legalization over the next couple of months, citing concerns about protecting young people and ensuring use will be limited to adults.