By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — Outlining his plan for policy and spending in the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo encouraged voter feedback to a crowd of politicians, citizens and schoolchildren in an overflowing auditorium at City Honors School in Buffalo.
Cuomo was in Western New York as part of a tour of the state to personally deliver an outline of his vision for New York.
This differs from previous governors, who would deliver that vision to the state Legislature in Albany during the State of the State address and move on, Cuomo said.
“I want you to hear my plans,” he told Thursday's crowd. “I want you to hear what you’re thinking.”
Cuomo said he feels that interacting with his constituents is important and he hopes that people in the crowd will offer feedback to his office.
“Part of the beauty of democracy is it’s dependent on people to get engaged,” Cuomo said. “Government works best when you get your voice heard.”
Cuomo covered a number of topics he touched on during the State of the State address including the possibility of upstate, non-Indian casinos, the importance of promoting tourism and his plans to pass a bill to guarantee equality at work for women.
Cuomo said, as he has before, that the state should stop pretending as if it is not already in the gaming business and take full advantage of the revenues that additional gaming facilities could provide for upstate cities and New York.
“We’re basically in the casino business,” Cuomo said. “We just haven’t regulated it as well.”
Cuomo said that casinos located in neighboring states are attracting people who could be spending their money in New York.
“Our gaming dollars are going to other states,” Cuomo said. “I want to do a casino gaming plan. I want to use it as a magnet to get people from downstate New York to upstate New York.”
The governor also talked about the importance of tourism for the region. The state will give out $5 million to the region in the state that comes up with the best tourism marketing plan, he said.
“We want to reintroduce people to the beauty and the assets of upstate New York,” Cuomo said. “If they see what we have in upstate New York they will come, they will move, they will build and they will be part of our communities.”
In what was perhaps the most well-received section of the speech, Cuomo outlined what he is calling the Women’s Equality Act.
He said that women — who make 77 cents to every dollar that a man in the same position makes — deserve equal pay for equal work.
Cuomo said that he hopes to make New York the “equality capital of the nation”, having passed the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 allowing for the legal marriage of same-sex couples.
“If we want to be truly equal and if we want to be the strongest society possible let's end discrimination against women,” he said.