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Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented the first of several State of the State messages on Monday, January 11, with additional remarks expected throughout the week.

PEF President Wayne Spence said, “While the State of the State is usually short on detail, we very much support the priorities laid out in his first presentation. We agree that the primary focus over the short term should remain keeping all New Yorkers safe and making sure that they have access to the services they desperately need. We also agree that vaccine distribution should be expedited, done fairly and focus first on those most at-risk.”

Cuomo said the state must receive federal assistance to recover from the tremendous economic damage caused by the pandemic.

“We totally agree with the governor on that point,” said Spence. “The economic and public health challenges posed by this virus are a national security threat and must be met with a strong federal response.”

As for ways to increase state revenue, the governor proposed two measures, legalizing and taxing adult recreational use of cannabis and mobile sports betting.

As part of his plan to trigger new economic growth, create jobs and improve services, the governor has several proposals dealing with nurses and infrastructure issues.

Cuomo announced that he will introduce legislation to address an issue advanced by PEF which, if enacted, would provide New York nurses priority access to SUNY and CUNY programs. Under this proposal, licensed nurses and nursing candidates will receive priority admission to all SUNY and CUNY programs across the state beginning in the fall of 2021 to fulfill baccalaureate credentials and continue practicing.

Regarding the governor’s comments about making a strong commitment to transportation and other infrastructure, Spence said the union supports it in principle, but added that it is critical taxpayers have a state inspector, engineer or other appropriate professional representative on the job site at all times for any taxpayer-funded projects.

While the union is carefully monitoring the governor’s comments about the direction he wants to take the state in the year ahead, PEF is waiting for specific details that will be part of the governor’s Executive Budget proposal, which is due by January 19.