Published January 10, 2017
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a new round of investment by New York State in Buffalo, including supporting UB’s medical school expansion, during his regional State of the State message Monday at UB.
Cuomo spoke before an audience of about 1,800 invited guests in the Center for the Arts on the North Campus.
Cuomo’s proposal includes $20 million to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to support plans underway to expand the medical school’s class size by 25 percent.
“We are proposing $500 million for the second round (of Buffalo Billion funding),’’ said Cuomo. “We are calling it ‘Buffalo Billion Squared’ because we are continuing the very successful strategy of the first Buffalo Billion and there is a synergy between the two of them that will be exponential.”
Cuomo received sustained applause when he added: “We are one state. Upstate matters.”
His proposal to help expand Metro Rail from the UB South Campus station to Amherst led a list of 25 new Buffalo Billion initiatives Cuomo announced during his speech. The proposal calls for a $5 million environmental study into extending light rail to the UB North Campus. Such an extension would create a direct link between Amherst and downtown Buffalo and link all three of UB’s campuses. Implementing the expansion would require additional federal, state and local funds.
Cuomo also proposed $40 million for creation of a new Innovation Hub on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, supporting the entrepreneurial activities of UB, the BNMC, 43 North and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The Innovation Hub would feature shared co-working space, space for leading corporate innovation centers, lab incubator space, student entrepreneur co-working space, maker/design space, and event and program space to support startups.
Another proposal on Cuomo’s 2017 agenda received a standing ovation from the audience: making college tuition-free to New York’s middle-class families at all SUNY and CUNY two- and four-year colleges and universities.
Under the Excelsior Scholarship, the first of its kind in the nation, New York families and individuals making $125,000 or less a year would qualify to attend college tuition-free at all public universities in New York State.
“Currently, 80 percent of New York households statewide make $125,000 or less,” Cuomo said. “That is an estimated 940,000 households having college-aged children who would be eligible for the program.”
Cuomo told the UB audience that 3.5 million jobs in New York State will require a college education by 2024.
“I was in Tonawanda at the new GM Engine Plant where they rolled out a $300 million transformation for new engine construction,” he said. “In walking through the plant, you know what I didn’t see? Tools. It’s all automation, controlled by somebody at a computer terminal.
“Advanced manufacturing is manufacturing with the mind. It is about the education. People who are going to do best are those who are most educated.”
Cuomo described the Excelsior Scholarships as part of a larger initiative focused on boosting middle and working class families in New York State.
“They have been especially hard-hit — not just in Buffalo, but all across this country. So today I am proposing a Middle Class Recovery Act,” he said. “This will also include lowered taxes and jobs and infrastructure here in Western New York and across the state.”
Telling the UB audience that jobs and infrastructure also include expanding transportation options, Cuomo delivered a strong endorsement of ride-sharing, which received a standing ovation.
“It’s all about embracing the innovation economy,” he said. “Something as simple as ride-sharing. If it makes sense downstate, it makes sense for upstate. It should be approved for all New Yorkers.”
Updating and rebuilding New York’s aging water systems also was among the governor’s 2017 proposals.
“Some of these systems — right here in Buffalo — allow toxins and, in some cases, chemicals to leach into the water supply,” he said. “These represent health hazards.
“Especially for young children, they’re at risk. We need to take immediate action and I want to spend $2 billion to rebuild our water infrastructure across the state. I want local communities to work together to come up with the best, most cost-efficient way to do it and project that plan to the state.”