Gov. Cuomo calls for Uber, tuition-free college in State of the State

January 09, 2017 06:54 PM

Governor Andrew Cuomo took the stage in Buffalo Monday afternoon for his second State of the State speech.

Rather than give one speech in Albany, this year Gov. Cuomo is going to six different cities across the state for his annual speech outlining his plans for New York.

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His only stop in western New York was this afternoon in Buffalo.

During his nearly hour-long speech, Cuomo talked about a number of issues, but a big focus was on his plan for tuition-free college and bringing Uber to upstate.

Cuomo's plan for tuition-free college would allow students from families who earn less than $125,000 per year to attend state schools tuition-free. Right now, he says 85 percent of families in western New York would qualify.

It's an idea that he says is long overdue -- especially when you consider a typical student leaves college with an average of $30,000 in debt.

"We should say the day has come that we will now pay for college and let New York have the most educated work force in the country," says Gov. Cuomo.

Cuomo also says this will open up the world for every child.

"This is a game-changer," says Cuomo. "This will say to every child, in every home, 'I have the hope to go to college. I have the hope to go to college. Doesn't matter that mom and dad can't pay, doesn't matter that I come from a poor place. I can go to college and if I can go to college, I can be a success.'"

He continued, "Every child's future will be open... Hope for everyone and that's what this country is supposed to be all about. Somewhere along the way, we lost our way, but New York is going to put us back on track. And this is the proposal that's going to do it."

However, there are still concerns over how the plan will be paid for. Cuomo says it will cost the state $163 million each year. Cuomo didn't address financing the program in his speech.

As for ride-sharing apps, like Uber and Lyft, Cuomo said during his speech that it will help New York. Not only will it create jobs, Cuomo said, but it will make it safer for drivers, by getting drunk drivers off the road.

Ride-sharing apps are allowed downstate, but banned in upstate cities. Something, Cuomo says shows the inequality between the two regions.

"If it makes sense for downstate, then it makes sense for upstate," Cuomo told the crowd.

The proposal includes:

• DMV licensing and oversight of rideshare companies, including providing DMV with broad auditing powers to ensure uniformity in access for all New Yorkers and compliance with all laws, rules and regulations; 

• Establishing minimum standards for rideshare companies to vet their drivers including requiring background checks, explicitly disqualifying people with certain convictions from driving to ensure rider safety, and requiring ongoing monitoring for traffic safety; 

• Setting necessary consumer protections that ensure passengers receive information, such as driver identification, details of the car, and estimated fare, prior to engaging in a ride. Rideshare drivers must also display distinctive signs on their vehicles identifying the rideshare company they work for; 

• Requiring rideshare companies and/or rideshare drivers to obtain and maintain insurance coverages that are double the current auto insurance limits in upstate New York and have a limit of at least one million dollars of coverage while a rideshare vehicle is on the way to pick up a passenger and while transporting a passenger; 

• Establishing the first of its kind mechanism to provide rideshare drivers workers' compensation coverage by requiring participation in the Black Car Fund, which currently provides workers' compensation coverage for downstate taxi and livery drivers; 

• Mandating rideshare companies adopt a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy and enacting common sense requirements to ensure drivers are performing in the safest way possible for both drivers and riders. This includes requiring rideshare companies provide a mechanism for passengers to report complaints when they reasonably believe a driver to be under the influence; 

• Applying anti-discrimination requirements to ensure no passenger is discriminated against on the basis of his or her race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or genetic predisposition and are treated equally by rideshare companies and drivers; and 

• Creating a task force to review, study and make recommendations regarding accessibility needs in the rideshare industry in an effort to protect and provide transportation to vulnerable populations.

Uber statement

"Thank you Governor Cuomo for listening to the voices of New Yorkers who are demanding affordable, reliable transportation options like Uber. It’s time for the Empire State to join New York City and the 47 other states in allowing ridesharing services to operate."

Upstate Transportation Association statement

"Ridesharing can only exist statewide if Uber and Lyft operate upstate under the same safety and insurance regulations that currently protect riders in New York City. Ridesharing companies already fingerprint drivers in New York City and it would be reckless for lawmakers to consider any legislation that lacks this basic protection for upstate passengers. The bottom line is that upstate passengers deserve to be just as safe as those downstate.

"Gov. Cuomo made it clear today that automation has taken American jobs away, and that is why New York should ban driverless cars for at least 50 years as part of any ridesharing legislation. If lawmakers expand ridesharing without a ban on driverless cars, they will be stepping into an economic trap that turns new jobs into lost jobs."


Rebecca Leclair

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