Cheering an on-time state budget that he says displays the drastic changes in state government that have taken place under his watch, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hosted a budget signing ceremony Thursday afternoon at .
"I think the culture of Albany has changed," Coumo said to a group of reporters shortly after addressing a crowd of about 250 people. "That's what I was elected to do."
Cuomo said the state's $132.6 billion budget is part of an "overall reform plan" that has been in motion since he took office 15 months ago. The state Legislature approved the budget on March 30.
"We said we have to literally transform the state," Cuomo said. "This was not about little changes, this was going to be about dramatic changes."
The budget closes a multi-billion dollar spending gap without creating new taxes and limits spending growth to below 2 percent for the second consecutive year, Cuomo said. It also includes a $1.2 billion infrastructure acceleration program that will repair roads and bridges, many of which are in Westchester.
"The roads and bridges in this state have been neglected for decades, some to the point of seriously dangerous conditions," Cuomo said.
Cuomo added that the budget will reduce taxes for middle-class families—annual income of $30,000 to $300,000—to their lowest rate in 58 years.
Among other changes the Governor promoted during his 15-minute speech were the state's new pension tier reform program, all-crimes DNA database, public teacher evaluation system and tax cap, all of which he said will help send the state in a positive direction.
The teacher evaluation system has been met with resistance from teacher's unions and several school districts within the state. Cuomo touted the new performance management system as a step forward for the state on Thursday.
"That will take the State of New York and make it one of the most advanced states in the country in terms of public education," he said.
Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R), who represents Harrison and several surrounding communities, said he is pleased with the budget that he says includes critical investments for the state moving forward.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," said Castelli. "New York is now open for business again."
Cuomo also promised to continue his work on reducing state mandates to local municipalities and school districts while challenging them to keep local taxes under control.
"It's not okay to say we have to raise taxes," he said. "That doesn't work anymore."
to see more details on the recently approved budget.