ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday unveiled his economic and social agenda for the year that includes pursuing a 20 percent raise in the state's minimum wage.
In proposing jacking the minimum raise to $8.75 per hour, Cuomo pointed out the current $7.25-per-hour rate is below that of 19 other states.
"A reasonable minimum wage increases the standard of living for workers, reduces poverty, incentivizes fair and more efficient business practices, and ensures that the most vulnerable members of the workforce can contribute to the economy," a statement issued by the Democratic governor's office in conjunction with his annual State of the State address said.
Cuomo said the wide-reaching package of proposals are meant "to attract good jobs and economic growth, create a world-class education system that prepares the next generation for the future, maintain fiscal integrity and discipline, and continue to restore New York as the progressive capital of the nation."
"New York is on its way, coming back stronger than ever before, rising to meet some of the biggest challenges in our history, remaining as a progressive beacon of light to the rest of the nation, and standing out as a model of effective government," Cuomo said. "Gone are the anti-business, obstructionist, tax capital and gridlock mentalities, replaced with an entrepreneurial government that collaboratively works together for the people and partners with the private sector to create jobs and get the economy back on track."
The governor also proposes the creation of tax-free education-private sector high-tech incubator zones -- "Hot Spots" to be picked through a competitive process to foster innovation by offering inventors and entrepreneurs support to grow their businesses.
He said he would put $50 million into an Innovation Venture Capital Fund that will provide incentives for successful start-ups to stay in the state.
Workers' compensation and unemployment insurance need to be reformed, and can be done while simultaneously saving businesses $1.3 billion and increasing worker benefits for the first time since 1999.
Cuomo said he also wants to see the state take steps to becoming environmentally cleaner, better trained and educated, and less violent.
He also wants to see three casinos opened in Upstate New York, with 90 percent of revenues generated going to education and 10 percent for property tax relief. He also wants to create a $1 billion affordable housing program.
The governor announced he wants to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana while working to eradicate designer synthetic drugs.
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