New York's troubled economy and an expansion of health care are said to be the main focuses of Governor David Paterson's first State of the State address this afternoon.
The State of the State usually serves as a preview to the governor's fiscal plan, but Paterson unveiled his 2009-2010 budget proposal five weeks early – in hopes of getting it passed at least a month before the usual April 1st deadline.
In that speech, he said the state is facing its worse financial crisis of our lifetime and laid out sweeping cuts and new taxes.
Paterson is likely to present an even gloomier forecast of state tax revenues than he did three weeks ago.
Another unique aspect of this speech is that it will be delivered entirely from memory. The governor, who is legally blind, committed 60 hours to memorizing the address.
One of the proposals in Paterson's speech would expand health care to more New Yorkers.
Paterson wants to extend private family health insurance coverage for dependents up to age 29.
According to a report published this morning, there are 800,000 people in New York State between the ages of 19 and 29 who do not have health insurance.
New York does not require companies to cover dependents, but most employer-paid programs are extended to children through age 18, or age 22 if they're attending college. Paterson's plan would extend coverage to children regardless whether they attend college.
The proposal would not cost the state or employers any extra money.
Instead, families would pay for the plan like a COBRA benefit, allowing children to remain under the employer's health plan by paying the premium cost, but at a reduced rate.
Those who spoke to NY1 in Union Square this morning were mixed on the proposal.
"It's a good argument. I just worry it might make people a little bit lazy," said one New Yorker. "Because they're covered, the motivation to get a job might not be there."
"That's a good idea because these days, times are hard," said another. "It's tough out there in the streets and it would be good to cover our kids until 29."
Any extension of health care coverage would have to be passed by the state Legislature.
Today, the New York State Senate will fall into Democratic leadership for the first time in more than 40 years.
Meanwhile, ahead of the address, thousands are expected to rally outside the state Capitol to call on the governor to protect state jobs.
Ten buses left from Lower Manhattan this morning carrying members of the New York State Public Employees Federation who are worried about their future.
One of the cuts being proposed by the governor would be to drug and alcohol prevention in New York City schools.
"In the long run, it's going to cost the city and the state billions to recitfy the damage they will do with this budget," said Santos Crespo of union Local 372.
"For the governor to cut this program, would be a devastating danger to our community," said Milagros Rodriguez of union Local 372.