ALBANY—Today's big speech will be odd, longtime observers say, because many of the policy initiatives usually outlined in such speeches, and then devilishly detailed in budget presentations, have already been detailed.
What's left for there to say? Any surprises?
"Surprises are the reason we come to work every day," Paterson said last Friday.
His top aides leaked at least one new proposal: a requirement that private health insurance companies offer an extension of coverage to dependents under 29 if they are already covered under a parental plan. That means a 25-year-old who has graduated from college and therefore lost eligibility (as is the case under many plans) can stay on the plan – with the full premium costs picked up by the parent or young adult – until they turn 30.
"It's COBRA-like," said Joseph Baker, one of the governor's top aides for health policy. "It's something I think will be more affordable for this population," which comprises just under a third of New York's uninsured. It offers a coverage option to those working without health insurance.
It could also ingratiate Paterson with an increasingly important voting bloc — the same one that his policies of taxing iTunes and sugary drinks may have angered.
But back to the speech. Some analysts speculate that the governor could use the platform to make changes to his proposed budget, which he is allowed to do within 21-days of presenting it.
"What could happen, because he has the right to amend his budget within 30 days, so it's technically possible that he might come out with some initiatives that would require 21-day amendments," said Frank Mauro, a budget analyst and director of the Fiscal Policy Institute.
This is Paterson's first State of the State Address, and he has spent the last two days in Albany preparing for the speech. Outside the Capitol, labor groups have planned a protest march. Given the weather, it might be better to be inside than out.