Governor Kathy Hochul gave her second State of the State Address speech on Tuesday, January 10th in the Assembly Chamber in the Capitol in Albany. The 45-minute speech was Governor Hochul’s opportunity to outline the policy plans her office has for 2023. The Governor’s plans and possible changes to the law that might occur will have a huge impact on New York City and it appeared the governor had those plans at the forefront of her mind.
New York City has been plagued with crime and a lot of it has been blamed on bail reform laws passed by the Democrats in 2019. There have been repeated calls for changes to the laws and it appears as though Governor Hochul heeded those calls. She said she wanted to make work easier for the judges by removing the “least restrictive” test. This adjustment will give the judges more discretion when deciding whether or not to grant bail. This was likely to appease all the parties who were against the bail reform laws. However, the progressive Democrats will probably not support the move.
Governor Hochul said she wants to fix the housing problem and she wants to do so by building 800,000 housing units over the next ten years. An area significant for this development is Long Island. She intends to remove laws that ban multi-family homes. Governor Hochul also intends on removing restrictions that hinder the zoning process in areas close to subways and railroad lines. “New York faces a housing crisis that requires bold actions and an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Governor Hochul said. “Every community in New York must do their part to encourage housing growth to move our State forward and keep our economy strong. The New York Housing Compact is a comprehensive plan to spur the changes needed to create more housing, meet rising demand, and make our state a more equitable, stable, and [an] affordable place to live.”
Governor Hochul spoke of increasing New York’s minimum wage. Her plan is for it to increase every year. The increases would not be determined by the governor and legislators, but it would automatically increase depending on the rate of inflation. Governor Hochul sought to implement this to ensure the workers in New York are economically protected and do not fall further behind the prices of goods. “If costs go up, so will wages,” she said. “Like other states that have implemented this policy, we will put guardrails in place to make increases predictable for employers and create flexibility in the event of a recession.” However, it was reported that Governor Hochul suggested there would be a cap on the wage increase.
“Public safety is my top priority,” Governor Hochul said. “I am committed to using every tool at my disposal to protect the people of this state, crack down on gun violence and violent crime, and invest in proven solutions that keep New Yorkers safe.”
Governor Hochul proposed an expansion plan for the New York State Police Community Stabilization Units. She intends to improve trooper participation in federal task forces. Another one of her goals is to improve the State Police numbers by offering four academy classes. An increase in funding for the Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative and for district attorneys is also on the cards.
Governor Hochul intends on catering to the needs of New Yorkers experiencing mental health problems. Her multi-year plan includes adding an extra 1,000 beds for inpatient psychiatric treatment. She also plans on creating 3,500 housing units for citizens with mental illness. Governor Hochul feels that insurance coverage and outpatient services for the mentally ill should be expanded or improved. The investment in mental healthcare will reportedly amount to $1 billion.
“When it comes to protecting New Yorkers’ well-being, strengthening our mental health care system is essential and long overdue,” Governor Hochul said. “We have underinvested in mental health care for so long, and allowed the situation to become so dire, that it has become a public safety crisis, as well. This proposal marks a monumental shift to make sure no one falls through the cracks and to finally and fully meet the mental health needs of all New Yorkers.”
The governor aims to improve childcare in the state. She looks to make childcare more accessible, affordable, and fairer to citizens. This is in line with the childcare legislation passed by Mayor Eric Adams that was reported on by LittleAfrica News. Governor Hochul aims to streamline and centralize the childcare application process. “As someone who had to put their career on pause because of a lack of affordable childcare options, I understand how important this lifeline is for families,” Governor Hochul said. “While we have made major investments to boost childcare funding, there are still too many families who aren’t able to access these resources. That is why we are taking critical steps to improve the process of finding childcare, widen program eligibility, and support our childcare workforce.”
Climate Change and the Environment
“As we work to drive down polluting emissions across the board, we must make sure that those who have already suffered from environmental injustice no longer bear an unfair share of the burden,” Governor Hochul said. “Our ambitious Cap-and-Invest Program sets a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and shares the revenues with New Yorkers from disadvantaged communities to help cover utility bills, transportation costs, and decarbonization efforts. Through our innovative efforts, we will create a cleaner, greener future while helping New Yorkers with the costs of the transition.”
The Cap-and-Invest Program will be an opportunity for New Yorkers to make investments in clean energy while supporting those in vulnerable or disadvantaged communities.
Governor Hochul also announced plans that have proved to be unpopular. During her speech, she said that tuition fees would go up at the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY), and other institutions of higher education in Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, and Stony Brook. A 3% increase has been proposed for SUNY and CUNY while increases of up to 6% will be made for the latter-mentioned institutions. This has left students unhappy. “The pandemic has made things hard for students already,” said Salimatou Doumbouya, an architecture student at New York City College of Technology and chair of the CUNY University Student Senate. “A tuition hike does not help at all.”
Governor Hochul also announced plans to ban the future installation and use of gas furnaces and stoves in new buildings. This is in an effort to reduce emissions and the carbon footprint caused by fossil fuels. The governor’s intention to ban the use of gas equipment will affect construction, restaurant, and other industries. The backlash has been forthcoming from the fossil fuel industry. “Governor Hochul’s plan on electrification will take away New Yorkers’ freedom to choose how they heat their homes, cook, and drive,” said Rocco J. Lacertosa, CEO of the New York State Energy Coalition, Inc.
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