Kathy Hochul

Hochul Pitches Sweeping Plans on Housing, Jobs, Healthcare in State of State

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul, in her first State of the State, will deliver more than 200 pages of policy proposals

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her first State of the State address Wednesday, outlining an ambitious election-year agenda that touches virtually every geographic, demographic and socioeconomic corner of the state.

With a sprawling book of proposals more than 230 pages long, Hochul is aiming to capitalize on what she called "a moment of great possibility" to rebuild the state after two years of personal and financial devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Hochul outlined an agenda for an economic comeback from the coronavirus pandemic and new government investments in health care, housing and renewable energy.

While her plans are sweeping, they boil down to a few central themes, as outlined in a copy of her remarks released ahead of the actual speech:

  • "We must stop the current hemorrhaging of healthcare workers, and we are going to do it not just by saying we owe them a debt of gratitude but actually paying them the debt we owe"
  • "(We) will ramp up efforts to recruit and retain teachers with more effective training and support, faster and easier certification, and stronger career pipelines and ladders"
  • "We will help our small businesses stay open with targeted tax relief, and we will deliver a tax rebate to middle-class families, benefitting millions of New Yorkers"
  • "We are going to jumpstart our economic recovery by being the most business-friendly and worker-friendly state in the nation"
  • Plus a number of other plans, including tuition assistance for part-time students, a jails-to-jobs program, a crackdown on gun violence, 100,000 units of affordable housing to combat homelessness, more clean ethics technology, and ethics reform

Hochul became governor in August after Andrew Cuomo resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. She has pledged to have a better relationship with the legislature than Cuomo did, and her prepared remarks emphasized what she called "a different, better way to get things done." She also said her administration's "laser focus" is keeping kids in schools and businesses open.

Hochul, the state's first female governor, is proposing a $10 billion plan to grow the state's healthcare workforce by 20% over the next five years, saying the pandemic worsened long-simmering staffing problems.

That includes more than $4 billion to support wages and bonuses for workers in a health care sector now suffering from a high burnout rate, and $2 billion for improved healthcare infrastructure.

“We will fight like hell, not for turf, not for credit, but for New Yorkers,” Hochul said.

Hochul, the state's first female governor, delivered the speech before a limited, socially distant audience in the Assembly chamber at the New York State Capitol in Albany amid the worst surge in coronavirus infections since the virus first hit the state in the spring of 2020.

The Democrat was also announcing initiatives including a proposal to invest $1 billion in electric vehicle deployment and $500 million in offshore wind port infrastructure to meet the requirements of a sweeping state law calling for 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Such projects will power one-third of New York City with wind, solar and hydropower, Hochul said. She urged voters this November to approve a now-$4 billion bond act funding environmental projects, including climate change mitigation.

"With this investment, New York will lead the nation on offshore wind production, creating green jobs for New Yorkers, and powering our clean energy future," a statement from the governor after the speech read.

She’s also proposing $2 billion for road and bridge repairs, with a focus on replacing structures vulnerable to flooding.

To help ease the economic pain of the pandemic, Hochul wants to speed up a planned phase-in of $1.2 billion in middle class tax cuts that began in 2018. She also wants $1 billion in property tax rebates for more than two million middle-and low-income New Yorkers.

Hochul proposed nearly $1 billion in tax credits, seed funding and reduced interest rate loans for small businesses. She wants to boost broadband subsidies and access by drawing on $1 billion in public and private investments.

And with New York's eviction and moratorium set to expire mid-January, Hochul wants to offer free legal assistance for upstate New Yorkers. She said the state could help stave off homelessness by building 100,000 affordable homes and 10,000 supportive housing units for vulnerable residents.

Hochul, who is running for governor in this year's election, is also vowing to restore trust in state government.

She wants to replace the state's ethics enforcement agency, which recently has tussled with Cuomo over millions of dollars he earned writing a book while in office, and subject certain statewide elected officials, including the governor, to a two-term limit on their service and a ban on most outside income.

Other initiatives including making the state’s tuition assistance program available to part-time students and a Jails to Jobs program to help incarcerated people get and stay employed. New York should address the uptick in gun violence by boosting funding for community prevention programs and gun-tracing efforts with neighboring states, she said.

Hochul later this month is set to release her own one-year budget proposal, typically a vehicle to make big policy initiatives a reality. Lawmakers have until April to pass a state budget.

The Democratic-led Legislature and Hochul’s administration also face pressing decisions on new legislative and congressional maps, the launch of pot sales and calls for increased pandemic aid for landlords and undocumented workers.

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said lawmakers must stem rising unemployment insurance costs for small businesses, expand access to absentee ballots and fully fund statewide prekindergarten and universal childcare.

Republicans vowed to fight rising spending and blamed health care staffing shortages on vaccine mandates.

Sen. Mike Martucci, a Republican of Hudson Valley, said Hochul should repeal a bail reform law that’s helped cut jail populations. He also lamented population losses upstate.

“We have to give people a reason to choose New York, rather than a dozen more reasons to leave,” he said.

The Associated Press / NBC New York
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