As inflation continues to squeeze New Yorkers, lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul are pledging to address affordability in the state, making it a key issue as the spending plan is debated over the next several weeks.
From housing to taxes, as well as wages, affordability concerns have been highlighted by state officials, who have acknowledged the financial burden on the state’s residents.
Hochul this year wants to address the increasing cost of housing, which has had a significant impact on New Yorkers. Her budget includes measures meant to expand housing to drive down rents and the costs facing first-time homebuyers, with a goal of creating 800,000 new housing units in the coming years.
To achieve this, she wants to have qualifying projects bypass local officials if they meet criteria but face community opposition, as well as encourage development around commuter rail stations.
Opposing new housing can have a detrimental effect on the state as a whole, Hochul said this week. “That’s not how you grow, it’s how you stagnate,” she said. “We cannot live in a state that stagnates and that’s why we have to lean in to these bold objectives.”
But there are concerns among lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, who argues that the cost of living is driving people out of the state.
“The single biggest threat to the state of New York is the outmigration of our human capital,” he said. “It’s the loss of future generations of workers, of investors, of employers, taxpayers.”
Ortt has concerns with Hochul’s budget, including a payroll tax in the New York City area to shore up mass transit, as well as a Medicaid cost shift to counties that he says could drive up property taxes.
“This is going to have an absolute impact,” he said. “It’s going to blow holes in almost every county budget out there.”
Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins also have concerns, including a proposal that would raise tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities by linking it to the higher education price index. The increases would not affect students who qualify for Excelsior and tuition assistance programs.
“Affordability is something that we very, very much care about, and so of course there are concerns around tuition at this time,” Stewart-Cousins said.
Another area of debate is the minimum wage. Hochul wants to index future raises to inflation, while lawmakers and advocates are calling for an increase to $21.25 to help low-income people.
“That will always be a conversation we will have — how do we raise the floor for our lowest wage workers?” Stewart-Cousins said. “You have to be able to take care of your family as you’re taking care of others.”
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