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Local lawmakers react to Hochul’s 2024 agenda (video)

In her 2024 State of the State Address, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York has introduced an extensive plan, named “Our New York, Our Future.” This plan includes 204 initiatives aimed at improving affordability, livability, and safety across the state, marking a significant step in her administration’s efforts to address key issues facing New Yorkers.

One of the primary focuses of Governor Hochul’s agenda is enhancing public safety. This includes a new State Police unit to tackle retail theft, initiatives to reduce gun violence, and additional support for prosecuting domestic abuse cases. The plan also proposes legislative changes to address hate crimes and illegal cannabis storefronts.

Mental health, a growing concern in New York, is another critical area of focus. The Governor’s plan includes opening new psychiatric inpatient beds and establishing a coordination team between law enforcement and mental health professionals. Additionally, there are plans to improve mental health courts and specialist support in hospitals.

Youth mental health is a particular area of emphasis. Following the 2023 Youth Mental Health Summit, the state aims to provide more resources for schools to establish mental health clinics and to create treatment teams for young people across the state. There are also proposals to enhance support for mental health practitioners working with children and to hold social media companies more accountable.

Healthcare transformation is also on the agenda. Governor Hochul aims to expand affordable healthcare options, continue fighting the opioid crisis, and bolster support for healthcare providers, including enhancing cybersecurity measures. The plan also seeks to improve access to mental health and addiction services.

Consumer protection and affordability are key themes, following recent minimum wage increases. The Governor proposes expanding consumer protection laws, introducing fair treatment legislation for loan providers, and expanding paid medical and disability leave. Additionally, there are plans to eliminate insulin co-pays for state-regulated health insurance plans and to address issues surrounding medical debt.

Addressing the housing crisis is another significant aspect of the agenda. This includes incentivizing housing construction in New York City, creating a fund for housing on state-owned land, strengthening programs to combat housing discrimination, and making it easier for New York City to increase residential density in certain projects.

Economic growth and innovation are also prioritized. The plan introduces Empire AI to harness the potential of artificial intelligence, establishes training centers for advanced manufacturing, and expands the FAST NY program to boost business attraction efforts. There’s also support for immigrant entrepreneurs and an expansion of the state workforce.

In terms of environmental initiatives, the Governor emphasizes the importance of energy affordability and protecting the environment. Her plan includes new legislation for gas system transition planning and a simplified process for renewable energy permitting. There’s also an initiative to bring solar energy benefits to more households and significant investments in climate resilience and disaster response.

Educational initiatives feature prominently in the Governor’s plan. These include direct admissions to SUNY and CUNY for top students, mandatory FAFSA completion for high school seniors, addressing food insecurity among college students, and a new approach to improving reading proficiency based on the “Science of Reading.”

Support for children, families, and inclusive communities is another area of focus. The agenda includes a significant Medicaid initiative, a comprehensive maternal and infant health agenda, and enhanced child care support. It also expands services for diverse communities, including LGBTQ+ and veterans.

Finally, the plan supports New York’s agricultural industry and community engagement. It proposes financial support for the dairy industry, development programs for the agricultural workforce, and the launch of the Office of Service and Civic Engagement to foster community service and engagement.

Response to Hochul’s address: “The state of our state is unsustainable”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay said Hochul’s address was typical of past state of the state’s. “Heavy on substance and light on substance,” he said. “Gov. Hochul has been offering glimpses of her policy priorities for more than a week. Generally speaking, I agree with some of those ideas. But what we’re still waiting for is a plan that facilitates a dramatic course correction on affordability, quality of life and outmigration. Improving maternal and infant health, expanding recreational opportunities, offering greater protections to consumers and getting better performance out of New York’s public schools are all measures on which we agree. But what we didn’t hear today is what should alarm New Yorkers. With a $4 billion budget gap, there was no commitment to keep state spending in check. Illegal migrants are crossing the southern border in droves, but New York has yet to figure out how to properly handle the ongoing influx.”

He said despite New York owning the nation’s worst outmigration numbers the Governor’s plan lacked any measures to ease financial pressures faced by businesses or families. “Today, we heard the governor’s general vision and vague goals for the coming year. I’m looking forward to the Executive Budget address next week when hopefully she’ll present a detailed, comprehensive plan that addresses the real issues New Yorkers are dealing with.”

State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats) echoed those sentiments shared by Barclay, and expanded on some of them. “New York State is not stronger, safer, or more affordable under Governor Hochul and the Albany Democrats, and there’s no turnaround in sight. Governor Hochul highlighted the affordability crisis we face in New York State but she’s putting forth a broad agenda that will only keep making New York a more expensive state in which to live, work, do business, raise a family, and pay taxes,” he said. “There’s no let-up for the middle class under all-Democrat, one-party control of New York government. Albany Democrats ignore the middle class in favor of a politically driven, hard-left roadmap continuing to mandate huge state spending handouts that keep wiping out any realistic hope for a long-term, sustainable, thriving future for upstate, middle-class communities, economies, families, workers, and taxpayers.”

State Sen. Pam Helming (R-Canandaigua) said the state should be focused on leading the nation in affordability. “I love New York. I am a proud New Yorker. We have tremendous strengths, powerful assets, and remarkable beauty. But we are squandering our future on misguided laws, unrealistic policies, and costly mandates,” she said. “We should be leading the nation in affordability, public safety, and economic opportunity. Instead, we are leading the nation in taxation and population loss. The state of our state is unsustainable. It doesn’t have to be this way. I will continue to do my part to make New York stronger.”