Hochul wins a round on the Albany battlefield


In this world, when you are presented with an opportunity to advance in some field, you often only get one chance. But when it comes to politics and you’re the governor of New York, you get four chances to succeed at the job. Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul got her second chance to present her blueprint for the future, and she succeeded in winning over many of the state’s skeptics.

At the outset of her State of the State address, Hochul made it clear to the 212 members of the Legislature that all of the federal Covid money had been spent, and if they had any plans to spend billions more of it, the cupboard was bare. Despite her warnings, there is no doubt that she will be bombarded by the Legislature with multiple requests for money that the state doesn’t have.

Hochul made numerous proposals, but I’ll try to single out a few that are worth discussing. Currently, there is a great deal of discussion about the pros and cons of artificial intelligence, but few organizations are doing in-depth research into its best uses. The governor has proposed a first-in-the-nation $275 million consortium that aims to leverage public and private-sector research into this very complex subject.

Over the years, New York state has spent billions on economic development, but there have been few major success stories for any governor to brag about. Thanks to a Biden administration program, the state is getting a $5 billion grant that will be used for a major chip manufacturing plant in central New York, which will provide 10,000 jobs, and possibly more. The state will help advance that program, which may attract other job opportunities.

One of the governor’s priorities that ran into heated opposition last year was her housing program. She had suggested that local zoning be overridden, and that thousands of units of new housing be built without community input. The proposal drew heated opposition from elected officials, and Hochul wisely dropped the suburban portion of the plan. This time around, she focused on incentives for New York City housing, which is more likely to generate support.

This past year, there was a lot of discussion of the issue of New Yorkers leaving the state for other places to live. There’s no doubt that high taxes have driven quite a few people to Florida and Texas, which have no income tax. But Hochul discussed a new state survey that shows that many New Yorkers are moving to Connecticut and New Jersey as well, where they can find affordable housing. That applies especially to places like Long Island, where many young people can’t afford to live.

It’s no secret that New York, like many other states, has failed to provide enough support services for people with emotional issues. This is especially true for our young people who suffer from problems created by social media. The governor announced a number of programs that will offer more services for troubled adults and high school students. Many of the crimes we read about involve people released from state or city institutions with no after-care. This headache goes back as far the early 1980s, and at least for now, there is a promise for more state action.

In her address, Hochul took the opportunity to boast about the large amount of funding that has been devoted to the suburbs. Topping the list is last year’s $2 billion in education aid, which helped keep school taxes from rising in many districts. She also reminded her audience about the millions being spent on such roadways as the Long Island Expressway and others that have been repaved.

All in all, Hochul did a great job in her second opportunity to meet the Albany establishment since she was elected in her own right. There is no doubt that the road ahead will be bumpy, because the Legislature has its own priorities. But the State of the State was her chance to shine, and she succeeded in enhancing her standing with taxpayers.

Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?