Local officials seek details in Hochul’s State of the State plans
ALBANY — Following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State 2023 address, local representatives are calling for more specificity in how she plans to address the issues she identified.
Hochul gave her State of the State 2023 address on Tuesday, Jan. 10. In her remarks, she laid out her plans to address public safety concerns by amending bail reform laws and increasing funding for mental health, and her plans to make New York more affordable, by pegging minimum wage to inflation, developing a plan to increase housing, proposing policies to help low-income families insulate their houses and install clean electric heating systems, among others.
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said he does understand that speeches like this cannot include every specific detail of all of the proposals and initiatives, but he was hoping for more than what Hochul provided in her address.
“Bail reform is the most volatile and stinging issue that we’re facing, and while she said that it needs improvement, she didn’t say anything about what that would be,” he said. “Right now we’re trying to go through the briefing book that has a little more detail, but even in there, there’s not too much that I’m seeing right now.”
Picente said that mental health services are extremely important and he’s glad to see that $1 billion is allocated for mental health, but that the state itself is to blame for the shortages in mental health care.
The state has been shutting down state-funded residential mental health care facilities. In 2020, 1,000 beds in psychiatric treatment facilities were shuttered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s more to it than just replacing the beds they took away and having more services available, but also having a greater plan of how counties can work to address it as well and where’s that funding going to go, what services are going to be provided or expanded? Picente asked. “And the big issue is, where do we find the people to do this, because we’re all struggling. I thought that the governor would also touch on … public sector jobs, which are also diminishing. Especially in the area of law enforcement, public safety and human services and healthcare.”
Picente said that he would like to work with Hochul’s office, but there has been minimal communication and interaction between her office and the county.
“We’re always willing to work together, it’s our goal to make things better, but it’s a two-way street,” Picente said. “When we ask for help and don’t get it, that becomes a problem. … We have to stop treating it like, now she’s elected, I mean she’s been the governor for the last 18 months. And in that time, she needed to reach out. In that time period, she’s only been in this county once. That’s got to improve. The upstate presence in total has to improve.”
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo R-Rome, said that he is prepared to work with Hochul and to examine her proposals with an open mind as the legislative session and work on the state budget begin.
“While I am pleased that the governor has proposed addressing the flawed changes made to the state’s bail law and providing more support for our neglected mental health system, I question if she will actually push for rather than merely propose the common-sense changes that need to be made to address the issues affecting our state,” Griffo said in a statement.
However, Griffo expressed his concern with Hochul’s proposals surrounding housing, because they do not allow for much input from local governments. He also criticized the governor’s proposed energy policies for being unrealistic and unreasonable in the given time period.
Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon D-Marcy, said she is relieved that the governor has committed to addressing public safety and bail reform, mental health services and the affordability of child care.
“However, there were proposals that are concerning to me as they will not benefit the people I represent,” Buttenschon said in a statement. “Some include; mandates on local governments, affordable housing and building requirements are contradictory, minimum wage increases for our small business. I will work to address these and other issues during this year’s legislative session.”
Assemblyman Brian Miller R-New Hartford called for Hochul to lay out steps to address the issues she mentioned in her address and to improve the lives of New Yorkers.
“However, is she willing to really go after the changes needed to make our communities safe again, like meaningful changes to bail reform?” Miller said in a statement. “Out-migration is also a real issue as people can’t afford to live here anymore, in part due to the burdensome regulations and taxes that are imposed on New Yorkers.”
Hochul also unveiled a plan to create more affordable housing, partly by pressuring municipalities to get rid of bureaucratic red tape and ease land-use rules that have made it tough to build multifamily housing, particularly in New York City’s suburbs. The plan, she said, if adopted by lawmakers could spur the creation of 800,000 new homes over the next decade.
On housing, the Hochul administration said the failure to build enough homes has resulted in high rents, out-of-reach home prices and workers leaving for more affordable states. While the state added 1.2 million jobs in the last decade, only 400,000 homes were built. The goal for the next decade will be to double that, she said.
Under the plan, localities will have a target for building new homes. Targets for upstate municipalities would be for the housing stock to grow by 1% every three years, and 3% every three years for downstate areas.
“Local governments can meet these targets any way they want. They can shape building capacity, they can redevelop old malls, old buildings, office parks, incentivize new housing production or just update the zoning rules to reduce barriers,” Hochul said.
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