Hochul vows New York will conquer COVID, ensure strong economic recovery in first State of the State

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Kathy Hochul
    Governor of New York
  • Andrew Cuomo
    Andrew Cuomo
    56th Governor of New York

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Hochul laid out her vision for New York’s future on Wednesday, using her first major address to pitch policy proposals and promise better days despite COVID’s unclenching grasp.

Unexpectedly elevated to the state’s top post following the scandal-sparked resignation of Andrew Cuomo in August, Hochul struck an optimistic tone as she outlined her agenda for the year and sought to ease pandemic fears.

“My fellow New Yorkers, this agenda is for you,” Hochul said as she spoke from the Assembly chamber in the State Capitol. “Every single initiative is filtered through the lens of how it’ll help you and your families, because I know you’re exhausted. I know you want this pandemic to be over. I know you’re worried about the economy, inflation, your kids, their education and what the future holds.”

The state’s sky-high number of COVID cases colored much of Hochul’s plans as she focused on boosting health care workers, addressing the impacts of the pandemic on local businesses and stemming New York’s economic decline.

Hochul called for a $10 billion investment in an effort to increase the state’s health care workforce by 20% over the next five years.

Funds would be used for pay raises, bonuses and cost-of-living increases, as well as $2 billion dedicated to improving physical infrastructure and lab capacity. Under Hochul’s plan, New York would also offer free college tuition for students in high-demand health fields and loan forgiveness for doctors and nurses who choose to work in underserved areas.

“To confront this pandemic and prepare for the future, we will support the men and women who have been on the front lines from the very beginning and who will help keep New Yorkers healthy long after this crisis is over,” she said.

Hochul also pitched small business relief, tax incentives for COVID-related purchases and other policies, including permanently allowing restaurants and bars to sell alcoholic drinks to-go.

“This is how we will begin to help healthcare workers, educators, small businesses, farms and families deal with the devastating economic impacts of COVID,” she added.

Vowing to jumpstart the state’s stalled economy, Hochul said she her administration will take a seemingly contradictory “business-friendly and worker-friendly” approach.

An outline of Hochul’s proposals included incentives for venture-backed start-ups to stay in or relocate to New York and $100 million in relief funds for 195,000 small businesses.

Hochul is also calling for a $1.2 billion tax cut for middle-class earners, introduced under Cuomo in 2018, to be implemented ahead of an initial 2025 goal.

She also supports repealing the state’s 421-a tax abatement for builders and called for increased housing for the homeless.

While she steered clear of calling for a repeal of the state’s controversial bail reforms that have limited the use of cash bail, Hochul said addressing gun violence will be a priority. She plans to increase the use of “community-based, public-health-centered violence intervention programs” and wants the State Police to work more closely with local law enforcement.

Hochul’s agenda also includes a host of climate-related initiatives, including $500 million for investments in offshore wind port infrastructure and supply chains, and calls for the completion of infrastructure projects across the state.

While few new projects were presented, the governor called on the MTA to revive a plan to repurpose 14 miles of rail lines between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights in Queens for the “Interborough Express.”

Hochul sought to distance herself from her predecessor, known for his combative approach to negotiating with the Legislature, as she called on lawmakers to work together for the good of the state.

“The days of governors disregarding the rightful role of this legislature are over,” she said. “The days of the governor of New York and mayor of New York City wasting time on petty rivalries are over. The days of New Yorkers questioning whether their government is actually working for them are over.”

The Buffalo native became the first woman to serve as governor of the Empire State after Cuomo, facing likely impeachment, stepped down following the release of a bombshell report detailing sexual harassment allegations against him.

Hochul has repeatedly vowed to help clear Albany of its long-standing reputation as a bastion of corruption and scandal by implementing ethics overhauls and boosting transparency.

To that end, she is proposing term limits for statewide officials and looking to bar most outside income for top electeds.

She also called for scrapping the state’s much-maligned ethics panel in favor of a new commission that would oversee complaints against elected officials.

“None of these changes will fix our government overnight and having these safeguards in place won’t mean those of us in elected office won’t stumble or make honest mistakes,” Hochul said. “But by putting much-needed reforms in place, we can at least begin to restore public trust by focusing on what really matters to our residents.”

Hochul’s speech and legislative agenda come as she prepares for her first Legislative session as governor and budget negotiations get underway in the coming months.

It is also an election year with the Democratic primary scheduled for late June.

While Attorney General Letitia James chose to run for reelection rather than challenge Hochul, the governor will still face primary opponents who will push her on policies and her handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-L.I.) wasted no time in attacking Hochul ahead of her address on Wednesday.

“We have the highest taxes in America, our crime rate is increasing, and more people have left NYS over the past year than any other state in the US,” he tweeted. “Later today, the interim Governor will try to paint a rosy picture & offer up a slew of new promises.

"All while playing catch up on Covid, creating chaos in schools, a mess in testing and turning the Governor’s office into her personal ATM for her political campaign,” he added.

Hochul also faced criticism from protesters who gathered outside the Capitol as the governor laid out her plans. Flag-waving demonstrators braved the chilly Albany weather to cheer speakers who railing against vaccine and mask mandates implemented in recent months.

The governor defended her pandemic response, touting testing and vaccination sites set up in recent weeks as the omicron variant sent cases surging while the state has so far allowed schools and businesses to remain open.

“New York always rises from the ashes,” she said. “That is why I believe that this is not a moment of despair, but a moment of great possibility. Because while we are in the midst of an all-consuming crisis, we must also remember that if we make the right choices, right now, it will end.

“We are attacking this virus head-on, armed with a tactical, science-based approach and we are ready for whatever comes next,” she added.

"But first, we must weather the storm around us. That means controlling this virus and not letting it control us."

______

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting