Hochul Unveils Her State of the State Agenda

Good morning. It’s Tuesday, the day Gov. Kathy Hochul is to deliver her State of the State address. We’ll find out what to listen for.

January is a time for setting goals and agendas. Gov. Kathy Hochul spent the past week outlining the themes for the State of the State Message she will deliver today. Here’s a recap of the main proposals she has discussed:

Last year there were tensions in Albany: Legislative leaders said Hochul, a moderate Democrat, had stood in the way of a deal on housing initiatives. Left-leaning Democrats in the Legislature also clashed with her over issues ranging from the state’s bail laws to her nominee to be the state’s top judge. Today those Democrats will be listening for indications that Hochul will be receptive to policy concessions this time around.

I asked Grace Ashford, who covers state government for the Metro desk, to assess Hochul’s proposed agenda — and tell us what she will be listening for.

How forward-looking is her agenda?

There is a lot the governor is hoping to address in her agenda this year.

One of her most exciting and unusual proposals is for the new A.I. consortium. It aims to make New York a leader in the A.I. landscape by connecting research institutions with funding from the state to create a supercomputing facility. The goal is to make A.I. technology, which is now dominated by big tech companies, available for research in the public interest.

How quickly can that come together?

That depends on a lot of factors, from tech to security to getting the Legislature on board. She is hoping to allocate $250 million to get started as soon as possible, with another $25 million to be allocated over the next 10 years on behalf of SUNY.

This proposal stands out from the others that dribbled out last week for its futuristic focus. The others are intended to address serious but longstanding problems that New Yorkers are facing.

Such as?

Take disparities in maternal health. There have been attempts to address them before, but the imbalances persist.

In New York City, for instance, Black women are nine times as likely as white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth.

New York State is not last in the nation on this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious issue. Hochul has made clear that as the first female governor, it’s something she takes seriously and personally.

Her first-in-the-nation prenatal leave would expand the state’s existing family leave policy, but it would be only for 40 hours, specifically so women could take time off from work to go to the doctor without compromising their income or losing a job.

What kind of a fight will Hochul’s proposals face in the State Legislature?

Each one will be different. Maternal health is something both chambers have made clear is a priority for them.

Beyond that, proposals that don’t come with a huge dollar figure tend to be an easier sell. That’s because New York, for the first time in Hochul’s tenure, is facing a significant budget deficit this year. Lawmakers will have to factor that in as they decide which proposals make the cut.

The governor has resisted raising taxes, which is a common solution to a budget shortfall. That leaves cuts in programs and services, which are never popular. So you’ll hear lawmakers say there are a lot of great ideas. It’s just about which get prioritized.

It’s also important to note that the biggest fight we’re expecting this session is about housing.

But she didn’t mention housing when she previewed the themes of her speech last week.

That’s right.

Last year, she made housing a signature element of her vision for the state and was not able to get it done. The version she pitched included mandates for increasing density in the suburbs. Lawmakers from those areas united in opposition.

She has said she does not intend to push the exact same thing this year, but she also can’t exactly walk away from one of the biggest issues facing the state.

We’ve seen the leaders of Assembly and the State Senate signal in their opening speeches that they want housing to be a priority. So I think we can assume we’ll see a fight on this and specifically a renewed focus on “good cause eviction,” which would make additional tenant protections part of state law. The real estate industry has resisted the concept.

This is an election year, not for the governor but for the 150 members of the Assembly and the 63 in the State Senate, and also for members of Congress. How will election-year politics affect what happens to Hochul’s proposed agenda?

That will be top of mind for Democrats, whose vision for retaking Congress runs directly through New York State. They’re looking to avoid controversy, and that will inform their approach to issues like public safety — concerns about crime and the way the criminal justice system functions — and, again, housing.

What else will you be listening for?

The governor didn’t say anything last week about the migrant crisis, a concern for Mayor Eric Adams of New York City. So it will be interesting to see how she approaches that.

On climate, New York passed a very ambitious bill in 2019, laying out a series of goals, the first of which comes due in 2030. It’s not at all clear that we’re on track to meet those goals, and most people agree that doing so is going to take more investment and a greater degree of public support.

It’s worth nothing that in past years, Hochul included some individual environmental proposals, such as banning natural gas connections in new construction, in her State of the State addresses. Whether she does so again this year, and to what extent, will tell us how concerned she is about meeting the state’s environmental goals.


Weather

Expect a rainy afternoon and temperatures in the low 50s. Heavier rain is possible late, with strong winds reaching as high as 31 miles per hour.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

In effect until Monday (Martin Luther King’s Birthday).



METROPOLITAN diary

Dear Diary:

My son and I were riding the Bx12 bus home to Manhattan after a day at the Bronx Zoo. It was crowded, and the traffic on Fordham Road was moving at the usual glacial pace.

Sitting across from us were a boy and girl, both around 7 years old. They were eating mango slices out of plastic cups and breaking the silence of the bus with an animated conversation in Spanish.

Suddenly, the bus hit a bump, and the girl’s mango flew all over the floor.

With a brief moan of disappointment, she began to pick up the mango pieces. As she did, her brother cackled, drawing the attention of most of the passengers.

It took the girl some time to pick up the scattered fruit. When she was done, a man sitting several rows toward the front made his way back to her.

“I’d like to buy that mango from you,” he said.

He handed her a $5 bill and took the cup of mango she had gathered off the floor.

“Get yourself another one,” he said.

— Jude Ziliak

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Yesterday I put the wrong character in the red Jaguar in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of “Carmen.” It is Escamillo, not Don José.