January 17, 2023

New York’s State of the State Address 2023


On Tuesday, January 10, 2023 New York Governor Kathy Hochul addressed the NYS Legislature and the people of New York State in the annual State of the State Address. Governor Hochul in her speech to the audience of legislators, state leaders, and press gathered in the Assembly Chamber, Hochul outlined her plans for the next four years, putting special emphasis on public safety.

Hochul highlighted New York’s efforts on gun violence prevention, including its red flag law, raising the minimum age to 21 to purchase semi-automatic weapons, and launching a “first-in-the-nation, nine-state task force on illegal guns,” which she said took more than 10,000 illegal guns off New York streets in 2022.

She also addressed bail reform, which she called the most controversial aspect of the public safety discussion.

While standing by the goal that “the size of someone’s bank account should not determine [bail decisions]” and claiming that bail reform is not the primary driver of a national crime wave, she also said that “the bail reform law as written now leaves room for improvement” – a line that received much less applause from fellow Democrats in the chamber.

Hochul also touched on the State’s Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative, cooperation with New York City to boost office presence on subways, and an expansion of the State Police Community Stabilization Units to 25 communities around the Empire State.

But, there are other important ways to address crime too, she said, pointing to record investments in education, housing and mental health.

…since the onset of the pandemic, more than one in three New Yorkers have sought mental health care, or know someone who has. I’m declaring that the era of ignoring the needs of these individuals is over.

Hochul also made mental health a major focus of her annual address, outlining a multi-year, $ 1 billion plan to fill gaps in mental healthcare.

The multi-year plan includes:

increasing operational capacity by 1,000 beds for inpatient psychiatric treatment
creating 3,500 units of housing to serve New Yorkers with mental illness
increasing insurance coverage/reimbursement rates for mental health services
dramatically expanding outpatient services
creating systemic accountability for hospital admissions and discharges to better address the needs of individuals suffering with mental illness.

According to Hochul, “nearly 3,200 New Yorkers struggling with severe mental illness or addiction are living on the street and subways.”

She also pledged to address the ongoing opioid epidemic by working with federal and local partners to stop the flow of illicit drugs and address new deadly additives like xylazine, expanding the availability of test strips and Naloxone, and creating a new interagency task force to examine “every possible solution.”

…you can’t really talk about quality of life without talking about cost of living.

Highlighting affordability issues in New York – one of the most expensive metro areas in the nation – Governor Hochul explained the importance of Housing availability and affordability to the state’s future.

Hochul’s administration outlined New York’s housing crisis with stark data, in a recent press release:

More than half of New York renters are rent-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent – the second-highest rate in the nation.
In the New York City metro area, rents have risen 30 percent since 2015 and home prices have risen 50 percent over the same period.

In her speech, Hochul said that New York had, in the previous 10 years, “created 1.2 million jobs – but only 400,000 new homes.”

“When it comes to New York City, other metro areas are creating new housing at two to four times the rate that we are,” she said. “Boston’s rate is almost double. Washington D.C., triple. Seattle, four times.”

To address the crisis, she outlined a plan to “build 800,000 new homes over the next decade to meet the historic shortage, and support New York renters and homeowners.” However, she did not address the “elephant in the room” the issue of affordability especially to seniors that do not own their own home and rent.  Many seniors, on fixed incomes, that have lived in a place for many years are being essentially priced out of their homes by exorbitant price increases in rent of $300-$500 or more per month and soaring interest rates and prices of homes.  “While increasing housing stock is a part of the issue in dealing with housing affordability it does not address the issue of housing affordability completely and certainly does not address the issue of senior homelessness” said NYSARA President Barry A. Kaufmann.  NYSARA is hopeful that the Governor fleshes out this issue in her budget and in the coming months as it is a critical issue.

Hochul’s plan leans heavily on a new New York Housing Compact, a comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy that includes local participation requirements and incentives to achieve housing growth in every community.

Hochul’s agenda also includes plans to reduce emissions, tying sustainability back into the theme of affordability.

In addition to what she called a “nation-leading Cap-and-Invest program,” Hochul charted an ambitious plan to decarbonize and better insulate buildings in New York, echoing previous plans rolled out in New York City and Ithaca.

Building decarbonization – involves switching from natural gas or fuel oil to electric heat pumps for space and water heating, and installing induction stoves. It also entails weatherizing and retrofitting the aging housing stock, of which three-quarters was constructed before 1940.

The EmPower Plus program announced in the address will help low-income families retrofit their homes, Hochul said, by adding insulation, upgrading appliances, and switching from fossil fuels to clean electric heating systems. Homes that electrify will be eligible for a first-in-the-nation Energy Affordability Guarantee, a promise that they will never spend more than 6 percent of their income on electricity.

Hochul also proposed a plan to end the sale of any new fossil-fuel-powered heating equipment by 2030.

In Addition Hochul proposed raising the minimum wage annually and indexing that wage to inflation, helping New Yorkers address the rising cost of living.  This is in keeping with NYSARA’s longstanding activism that helped lead to to the 2008 increase in minimum wage in New York State. NYSARA thought then that the minimum wage law that increased the minimum wage was incomplete without the inflation indexing.  Now we will complete the issue.  Minimum wage IS a senior issue as 35+% of adults over 65 are still in the workforce to make ends meet many of them in minimum wage jobs and the increase in wages also contributes to the increase in money going to the Social Security and Medicare trusts, making them solvent for a longer time. Additionally the Governor addressed making child care more affordable, accessible and fair as well as infusing the State’s public schools with more funding to address the education gaps created and exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. She also proposed a major funding increase for pre kindergarten programs to insure that over 95% of all children have access.

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