In her third State of the State address, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday laid out her vision for the coming legislative session and described objectives that often were more of a reflection of her moderate roots than the state’s recent progressive slant.
She made crime a focal point, while barely mentioning the migrant crisis that has overwhelmed New York City. Affordable housing, which was a key element of last year’s address, was still a priority, but she acknowledged the need to overcome the widespread opposition that doomed her housing proposal last year.
There was also no mention of taxing the rich to offset the looming budget crisis.
Her speech in front of state lawmakers struck a pragmatic, if slightly pessimistic, tone, assuring New York residents that she sees “light on the horizon” despite the state’s woes, which include the rising cost of living, the climate crisis and an increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Here are some takeaways from her address:
Ms. Hochul framed her approach to crime around prevention.
She invoked as an example the stabbing of two teenage tourists at Grand Central Terminal on Christmas Day by a man with a long history of criminal acts and mental illness.
“We can no longer wait for someone to lash out and hurt someone before we take action,” she said, “because by then it’s already too late.”
The governor said she would build on the mental health services she introduced last year by increasing the number of available inpatient psychiatric beds to 200, creating additional mental health courts and providing housing for people with criminal histories and mental illness. Ms. Hochul said she hoped those measures would help address untreated mental health problems before they affected public safety.
And while high-profile incidents like the Grand Central stabbing attract the most attention, Ms. Hochul said, most victims of violent crimes are harmed by people they know.
Noting that the dismissal rates for domestic violence cases in New York are high, the governor said she would provide funding to local prosecutors across the state to identify and prosecute “high-risk” domestic violence cases while protecting survivors.
The governor also said there had been a 95 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war in October, and that Islamophobic hate crimes were also on the rise. In response, she proposed advancing legislation that would expand the list of acts that can be prosecuted as hate crimes.
Ms. Hochul proposed several plans to broaden access to health care in New York, including by supporting substance abuse services and eliminating co-payments for insulin.
She sought to cast expanded access to mental health care as a key facet of her approach. In particular, she took several minutes to discuss the mental health of children and young people who are increasingly affected by “the scourge of social media.”
“When schools closed during the pandemic, kids turned to social media to stay connected with friends and family, but darkness lives on those platforms,” Ms. Hochul said. “The algorithms that make social media so addictive push that darkness onto young users.”
Ms. Hochul’s plan to improve the overall mental health of young New Yorkers takes aim at social media and tech companies. Social media platforms, the governor said, should be required to restrict children’s access to some of their most addictive features and should be prohibited from collecting, using and sharing personal data from minors without certain forms of consent. Her proposed legislation includes penalties of up to $5,000 for companies that fail to comply.
Additionally, Ms. Hochul highlighted a plan to establish and fund mental health clinics “in any school that wants one.”
Ms. Hochul referred to the damaging rainstorms, intense heat and wildfire smoke that struck New York last year as the “new normal,” with the state warming faster than the national average. The governor called for more assistance from the federal government while pledging to protect housing and infrastructure from flooding and other climate-related damage. She said the state would offer voluntary buyouts for homeowners to move out of high-risk areas and would develop a plan to adapt to extreme weather while shoring up its disaster response systems.
She also promised to lead New York into a more sustainable future, including by creating a more efficient and cleaner energy grid and more affordable utility bills for residents, planting 25 million trees in the next decade and curbing the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The migrant crisis, which has strained state and New York City resources since it began in earnest over a year ago, received one brief mention in Ms. Hochul’s address.
With Mayor Eric Adams in attendance, Ms. Hochul made only a passing acknowledgment of the issue that Mr. Adams and other city officials have struggled to manage.
Mr. Adams said on Tuesday that he had met with the governor a few weeks ago about the migrant crisis and that he remained confident that they were on the same page, but described the situation as a “real financial burden.” The mayor, who has estimated that caring for the migrants will cost the city $12 billion over three years, said he planned to work with the governor to come to an agreement about the amount of migrant-related funding that would be allocated to the city in the state’s budget, set to be announced next week.
“I’m not disappointed. She acknowledged the fact that she’s going to be talking about the asylum issue in her budget,” Mr. Adams said, adding later: “She has been open with her team to try to resolve this issue.”
Ms. Hochul said housing, a topic often cited as one of the failures of the previous legislative session, would once again be a top priority in 2024. An affordability crisis driven by a severe shortage of all types of housing, she said, was causing New Yorkers to flee the state in record numbers, subsequently limiting the revenue earned in New York and diminishing the state’s influence in Congress.
“The only thing that will solve this problem is building hundreds and hundreds of thousands of homes,” she said.
Last year, Ms. Hochul vowed to build more homes in the suburbs and to update an expired tax break program known as 421-a that would make apartments more affordable to rent. But by the end of the legislative session, neither of those goals had been accomplished, and on Tuesday, Ms. Hochul blamed the Legislature for failing to embrace her proposals.
In 2024, Ms. Hochul promised to push for toned-down versions of her 2023 proposals and called for expanded tenant protections, the legalization of basement apartments, and the removal of what she said were “outdated” restrictions on residential density in New York City.