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Hochul to deliver third State of the State speech Tuesday

Susan Watts
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will outline her priorities to the state’s lawmakers and the public in her third State of the State speech on Tuesday.

The governor is expected to, among other things, focus on easing the state’s affordable housing crisis.

Hochul said her priorities for 2024 include easing the state’s affordable housing crunch.

“We're talking about housing,” she said on Jan. 2. “It will be an important part of it.”

This is the second time Hochul has tried to implement a wide-ranging housing plan. Last year, the Legislature rejected her proposal to build 800,000 new housing units over a 10-year period.

Democratic lawmakers from suburban regions objected to Hochul’s inclusion of housing construction quotas for municipalities, while progressive-leaning Democrats did not want to agree to a plan that did not include tenant protections, known as the Good Cause Evictions Act.

“We are approaching this once again, and hoping that the Legislature will work with us, again, to focus on supply,” Hochul said. “We build more supply, prices go down, more people will stay.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the governor, the Legislature, and housing stakeholders have to double down on efforts to compromise.

“Whether you're a developer or housing advocate, a person in government, I think everybody's going to have to sit at the table, and maybe not walk away with everything that you wanted to get,” Heastie said. “We all have to sit down and figure it out.”

The state enters 2024 with a $4.3 billion budget deficit. The governor and Legislature will have to make decisions about what programs might have to be cut, and whether new taxes need to be imposed.

Any efforts to limit health care spending will be met with opposition from the powerful alliance of the health care workers union SEIU1199 and the Greater New York Hospital Association. The groups have already begun a television advertising campaign to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates that they say are hurting services and staffing at hospitals.

The Greater New York Hospital Association’s Ken Raske spoke Monday at a rally at the Capitol.

“We need the hospitals to get paid their cost of care,” Raske said. "It seems so simple to me.”

Progressive Democrats in the Legislature said taxes should be increased on the wealthy to help close the gap. Hochul said she does not support that idea.

NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins meets with the media on January 8, 2024
Karen DeWitt NYS Public Radio
NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins meets with the media on January 8, 2024

In the waning days of 2023, Hochul vetoed several measures that the Legislature had approved earlier in the year, including an update to the state’s wrongful death statute, and a change to allow more donations to qualify for the state’s public campaign finance matching fund program.

That caused some resentment from key state lawmakers who sponsored the bills. The governor’s communications director amplified the disagreement by labeling some of the measures as “extreme.”

Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins downplayed any differences, saying there are no hard feelings lingering from the vetoes.

Heastie said some of the measures will be reintroduced, with the hope of reaching an agreement with the governor before they are voted on.

“You go back and you try to see if you can make some amendments that will be palatable to all parties,” Heastie said. “You just start all over again in the new year.”

And that new year gets underway in earnest with the governor’s speech at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.