This year’s budget process was an opportunity for newly elected Governor Kathy Hochul to show she has the chops to get the job done.
Unfortunately, with the exception of a few victories, she was mostly rolled by the powerful, leftist, progressive lobby controlling the Democratic Party in the state.
SPENDING WAY UP
Governor Hochul and the legislature settled on a $229 billion budget, which is 30% higher than the $175 billion budget the state lived with just three years ago. The state pumped in an additional 10% funding for schools — mostly unnecessary, as many districts are still flush with Covid money that was barely used to combat the pandemic.
The pending base is extraordinarily high, and, when these federal funds dry up, the state will be in a fiscal crisis, forcing massive cuts or huge tax increases.
CHARTER SCHOOL DEFEAT
The governor laudably sought 100 new charter schools. In the end, she got a paltry fourteen. This was a white flag surrender to the teachers’ unions. It was also an illustration of her political weakness.
Former Governor George Pataki brought charters to New York by using it as a bargaining chip in the legislature’s quest for a pay raise. Last year, Governor Hochul signed off on yet another pay increase without getting a single thing back. That exhibited a weakness that the legislature pounced on during this budget process.
LONG ISLAND DELEGATION CLOUT
Kudos to the Long Island state delegation, which stuck together to remove from the budget two poison pills that the governor proposed. The first would allow the state to supersede local zoning authority in determining housing density. The second would impose an increase in the MTA tax on all metropolitan businesses. By standing together, they forced the governor to impose the additional tax only on city-based businesses.
GREEN TAXES AND LOST GAS STOVES
There were two environmental measures tucked into the budget with little fanfare that should have taxpayers and ratepayers on Long Island very concerned. The first provided authority to the Suffolk Legislature to increase the sales tax to build sewers and provide other environmental enhancements. But taxpayers have already taxed themselves $1 billion with previous sales tax increases to do the same thing. Additionally, the Suffolk County government is sitting on almost $600 million in grants received by the federal government over the last two years.
The second measure requires most new homes and buildings constructed after 2025 to be heated with electric heat only. Natural gas would be prohibited. That includes gas stoves. They said they wouldn’t do it, but they did it — at least for new buildings and homes. Hold onto your wallet and kiss your freedoms goodbye.
TEPID BAIL REFORM
On bail reform, the governor once again got rolled. She was seeking to add a provision that would allow judges to consider the “dangerousness” of the defendant. This is the standard in just about every other state around the nation, but New York removed it with the hideous bail reform of 2019, which led to massive crime increases. The progressives wouldn’t allow her this potential win, but, instead, gave her a token victory by removing a provision that forced judges to use the “least restrictive” measures when setting bail.
Nor did Hochul get changes to the paperwork burdens placed in the 2019 reforms, which now result in a large number of violent defendants being set free. Efforts to repeal reforms made under the Cuomo administration that prevented 17-year-old murderers from being tried in the regular court system were also stymied.
Give Hochul credit on a few things.
First, she fought off a measure by the left to further increase our taxes for high-income earners. We may say “stick it to the rich,” but they have been fleeing in droves and bringing their tax revenues with them to Florida and other states. It would’ve had a devastating impact on our economy.
Additionally, the governor fought off a progressive effort to implement a “good faith eviction” policy, which basically would have implemented rent control throughout the entire state and potentially required landlords to keep tenants forever.
The legislature gets credit for removing Hochul’s SUNY tuition increase. A whole lot of hot air has been blown over the last decade about making college free. Well, that might be a longshot, but the least the legislature can do is hold the line on tuition at our state schools.
$1 BILLION FOR ILLEGALS
Finally, we must end on a truly sad note: the progressives and the governor were in sync in allocating $1 billion for illegal aliens in this latest budget. Mayor Adams hit a wall in seeking adequate funding from the feds, so he went courting Albany for money to fork over to illegal aliens. They happily obliged. If only they could be so generous to our veterans.