Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her third State of the State address Tuesday afternoon, focusing on moderate housing proposals in New York and making the state a safer and more affordable place to live by addressing serious mental health issues — especially in young people.
Hochul’s speech, delivered in the state Assembly chamber in Albany, reviews large concepts outlining the governor’s priorities for the 2024 legislative session, but lacks details. More details are expected when the governor releases her executive budget in one week on Jan. 16.
But proposals related to the influx of migrants to the state were noticeably absent from the governor’s agenda — a humanitarian emergency exacerbating the ongoing housing crisis and lack of affordable units across New York.
All eyes are on Gov. Hochul and state leaders to address affordable housing after the Legislature could not agree on anti-eviction provisions like Good Cause and tax incentives to reach a deal last year.
"We are united," Hochul said. "…We will pursue the common good with common sense in seeking common ground."
Hochul said she will address migrant spending in next week's budget address. Sources in the Budget Division say decisions about migrant spending are not yet finalized.
There's also a $4.3 billion budget deficit the Legislature has to close.
"We cannot spend money we don't have," Hochul said. "Inflation didn't just hit families it hit state government operations as well."
Hochul, a moderate Democrat, has regularly pushed back on the legality of Good Cause Eviction and clashed with her more progressive Democratic colleagues on new policy changes to protect tenants. Her State of the State proposals will likely leave several Democrats disappointed and set the stage for a tense debate this budget cycle.
Notably, the State of the State did not include mandates to override local zoning laws to build housing — a highly controversial provision of Hochul’s housing compact that failed to gain support of the Legislature last year.
In her State of the State on housing, Hochul proposed:
- To legalize basement and cellar apartments, and crack down on housing providers that discriminate against New Yorkers with Section 8 housing vouchers
- To propose legislation to make it illegal for insurance providers to refuse to cover affordable housing or charging higher premiums to aim strengthen protections for tenants
- Create up to 15,000 new housing units on state-owned properties, and require state agencies to review all public locations that could be transformed into housing
- To expand upon a grant program the governor created via executive order this summer, and make more localities eligible to apply to become a "Pro-Housing Community," or municipality that receives priority for funding to build new units
- The governor will push legislation to allow New York City to offer a tax abatement to construct new rental units in wake of the expiration of the 421-a program. She's also pushing the Legislature to extend the former 421-a program's completion deadline
- Create a new tax incentive to convert commercial buildings or offices into affordable housing
The governor tied the fight to improve public safety in schools, synagogues and public transit to tackling the mental health crisis.
Hochul’s mental health proposals span statewide, but have a focus on programs for youth and school-aged New Yorkers. More than 40%, or 2 in 5 children in New York with a mental health condition, did not receive treatment or counseling in 2022, according to the governor’s State of the State policy book.
- Opening 200 new psychiatric inpatient beds after 150 state-operated beds were opened and 850 beds back online over the last two years
- Improving inpatient mental health services in hospitals
- Intensive Forensic Assertive Community Treatment teams to deliver 24/7 support to people with serious mental health disorders
- Expanding mental health courts and hiring staff to work with law enforcement and identify defendants with mental health conditions
- Mandate insurance providers expand coverage for mental health care, and to cover services for school-aged New Yorkers, as well as increasing commercial insurance reimbursement rates for mental health programs
- Support first responders with mental health services
- Improve access to housing for people with serious mental illness or criminal history
- increase school-based programs and staff to provide mental health services for all school-aged children in the state, including peer-to-peer support
- To provide funding to any school that wants a mental health clinic
Hochul also will prioritize legislation to develop educational resources about the risks of social media use and the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation for Kids Act to require social media companies to restrict the features for users under 18 that make feeds addictive. It would also mandate informed consent from a parent for social media users under the age of 18.
- Hochul unveils plan to create consortium on artificial intelligence
- Hochul unveils initiative to expand safe, recreational swimming in New York
- Hochul unveils plans aimed to target maternal, infant mortality
- Hochul unveils proposal to change reading instruction, proficiency in New York schools
In wake of the increased instances of antisemitism and hate crimes in the state, Hochul will advance legislation to expand the list of crimes to prosecute a person for a hate crime.
Some of the governor's public safety proposals include:
- Federal, state and local law enforcement to work together to crack down on the increase in property crime and retail theft, but provided few details
- To enable the Office of Cannabis Management and local governments to lock up illegal cannabis shops and shut down unlicensed businesses.
- To eliminate a part of the state Constitution that caps the number of elected Supreme Court justices based on population.
- Expand penalties for domestic violence crimes and funding for programs to support victims of domestic violence
The first State of the State proposals Hochul announced last week were to expand New York’s consumer protection laws, and increase the maximum benefit for paid medical and disability leave over the next five years and tie it to the Statewide Average Weekly Wage.
The governor wants the benefit to match the state's paid family leave benefit, or give eligible employees 67% of their average weekly wage — something lawmakers have said they would prioritize this session.
The governor wants to rein in 'buy now, pay later' providers, and require the loan providers get a license to legally operate in the state
She also plans to eliminate co-pays for insulin.