When Gov. Kathy Hochul was elevated to her office in August 2021, she pledged a new era for Albany. Gone were the days of tough tactics and arm twisting from the governor's office; a more collaborative approach with the Legislature was being emphasized.
But Hochul is also facing Democratic supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly as she negotiates her second budget and first spending plan since winning a full term outright last year. How these negotiations with her fellow Democrats in the state Legislature shake out will determine a range of policies affecting New Yorkers, from public safety to the cost of living.
Democratic lawmakers have shown little fear in challenging Hochul this year. Lawmakers are set to release their own budget plans next week, outlining just how much they will differ with Hochul.
The state Senate rejected her nominee to lead the state's top court and few lawmakers are publicly embracing her more potentially controversial state budget plans, like making further changes to New York's cashless bail and housing policy changes.
"It looks as though the state Legislature is going to have a lot more leverage than they've had in the past," said state Assemblyman Andy Goodell. "Both houses have a supermajority, which means both houses have the votes if they want to override a governor's veto."
Hochul has said she wants to work with lawmakers and Democratic Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris says there is room for compromise that may have been elusive under her predecessor.
"This always should have been a collaborative process," Gianaris said. "Under the previous governor it wasn't as much. This is our second go-around with Gov. Hochul. Hopefully when we get the one house, we'll be able to sit around the table and agree more than we disagree."
But there are points of contention.
Hochul wants to further change New York's bail law by ending the "least restrictive" standard for when judges set bail for serious criminal charges. A payroll tax on the New York City metro area to help pay for mass transit has raised alarms among suburban lawmakers as has a plan to expand housing. Even a proposal to end new natural gas hookups could face roadblocks.
Still, Hochul still has some advantages, said Democratic strategist Jack O'Donnell.
"The Legislature does have a lot of say in this," he said. "But let's not forget the budget process is different from a nomination process. The governor still holds a few more cards no matter how many members are in each house."
And neither Democratic conference in the state Senate and Assembly is a monolith, with lawmakers themselves facing different, and sometimes competing, pressures.
"There are differences of opinion, upstate-downstate, progressive versus moderate and what some of that looks like," O'Donnell said. "But the budget overall is often whose going to blink and who blinks first."
But much of what happens on hot-button issues like crime and the cost of living could ultimately be dictated by what New York voters are thinking and most concerned about.
"Whether the Legislature gets calls from constituents, whether there are big crowds coming out in front — all of those things matter," O'Donnell said. "And the timing on those things matter."