Reacting to the State of the State & Work Ahead in 2024

Column from Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her third State of the State Address this week, offering some broad policy proposals for 2024. Like years past, the governor’s presentation to the joint session of the Legislature was light on specifics. However, within the budget address next week New Yorkers should expect specific details on the administration’s priorities and what it’s going to take to implement them. For now, New Yorkers have seen the coming attractions and are still waiting for the feature film.  
Much like Minority legislators have said for years, the governor made a point to recognize the need for Albany lawmakers to tackle crime, affordability, and historic outmigration. While it was good to hear the governor acknowledge them, these problems require comprehensive policy solutions and cooperation between individuals of every region, party and level of government. I am hopeful that in the coming days and weeks we will hear more about a comprehensive strategy to bring these groups together to tackle these glaring problems.
New York state has a $4 billion budget gap. Majority has increased state spending by $60 billion in the last five years – a whopping 41% jump. But there was no commitment to keep spending in check. We heard about challenges facing middle-class families and businesses, but not much about reducing the taxes and regulatory burdens holding them down. We heard people are riding the subway again but heard nothing about judges being allowed to keep the dangerous criminals in jail using common-sense bail policies that scared riders off in the first place. These are the issues New Yorkers are talking about as they balance their checkbooks and plan their monthly budgets; they deserve a well-crafted, holistic plan to address them. Again, I hope one is coming soon.
I was pleased to hear the governor call for improved mental health services; they are too often overlooked, especially now as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Strengthening our mental health care will help reduce homelessness, crime and poverty, each of which impacts every part of our society and economy. Mental health care is a fundamental need, and the Assembly Minority Conference is eager to work with the governor to build on the efforts we started with two of our major task force initiatives dealing with school safety and veterans.
Next week, the governor will deliver another important address: her Executive Budget presentation. Undoubtedly, there will be more details about her vision for how we will spend the hundreds of billions of dollars we collect each year. I can only hope that document reflects the brutal reality that we spend too much and are still very far from realizing our true economic potential. Unfortunately, I do not expect as much.