New York’s Kathy Hochul still shows no fight

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In her first State of the State Address since winning election in her own right as New York’s chief executive, Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to work with the Legislature — even as lawmakers are working to derail her nominee for chief judge. In short, she’s yet to show even a hint of fight.

She showed she’d heard voters’ concerns about crime, saying, “Public safety is my top priority.” But her only concrete proposals for fixing bail reform are more minor fiddles, not anything dramatic like allowing judges to consider “dangerousness” as they do in every other state.

Worse, in a naked bid to appease progressives, she insisted that bail reform is not the primary driver of crime before saying she wants to “have a thoughtful conversation during the budget process about improvements we can make to the law.”

That’s a hint that she might hold lawmakers’ spending desires hostage to getting real changes, but then she detailed minor ones to give judges a little more discretion to remand defendants accused of serious crimes.

Yes, “dangerousness” is a red flag for the Legislature’s progressives; that’s one reason why Mayor Eric Adams has recently focused on asking lawmakers to simply get tougher on the handful of repeat offenders driving crime. But Hochul didn’t raise the issue.

No: On crime, the best news she offered was a tripling of aid to the state’s 62 district attorney offices to help them handle the huge added costs (under the “discovery” changes enacted along with the no-bail law) of prosecuting every defendant, even those destined for a plea bargain.

She’s also looking in the right direction with her $1 billion plan targeting the most serious mental illness, including restoring lost inpatient psychiatric beds and even adding 1,000 beds statewide (though only 150 for the five boroughs) as well as 3,400 units of supportive housing to foster outpatient care.

Another plus: With a recession in the offing, she vowed no hike in income taxes this year. That’ll mean a fight, as legislators are talking about finding $40 billion in new tax revenue. But it shows she understands the “why” behind the population loss she wants to reverse.

Or does she? Hochul then squashed hopes for an improved business climate by proposing to peg New York’s $15 minimum wage to inflation. That remark brought Democrats to their feet. And her anti-carbon “climate” policies will never build business confidence no matter how much she pretends they will magically lower energy bills.

Plus, she didn’t make any promises about ensuring the “temporary” income-tax hikes passed in 2021 (under the last guy) will actually expire, when temporary hikes have a long habit of becoming permanent in this state.

Hochul claimed that “public safety is my top priority" and gave proposals to fix bail reform laws.
Hochul claimed that “public safety is my top priority” and gave proposals to fix bail reform laws.
AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Oh, and as Citizens’ Budget Commission chief Andrew Rein noted, “The State of the State presented an expansive menu [of new spending]. We now await the Executive Budget to see the bill.” Where will she find the revenue?

Her goal of getting 800,000 new homes built over the next decade seems fine, but her address failed to mention one key means to that: replacing the city’s 421-a tax credit to make it affordable for builders to construct anything besides luxury complexes.

Yes, that made it into her longer policy handout, but that hardly suggests she’ll go to the mat for it.

Even though her audience theoretically included the whole state, Hochul seemed exclusively determined not to offend the lawmakers hearing her in-person. Yet she’s going to have to if she’s to get even what she’s asking for outright.

That is, she’ll need to at the very least rally moderate Democratic state senators to back her: They actually outnumber the chamber’s progressives, yet the hard left is calling the shots so far in the LaSalle nomination, and plainly intends to keep doing so.

Democrats lost seats in the Legislature last fall, but the left pretends that’s all Hochul’s fault for not somehow doing better against Republican challenger Lee Zeldin — though all he did was hit hard on the issues of crime and the economy. Progressives refuse to see what changes the voters want.

Hochul opted to skirt that reality once again in her closing: “Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘You . . . who are going to build a new world must go forward with courage.’ We will build a new world. And we will be courageous.”

All that did was leave everyone wondering when New York’s governor will show that courage.

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