ALBANY, N.Y. — Billions of dollars to hire new health care workers, a train that would connect Brooklyn and Queens, and a plan to expand the teacher workforce marked the first State of the State address by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday.
In New York, the governor’s annual address acts as a blueprint for laws the Democratic majority hopes to accomplish — especially with the budget later this year. However, with COVID-19 ripping through the state, this was a pivotal movement for a governor seeking a full term this year.
Hochul took over from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a turbulent time, and in doing so became the first woman to lead the state.
“I am not here simply to make history. I am here to make a difference,” Hochul said, once again promising a more collaborative tone and to reform state government.
Hochul said she plans to rebuild and strengthen a health care system ravaged by two years of battling the pandemic. She proposed $10 billion in spending to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other crucial staff by 20% over the next five years; $2 billion of that will be in retention bonuses.
“We must stop the current hemorrhaging of health care workers, and we are going to do it not just by saying we owe them a debt of gratitude but actually paying them the debt we owe,” Hochul said.
The governor said she would work to hire more teachers as well by cutting red tape, launching mentorship programs and subsidizing part time education at SUNY and CUNY.
To support New York’s comeback from the pandemic, the governor would like to see more than $2 billion in combined tax relief for small businesses, plus income and property tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners — partly in response to the some-300,000 New Yorkers who fled the state last year.
“To those who left temporarily because of the pandemic, or are trying to decide their next steps during these uncertain times, I have one message: You do not want to miss what is about to happen next,” Hochul said.
Her plan also included efforts to create jobs in high-growth industries like technology and green energy. Plus, ambitious shovel-ready projects made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure bill recently passed in Washington.
Downstate, some of the governor’s more ambitious plans include:
- Improving the interchanges around JFK to make access easier
- Expanding the Second Avenue Subway
- Four new Metro-North Railroad stops in the Bronx
- Covering parts of the Cross Bronx Expressway
- Connecting Brooklyn and Queens with 14 miles of new rail, or possibly express bus service, between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Jackson Heights, Queens.
“Right now, in real time, we are building a new New York worthy of your talents and ambitions,” Hochul said.
However, even before the governor spoke, her political opponents slammed her efforts to combat COVID and crime.
Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running a primary challenge against Hochul, tweeted a video of his “prebuttal.”
State Republicans made similar critiques following the address.
On issues related to public safety, Hochul proposed state police gun tracing efforts and triple investments in community based gun violence responses. She also wants to intercept more gun violence victims at hospitals.
The governor also announced a new “jobs to jails” program designed to reduce recidivism.