As the state legislature lurches toward one of its most important deadlines, approving an annual budget by April 1, Albany is buzzing with many activities, not the least of which is stopping the record outbound migration of residents by making the Empire State a safer, more affordable place to live. With her state of the state address and the ensuing release of her record-breaking $227 billion spending plan, Gov. Kathy Hochul has put down some troubling markers in stating what she wants to accomplish and what she chooses to ignore.
Putting local governments in her crosshairs, Hochul wants to divert more than $624 million in federal Medicaid funds earmarked for localities into state coffers to help cover her $5 billion in extra spending over last year’s budget. As much as $2.9 billion would be siphoned off under this scheme, with Suffolk losing $28 million almost overnight.
Hochul’s financial manipulations would be alarming under normal circumstances—most municipalities are ill-equipped to take on such a considerable expense with almost no warning—but considering that New York’s tax burden is already one of the worst in the nation, such a diversion of funds becomes even more troubling given the state’s crisis-level outmigration and toxic business climate.
In what seems like a never-ending crusade to suffocate our economy via the Green New Deal, Hochul has put forth a blueprint to destroy New York’s energy future and handicap the prosperity of many generations to come. If she succeeds, oil and gas-fired equipment in new and renovated buildings will be banned in a few short years, an unwarranted regulation that would most certainly change our lives for the worst.
We have a tremendous supply of clean and safe natural gas right here in New York State that would improve the economic condition of millions, yet we can’t touch it because Kathy Hochul lacks the courage to stand up to those who benefit by forcing us to rely on other counties for our energy needs, both for fossil fuels and electric, since many of the components for electric vehicles, solar farms, and windmills are made in China and other foreign countries that are our direct economic competitors.
While the governor huddles in private with her Majority allies to draft a final budget that will be sprung on us at the last minute, the rest of us continue the push to repeal their disastrous bail laws and end the crime wave that’s sweeping across our once-safe communities. Under the banners of “Save New York” and “Create a Safer New York,” Minority legislators are rallying with law enforcement, victim rights groups and concerned residents from across the state to keep criminal justice reform on the front burner. Sadly, neither Hochul or the Majority leaders of the senate and assembly show any sign of backing down from their “Defund the Police” mantra and pro-criminal policies.
We’re also pushing for Kyra’s Law to protect children by requiring courts to consider a child's health and safety when making decisions regarding custody and visitation. Inspired by Long Islander Jacqueline Franchetti whose daughter slipped through the cracks of the justice system and was killed by her father during a visitation, the law would also require court officials to take part in awareness training for domestic violence and child abuse.
On the positive side, the governor wants to increase education aid, and with school taxes making up the lion’s share of the local property tax burden, this bodes well for Long Island’s beleaguered residential and commercial property owners.
Thankfully, Gov. Hochul said she is looking to reverse decades of underfunding for mental health. We need the addition of at least a thousand more psychiatric beds and the creation of 3,500 new mental health housing units. We also need to improve hospital admission and discharge practices and strengthen crisis response and community-based services, including mobile services. There are also insurance parity issues to address and school-based and other children’s services to expand.
Many of the state’s homeless, including a disparate number of veterans, suffer from mental health problems. Their needs must be addressed if we are to truly make New York a better, more compassionate place.
One thing that did pop out of the back room is Gov. Hochul’s calculation of the cost to taxpayers—$2 billion and counting—for the open border and sanctuary state policies of the Majority. For the sole purpose of creating a new demographic to harvest votes, these politicians have wrought enormous expense and grief on the citizens they are now asking to foot the bill.
Millions of migrants have been ushered through our open southern border with the Biden administration even flying them into our state under the cover of darkness. We have no idea who these people are, where they are coming from and are left wondering why they weren’t forced to get vaccines like the rest of us.
With promises of free health care, education, food and housing from Joe Biden and Kathy Hochul, not to mention cellphones, debit cards and legal services, the flood of aliens is putting enormous pressure on our schools, social services, and economic well-being as they compete for jobs and our scant public resources.
The fentanyl and other illicit drugs pouring over the border are devastating families and killing New Yorkers in record numbers. Hochul’s $2 billion price tag doesn’t even come close to the true cost of this crisis. More intent on picking our pockets than changing her disastrous policies, the governor has turned a blind eye to the gang members, terrorists, felons and God knows who else that are coming into our state illegally.
Finally, my colleagues and I have called on legislative leaders to require members to be in the assembly chamber to vote on resolutions. After approving over $30,000 in raises making themselves the highest paid legislators in the country, the members in the majority decided that rather than being a physical presence for their constituents in Albany, they would just call it in. The people of this state face any number of problems caused by these politicians—crippling inflation, outrageous energy prices, massive illegal immigration, and a crime wave—and the least they can do is be on the job to address these issues.
I make it a point to be in the state Capitol for the entire legislative session, attending all general and committee meetings, and I expect my colleagues to do the same. It’s time they stop the laziness and do what the residents of New York are demanding.
Joseph P. DeStefano
New York State 3rd Assembly District