Good morning from Albany, New York where Governor Kathy Hochul will formally present her State Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget Proposal on Wednesday, February 1st at 1 pm from the Red Room at the Capitol. The presentation will be live-streamed here.
Tension with the Legislature, stemming from some legislative vetoes and culminating in the rejection of Judge Hector LaSalle to lead the Court of Appeals, has created an atmosphere of uncertainty leading up to the budget proposal. When asked if she has spoken to the Governor about the budget since the LaSalle hearing, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “I have not, no. Again, I am waiting for the document. I am waiting for the conversation to be robust.”
Governor Hochul has kept most of the details of her proposal close to the vest.
However, key policy proposals in her State of the State address and other key documents like the Climate Action Council’s Final Scoping Plan—outlining how the State will meet ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction and renewable energy goals from 2019’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act— released in December have provided some insights into what we can expect. Specific to the Climate Action Council’s overarching plan, after announcing her support to phase out fossil fuel-based heating and appliances, many New Yorkers are eager to see what other provisions from the Climate Action Council Scoping Plan make their way into the Executive Budget. This past week, advocates rallied in Albany to make sure Governor Hochul makes good on her commitment.
The budget will also provide more insight into the Governor’s 800,000-home, decade-long housing plan and will outline how the state will pay for it. Part of the plan will include a replacement for 421-a, a tax abatement program for developers that Hochul believes is crucial to incentivize building affordable housing in New York City. On Long Island and across the State, elected officials are waiting to see the details of Hochul’s plan to increase housing density around public transit stations and other proposed zoning changes including a mechanism for Albany to override local decision making, similar to changes in law made to facilitate green energy development. Expect to hear plenty of objections.
Speaking on public safety, this past week from the Crime Analysis Center in Albany, Hochul indicated her proposal will include increased funding for the Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative from $18 million to $36 million annually. She also outlined plans to give a $34 million boost to the 62 District Attorneys’ offices to aid in solving cases more quickly. The Governor said, “We’re not defunding police. We are really ramping up funding in police, so all that era is over.” Hochul also reiterated her intent to seek changes to the 2019 bail reform laws, ultimately giving judges more latitude to set bail in serious cases. “All I’m trying to do now is remedy that inconsistency that exists in the law,” Hochul told reporters. “And by focusing on serious offenses, I believe we can garner enough support.” The majority of these public safety proposals, and especially bail reform, are likely to be met with pushback from many Democrats in the Legislature, especially from the Left.
Overall, as we discussed last week, between political divide and fiscal realities of a tightening economy, this budget process will be fraught from a number of perspectives. The Citizens Budget Commission, a trusted budget watchdog, said of the budget, “The State’s leaders will have to make hard choices. The Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget will provide the details needed to scrutinize these initiatives, determine their price tag and affordability, and analyze their impacts on New Yorkers’ lives and New York’s fiscal future. The State of the State presented an expansive menu. We now await the Executive Budget to see the bill.”
Much has been made of Hochul’s apparent defeat at the hands of the left over her failed nomination of LaSalle however, a new Siena poll shows Hochul with her highest approval rating—56%— since becoming Governor. There could be a lag between voters’ understanding and offering their verdicts regarding the Judge LaSalle drama. It is also possible that voters will reward Hochul credit for standing up to an emboldened legislature.
This past week, Mayor Eric Adams delivered his State of the City address where he touted New York City’s continued resurgence in the wake of the pandemic, pointing to the 200,000 new jobs from this point last year. Governor Hochul was in attendance which did not go unnoticed by Adams, who said “And last but not least, I want to thank Governor Hochul. It’s been a long time since the Governor of New York has come to a State of the City address. It’s a testament not only to our incredible partnership but to your commitment to the people of New York City.”
Back in D.C., President Biden will deliver his State of the Union address next Tuesday, February 7th from the Capitol. The address comes amid a tense and consequential fight over the debt ceiling, as well as the classified documents controversy surrounding Biden, Trump, and now Mike Pence. Nonetheless, Biden will have an opportunity on the national stage to highlight his accomplishments and explain how his Administration’s investments in infrastructure, domestic manufacturing, and healthcare are just beginning to be felt. Biden, and Democrats more broadly, are hoping that as infrastructure projects and job opportunities begin to materialize in rural and blue-collar communities, voters will have a more favorable view of Democrats heading into 2024.
Speaking of 2024, it is becoming increasingly evident that President Biden will be running for reelection. The shakeup of the 2024 Democratic primary calendar served as the first hint while Biden’s upcoming travel schedule all but confirms it.
On Tuesday, the President is attending a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City, and on Friday, both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver speeches at the DNC’s weekend gathering in Philadelphia, the headquarters of his 2020 campaign and reportedly his 2024 campaign as well. Biden’s speech on Friday will be on the eve of a DNC vote to approve the previously mentioned Democratic primary calendar and is widely viewed as the Biden campaign’s soft launch for reelection.
While the President is expected to boast his accomplishments and lay out his vision for the future more frequently, a formal announcement could still be weeks or even months away. Generally, sitting Presidents put off their formal reelection announcement for as long as possible given that announcing too early can cause both political and practical problems. A premature announcement can give the appearance of not being sufficiently focused on the current issues facing the country, and also subjects the President to cumbersome campaign finance disclosures and FEC laws. On the other hand, waiting too long can give oxygen to potential primary challengers and put you behind the eight ball on fundraising.
Biden’s gear-up for reelection will come with personnel changes in the West Wing as well. Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, will be leaving sometime after the State of the Union address and is expected to be replaced by Jeff Zients, who oversaw the administration’s pandemic response before leaving in April. Zients, more of a management and logistics czar than a political expert, is expected to oversee White House operations while other staff, namely Anita Dunn and Jen O’Malley Dillon, focus on the politics of reelection.
Over in the State Department, they are dealing with a major transition of its own. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a Department-wide directive titled, “The Times (New Roman) are a-Changing”, instructing employees to begin using Calibri font for all official documents, effective February 6th. According to some in the State Department, the change was the subject of much debate, with one employee saying “It definitely took up, like, half the day” while another offered “I’m anticipating an internal revolt.” First recommended by the Department’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the new policy will make it easier for people with disabilities and those who use assistive technologies to read correspondence for colleagues and other Department communications. A spokesperson for the State Department said, “The new font change will make the Department’s written products and communications more accessible, it demonstrates Secretary Blinken’s allyship to those with disabilities and underscores his support for employees with disabilities.” Other federal agencies have designated fonts, with the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture choosing 12 pt Times New Roman according to their Style Guides, while the Department of Veterans Affairs mandates Myriad Pro with Calibri as the designated backup. The White House, upon careful examination, appears to use Courier New.
New to the NYS Legislature
A new crop of freshman legislators joined the ranks in Albany this year, and OD&A will be featuring the new members of the Senate and Assembly each week in our Monday Morning Memo. Today’s spotlight is on Republican Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz. Representing NY’s 15th District, Jake Blumencranz was born and raised on Long Island and is currently a resident of Oyster Bay. Blumencranz graduated from Rice University and attended the London School of Economics as a graduate student where he earned a Master’s of Science in Regional Urban Planning and Economic Development. During his time at Rice, Blumencranz led his university’s chapter of College Republicans and worked as an intern at Fox News. As an insurance executive, Blumencranz plans to use his background in economics to cut gas taxes, increase property tax breaks for homeowners, cut income tax for middle-class families, and eliminate waste in the state budget. Blumencranz is also passionate about championing public safety and restoring bail discretion to judges, which he came to support while working for the Nassau County District Court and later serving as an advisory board member of the Nassau County Police Foundation.
One-on-One with OD&A’s Alec Lewis
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