Gov. Hochul's budget raises concerns among North Country lawmakers
North Country state lawmakers are raising concerns over Gov. Kathy Hochul’s record breaking $227 billion budget proposal.
The budget includes a $1 billion for mental health care, funding for the New York Housing Authority to build 800,000 new homes to address a statewide housing shortage, as well as $337 million aimed at reducing and preventing gun violence.An additional $5.5 billion is earmarked for energy affordability efforts.
Over $7 billion is also slated to be spent as part of the Four-Year Child Care Investment, Hochul said.
Though Hochul received praise for the budget, many officials say more needs to be done.
New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher offered some praise for Governor Hochul’s 2023-24 fiscal budget but said more is needed to aid North Country farmers who are still reeling from years of low commodity sales and high inflation.
“Gov. Hochul said today, “Don’t forget the farmers,” and she didn’t in the proposed state budget. Her economic development plan, prioritized in her budget address, includes a refundable investment tax credit for agriculture that will incentivize improvements on family farms across the state. This is especially needed following years of low commodity prices, high inflation, and a pandemic, all things that have caused deep concern in the farming community,” Fisher said in an official statement.
Newly elected Assemblyman Scott Gray, who took over now Senator Mark Walcyzk’s district, said the Governor has lost sight of the daily struggles North Country families face.
“During my more than 20 years in the Jefferson County Legislature and as chairman of the board, I understood the importance of balancing a budget and safeguarding the taxpayer. Gov. Hochul’s proposed budget for the upcoming year is a record-high $227 billion. A total that fails to reflect that taxpayers continue to struggle with necessities like groceries and gas, and has the potential to add to the crisis of New Yorker’s heading for the exits for more affordable states,” Gray said.
Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, who represents a large portion of St. Lawrence County, also derided the recent budget announcement.
“Gov. Hochul’s budget proposal is another bloated, unmitigated disaster for New York taxpayers that yet again totals well over $200 billion. This budget does not accurately reflect the financial struggles New Yorkers are facing as they continue under the thumb of record inflation. While there are plans in the budget we will find common ground on, including more funding for mental health services and reforming our criminal justice system, the final price tag needs to be negotiated down by the Legislature. Taxpayers can’t keep footing the bill for these massive budgets when their return on investment over the last few years has been abysmal,” he said.
Senator Walczyk, who also honed in on the struggles of North Country families in his retort, said rising energy costs will especially hit families hard this winter.
“Today’s released budget from the Governor shows how out of touch she is with everyday New Yorkers and the daily issues we face. In a week where Upstate New Yorkers have the potential to see sub-zero temperatures, Governor Hochul releases a plan that will exponentially grow their energy bills and make heating their homes simply unaffordable. New Yorkers want to have economic stability, peace of mind in public safety, and trust in a government to maintain fiscal responsibility. Instead, New Yorkers get a budget that will increase the cost of living all while increasing tax credits for Hollywood productions to 700 million dollars and increasing the tax cap for Broadway musicals to 300 million dollars. This disaster will lead New Yorkers to see this budget for what it truly is, somewhere between a comedy and a tragedy. Unfortunately for us, this isn’t a musical the Governor is messing with, it's our way of life. I look forward to debating this awful budget with my colleagues every step of the way to fight for a better New York,” he said.
Senator Dan Stec, who now represents a large portion of St. Lawrence County, was critical of Hochul and her budget but offered praise for Hochul’s efforts to clarify a confusing clause regarding gun ownership in the Adirondack Park.
“As Senator Dan Stec looks through the particulars of Governor Hochul’s 2023-24 Executive Budget proposal, he’s pleased to see the plan finally addresses several parts of the negative impact last year’s gun control laws had on gun owners and visitors to the Adirondack Park. In the Public Protection and General Government Article VII Bill, state lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks, athletic competitions and historic reenactments would all be exempted from the controversial gun control measures,” a press release from Stec reads.
Confusion abounded last year after Hochul signed into law a comprehensive gun control package that many critics argued made lawful gun owners in the Adirondack Park felons due to a “sensitive spaces” provision that lists all parks as off limits.
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik also took a swing at Hochul in an official statement, calling into question Hochul’s efforts to modify bail reform laws and plans to spend millions of dollars on further gun control efforts.
““Kathy Hochul has once again given New York the most expensive budget in its history, and she has proven her priorities are not for the citizens of New York,” Stefanik said.
“In the midst of New York’s violent crime crisis, she is refusing to fully end failed bail reform. In pursuit of her unconstitutional gun-grabbing agenda, she is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to shred New Yorkers’ Second Amendment rights.”