Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her inauguration address on Jan. 1 in Albany.

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her inauguration address on Jan. 1 in Albany. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Gov. Kathy Hochul is set to deliver a State of the State address Tuesday, focusing on affordable housing, population loss, consumer interactions with state government and a “thoughtful” approach on public safety.

The Democrat will deliver the speech at 1 p.m. in the State Assembly chamber, outlining her goals for the 2023 state legislative session, which runs into early June.

For Hochul, it will be her second legislative session, but the first time she might be able to focus more on long-term goals.

She had ascended from lieutenant governor to governor when Andrew M. Cuomo resigned in August 2021 amid sexual harassment allegations. Hochul’s first legislative session, in 2022, focused on meeting immediate deadlines — such as doling out federal pandemic aid and approving funding for a new Buffalo NFL stadium — and setting up a run for election.

After defeating Republican Lee Zeldin in November, Hochul now has a full four-year term — and time to set in place a fuller agenda.

Hochul has promised a comprehensive housing strategy with the goal of creating 800,000 more “affordable housing” units. She’s also indicated she’ll push for a new tax incentive for developers.

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis that has been decades in the making,” Hochul told the New York Housing Conference in December. “New York is essentially in a league of its own when it comes to constricting housing development. And because of yearslong processes, years and years, they're so cumbersome, they prevent new houses from being built here.”

The problem isn’t just in New York City.

“Westchester and Long Island are at the very bottom of the list for new housing permits,” she said. Over the last 10 years, she added; “The parts of New Jersey closest to New York City have built four to five times more housing per capita as suburban Long Island.”

Hochul also has said public safety would be at the top of her agenda — especially New York’s bail law.

In 2019, Cuomo and legislators approved a law eliminating cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. Critics have said it contributed to a crime rise during the pandemic but supporters pointed out many states saw increased crime since then regardless of whether bail laws were altered.

Hochul persuaded legislators to amend the law last year to give judges more discretion about repeat offenders and certain types of offenses. Still, she has indicated she’ll push for more judicial discretion.

"You'll see a very thoughtful approach on bail,” Hochul told reporters on Friday. 

The governor also is expected to announce a string of initiatives to improve and speed up residents’ interactions with state government, such as streamlining applications for various programs, a source said.

But the governor also will be facing challenges, despite Democrats controlling all the levers of power in Albany.

She will be working with a Senate and Assembly that are more liberal than her and will try to push her to the left.

The conflict is out in the open just a few days into the new year, with more than a dozen Senate Democrats saying they will oppose Hector LaSalle, Hochul’s nominee to become New York’s top judge, because they think he is too conservative.

Further, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) on Monday signaled that Democrats might push for another minimum wage hike and want a broad approach to stemming crime that’s not focused solely on policing.

Minimum wage has hit $15/hour downstate and $14.20 upstate, but Heastie said: “We can’t afford for wages to remain stagnant."

Further, he said public safety initiatives should focus on the “root causes” of crime.

“Crime breeds off poverty and lack of opportunity. We cannot police, imprison and penalize our way to safer communities,” Heastie said during the ceremonial opening of the Assembly session.

Meanwhile, Republicans signaled they will continue their push on crime and inflation — issues that helped them make small gains in the Legislature and drive a closer-than-expected gubernatorial election.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a Niagara County Republican, said Monday: “Economic activity has decreased, crime has increased and people are leaving our state in droves. We continue to struggle with the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with record inflation and increased costs on everything from groceries to gas and home heating fuels, but (Democrats) continue to fail to address these important issues."

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