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CNY lawmakers have high hopes for Hochul's first State of the State address this week

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters at the State Capitol in Albany Wednesday
Mike Groll
Office of the Governor
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters at the State Capitol in Albany in August

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s agenda becomes clear this week when she gives her first State of the State address. Central New York lawmakers are hopeful they’ll hear more of an emphasis on supporting human service programs than they heard from the Cuomo administration.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who resigned in August amid a series of accusations of sexual misconduct, simply never put a priority on human services when budget time rolled around, according to Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Syracuse).

"The governor leveraged everything he could to get what he wanted. And he wanted economic development. That was his shining star,” said Stirpe. “And he starved a lot of the other pieces of the budget."

State Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse) said some of those Cuomo budget decisions have created crisis situations in a number of areas, from understaffed nursing homes and hospitals to a lack of support for direct care workers who take care of the disabled. She’s hoping Hochul, who took the reins of state government from Cuomo in August, will have a different set of priorities.

"Certainly the caregiving economy deserves support. She talks a lot about child care for example. I keep reminding her that senior care is also in that bucket,” said May. “But I also think health care overall is something that I’m sure she’s hearing over and over and over about how the state has underfunded our health care system."

Stirpe is optimistic. He said the Hochul administration has already reached out to him about some issues he’s championed for years.

"They’ve actually called the office. I’ve had a zoom meeting with four members of her staff to talk about housing for adult children, aging parents, people with disabilities,” Stirpe said. “And I’ve never gotten a call from the previous governor to have his staff talk about anything."

The Hochul administration isn’t looking at any cataclysmic budget shortfalls as it crafts a spending plan. The state’s finances are benefiting from a surge in tax revenue this year. So May expects there will be more competition for government funds this year. She’d like to frame these human service requests as a long term investment.

“If we put the money up front, and keep people out of emergency rooms and keep people getting vaccinated you keep people out of nursing homes for example. These are good investments that have a long term payoff to the state budget."

Ultimately Stirpe says the transition from the Cuomo administration to the Hochul administration could remake human services in New York.

"She could just flip the switch on human services in general, and it would put us on a much different path than we’ve been on," he said.

Hochul will give her first State of the State address on Wednesday, January 5.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.