Hochul goes on spending splurge in affordability crisis, GOP says
ALBANY — State Senate Republicans came out swinging Monday against Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed $227 spending plan, arguing it is riddled with misplaced priorities, such as channeling $1 billion in state taxpayer money to assist thousands of new migrants.
Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt, R-Niagara County, said instead of having New Yorkers finance the resettlement of recently arrived migrants, the administration of President Joe Biden should get the tab for those costs, due to the government’s unsuccessful attempts to secure the southern border.
Hochul administration officials said at a budget hearing Monday that approximately 900 New York National Guard soldiers have been deployed to New York City to assist the migrants with temporary shelter.
Meanwhile, some migrants have been heading by bus from downstate to Quebec, a route that includes a stop in Plattsburgh, after the administration of Mayor Eric Adams purchased tickets for their one-way trip. Adams told reporters last week that his administration is not compelling those migrants to leave his city, which has absorbed an estimated 42,000 undocumented immigrants in recent months.
Canadian news outlets reported last week that an unknown number of migrants, after arriving in Plattsburgh, have taken taxis to a makeshift border crossing, and then entered Quebec illegally. This week, Canadian officials urged Adams to stop providing bus passes to the migrants, the New York Post reported.
Hochul’s budget also includes funding for free legal assistance for the migrants.
Ortt questioned why state money is being used to assist people who apparently entered the country illegally when he said there are many other pressing needs, including services needed by homeless veterans. Overall, he said, the Hochul spending plan is stuffed with spending initiatives while short on measures that would make the state more affordable.
The senator also skewered Democrats for aligning themselves with policies he called “irresponsibly out of touch with reality” and have been fueling an ongoing outward migration of New Yorkers to other states.
Hochul spokesman Avi Small defended the proposed fiscal blueprint, saying: “Governor Hochul’s Executive Budget makes transformative investments to make New York more affordable, more livable and safer, and she looks forward to working with the legislature on a final budget that meets the needs of all New Yorkers.”
As for the financial impact on New York from the migrant crisis, Hochul told a television interviewer last week she is asking the Biden administration to assist with those costs.
“The federal government does need to step up and help the states like New York and help New York City,” Hochul said. “I’ve been in lockstep with Mayor Adams from the beginning that the federal government needs to address this.”
But Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Otsego County, called the budget a missed opportunity to tackle fraud and waste, such as the loss of billions of dollars in pandemic unemployment benefits paid out by the state to con artists. A recent report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the state Department of Labor’s outdated system for processing jobless benefits and weak oversight were key factors in the massive fraud.
“Perhaps we wouldn’t have to cut this program or that program if we could retain some of the money wasted through fraud,” said Oberacker, suggesting it was time to update state financial processing equipment.
Sen. George Borrello, R-Chautauqua County, called for the ouster of state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon, arguing she “deflected, denied and lied to us and the comptroller” about the circumstances surrounding the unemployment fraud.
Borrello said of Reardon: “I’m not sure why she’s still in this position. She’s a holdover from the Cuomo administration” but was kept on by Hochul after she took the reins of state government in August 2021.
Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, along with Oberacker, Ortt, and other Republicans, took issue with the proposed elimination of enhanced Medicaid payments to local governments, contending that budgetary move will likely force municipalities and counties to raise local taxes. The New York State Association of Counties has also registered its strong opposition to that Hochul proposal.
Stec said state officials should be seeking to ease costs for New York families planning to remain in the state. “Between a tax-and-spend climate plan and rising inflation, New York state is unaffordable for many,” Stec said.
On another front, Ortt said his GOP conference has not coordinated with Hochul on a lawsuit initiated by one of the conference members, Sen. Anthony Palumbo, R-Long Island, which seeks to require a vote by the full Senate on Hochul’s pick to be the state’s next chief judge, Hector LaSalle.
Ortt said he had expected Hochul to file her own lawsuit after progressive Democrats bottled up the nomination in committee, but LaSalle has remained “just sort of dangling out there.”
At a Rochester stop, Hochul told reporters she had not anticipated Palumbo’s move to get behind her LaSalle nomination with a lawsuit LaSalle, if confirmed, would be New York’s first Latino chief judge. His nomination has drawn support from state Attorney General Letitia James as well as Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie D-the Bronx.