GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL HAS SURVIVED her first budget negotiation. You’ve gotta hand it to her—she came through basically unscathed. She is, above all, a middle of the roader. Since New York State is a sensible, middle-of-the-road state made up of middle-of-the-road voters, mostly middle-of-the-road Democrats, Hochul seems to have figured it out. For starters, Hochul gave everyone some gas tax relief. She also will allow us to order take-out alcoholic beverages with our take-out meals (whoopee). Additionally, Hochul will allow the New York taxpayers to pour money into a new stadium for the Bills. Probably because I am not a sports fan, I think this is ludicrous, especially since I read somewhere that the owners of the team are not even New York State residents. Since New Yorkers are historically adverse to understanding politics and most of them will never go to a Bills game, one can only guess about the political ramifications.
When negotiating the budget, you’ve got your Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, your Senate President Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and your Governor Kathy Hochul. Where we once had the famous “three men in a room” making all the decisions, we now have two women and a man duking it out. As we all must know by now, it is the governor who holds the most cards. We have arrived at this state of affairs because of an evolution that has put the power in the hands of the executive. It’s ironic that George Pataki, the former Republican governor, had so much to do with making the executive preeminent over the legislative leaders. Part of the reason for this is that everyone hates the legislature. That is an immutable law of the political jungle. People may like their own elected officials, but they do not like the institution in which they sit. Right? So when the legislature elects its leaders, most people have no idea who these folks are and have little or no respect for them.
Hochul comes out on top of this year’s budget wars. Take the contentious issue of bail reform. Any sensible person knows that people with the most money have better outcomes when it comes to getting out of jail because they have the money to post bail. The Assembly and Senate leaders are quite right to be upset about that state of affairs. But there is something called “politics.” Hochul is one smart player. She saw Long Islanders and other suburbanites really ticked off about bail reform. With crime on the rise, that makes for really bad politics. So Hochul did what comes naturally to political folks. She saw which way the wind was blowing and gave the people what they wanted.
One of the reasons why people hate the legislature is because everything seems to be so self- serving. For years, I have seen do-gooders like the late Peter Berle come along and try to install ethics reform, but to no avail. All that they got for their efforts was eternal hatred from the greedy legislators.
It is no surprise that the current crop of legislators is following in the footsteps of their predecessors. What I do find surprising is how low Hochul’s approval ratings are. She seems to be coming in at a whopping 50%. She has got to know how dangerous that may prove around election time.
In the meantime, there’s a whole bunch of big birds circling in the sky. One’s name is Andrew Cuomo. We’ll have to see what the political vultures will do. There’s a ton of extra money to divvy up to the voters. That has to be extremely good news to Hochul and her cohorts. There’s still a lot of time for the chickens to come home to roost.