EDITORIAL: Governor needs to take care of unfinished business

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNORGov. Kathy Hochul speaks at a meeting of the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns at the New York State Intelligence Center in East Greenbush on Wednesday.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at a meeting of the Interstate Task Force on Illegal Guns at the New York State Intelligence Center in East Greenbush on Wednesday.

Take away the asterisk in front of her name.

Gov. Kathy Hochul is no longer the lieutenant governor who fell into the top job because her boss resigned.

She’s been elected in her own right.

That means she has no more excuses for putting off the difficult decisions.

The governor managed to delay or postpone action on several important issues until after the election because to delve into them deeply prior to the election could have cost her votes. (Turns out she needed as many votes as she could get.)

But the time for playing politics is over. That means facing issues with the state budget. That means reopening the discussion on discovery and bail reform. That means getting to the bottom of the state’s covid response.

Let’s start with bail reform.

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Hochul almost lost the election on the bail reform issue, in part because Republicans during the campaign hammered on it as the cause of rising crime and in part because the governor appeared to ignore legitimate concerns from law enforcement, prosecutors and others about it.

We’ve been supportive of bail reforms as a way to correct inequalities in the justice system that fall heavily on the poor and minorities.

But there’s been no doubt for months that the law needs to be revisited to make necessary changes to ensure that it’s not a contributor to the state’s growing crime problem.

She and the Legislature need to do what they should have done months ago — hold statewide hearings involving prosecutors, law enforcement, defense attorneys, judges and advocates for the poor to discuss what changes need to be made.

Another matter she managed to put off until after the election was an investigation into the state’s response to the covid crisis, including the state’s decision to pressure nursing homes into accepting covid patients from hospitals.

Even though as lieutenant governor she was reportedly left out of the decision-making by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a damaging report could have reflected badly on her as she sought election.

Despite calls over the past few months for a full accounting of what the state did right and what it did wrong, the governor has refused to push the matter.

The investigation and report isn’t just important to assess blame or credit, but to help the state be better prepared for the next health crisis. Yet the report has been on the back burner while Hochul ran for her job.

Hochul needs to expedite the investigation and give New Yorkers the answers they deserve.

Then there’s the budget.

At the end of October, the governor was legally required to release a mid-year report on the state’s financial health.

The report would contain updated information about state spending and revenues, including how changes in the economy, interest rates and the stock market have affected state finances since the budget was approved in April. But the governor sat on the report past the legal deadline, refusing to release it before her election.

That led good government groups and some state lawmakers to suspect the report could reflect the dangers of overspending that resulted from over-relying on a healthy stock market and the positive rebound effect on state revenues after the pandemic. That impact could result in spending cuts or tax increases that the public has a right to know are coming.

The governor’s office finally released the report —three days after the election and on the afternoon of the Friday Veteran’s Day holiday, when the fewest people would be paying attention.

The report was suspiciously lacking of any inclusion of the changes in the stock market and economy that have taken place since April, and seemed to negate the state comptroller’s concerns about a possible significant drop in personal income tax receipts in 2023 and 2024.

Can the governor’s budget analysts honestly say the record state spending was in no way affected by the economic changes the last six months? Something is amiss. Further analysis and explanation of the report is needed.

If the governor knew the report showed no negative impact, then why withhold it until she was safely elected?

Now that the election is over, the governor has no more justification to withhold vital information from New Yorkers on the budget or covid, or to postpone addressing some of its pressing concerns, such as the bail reform law and crime.

She’s got the job now.

Time to get doing it.

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

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