Minimum wage, innovation and housing among Hochul’s 2023 priorities

Minimum wage, innovation and housing among Hochul’s 2023 priorities

Gov. Kathy Hochul at Monday's news conference to announce $10 million in Downtown Redevelopment Initiative funding
Economic development initiatives, a new method to calculate minimum wage increases and construction of 800,000 new homes were among the proposals unveiled by Gov. Kathy Hochul in her State of the State address. (File photo courtesy of New York State governor’s office)

New York will make targeted investments to spur economic opportunity and innovation, tie minimum wage increases to inflation and create 800,000 new homes over the next decade under proposals introduced by Gov. Kathy Hochul during her State of the State address on Tuesday afternoon.

Beginning her second full year in office, and first as the elected governor, Hochul wants to strengthen mental health services, address crime and safety concerns, provide relief to consumers and tackle the affordable housing crisis.

“My goals are straightforward and clear,” Hochul said. “We will make New York safer. We will make New York more affordable. We will create more jobs and opportunities for the New Yorkers of today and tomorrow. We will open doors to the communities and people who’ve historically been blocked from equal chances at success.”

Her economic innovation plan focuses on the high technology, life sciences and advanced manufacturing sectors, with measures to strengthen the state’s supply chain and expand business attraction and economic development programs that are already in place.

Included in the plan is a proposed Technology Innovation Matching Program. The state would provide matching grants for New York companies applying for the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Those federal programs incentivize small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential for commercialization.

The governor’s office said New York is at a competitive disadvantage because more than half the states in the nation already have a matching-grant program.

Workers at the lower end of the pay scale would be helped by the governor’s minimum wage proposal, with increases tied to inflation. Increases would be determined by the Consumer Price Index for Wage Earners for the Northeast Region.

She said annual increases would be capped, and there would be “off-ramp” provisions in the event of certain economic or budget conditions exist. Her office said 17 other states already use, or will be implementing, similar guidelines for minimum wage bumps.

“This important change will give the nearly 900,000 minimum-wage workers a lifeline,” Hochul said. “Those workers are more likely to be women, many of whom are single moms, and they are more likely to be people of color. Putting more money in their pockets helps them and our economy overall, as it goes back to local businesses and services.”

But it’s what was lacking in her address, not what was included, that struck Justin Wilcox, executive director of Upstate United.

“The proposals outlined in Governor Hochul’s State of the State don’t meet the magnitude of New York’s population decline,” Wilcox said. “New York’s sky-high tax burden and harsh business climate have played a role in driving out roughly 300,000 residents to other states over the last year alone. The absence of transformative tax relief and pro-growth reforms that would reverse the Empire State exodus is deeply disappointing.”

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Bob Duffy said his organization fully supports several items in Hochul’s agenda, including “the much-needed proposal to return authority to judges by eliminating the ‘least restrictive’ standard when it comes to serious crimes, increasing aid for and access to mental health treatment, and her efforts around reducing violence in our communities.”

But Duffy said more still needs to be done to support small businesses.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Gov. Hochul and her administration to lessen the labyrinth of red tape and bureaucracy small businesses face,” Duffy said. “We should be making it less burdensome to start and grow a business, and we are committed to doing everything possible to retain, attract, and expand businesses in Greater Rochester.”

Hochul introduced the New York House Compact, her strategy for housing development. The plan eliminates red-tape hurdles and creates targets for every municipality. New housing stock should grow by 1 percent every three years Upstate, and 3 percent every three years Downstate.

This is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Hochul said. “Local governments can meet these targets however they want and shape the ways they expand building capacity, such as redeveloping old malls and office parks, incentivizing new housing production or updating zoning rules to reduce barriers.”

The housing plan is in addition to building 3,500 residential units that will be supported by intensive mental health services.

Right now, nearly 3,200 New Yorkers struggling with severe mental illness or addiction are living on the street and subways,” Hochul said. “We know that supportive housing is a tool for both prevention and recovery.”

Hochul also will direct New York State Homes and Community Renewal to incentivize housing developments that include dedicated child care space.

HRC will expressly favor applications for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for development proposals that integrate child care facilities into the blueprint.

Assemblymember Brian Manktelow (R-Lyons) was skeptical about just how much would really be accomplished.

“Gov. Hochul made promises today for brighter days ahead, but they lacked the sense of urgency needed to stop the rampant outmigration of our residents to other states,” Manktelow said in a prepared statement. “I urge her to keep these crucial priorities in check to ease the burden on New Yorkers.”

The State of the State Book is on the governor’s website.

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