The Kathy Hochul honeymoon is coming to an end. It’s New York, after all, and few politicians glide above scrutiny or avoid agita. For many months, it was good enough for Hochul to be not-Cuomo; smiling and shaking hands, taking everyone’s phone calls, and offering encouraging words.
Hochul was a conservative Democratic representative and eventual Andrew Cuomo ally who shifted left with her party as she rose to power, recently pitching an executive budget as governor that was generous by the vindictive standards set by the Cuomo years. Lawmakers who had warred with the predatory Cuomo for a decade were glad—in the words of one state senator—that Hochul was not a “garbage-human sociopath.”
But Hochul, in an apparent alliance with Eric Adams, the pugnacious new mayor of New York City, has made her first decisive move against progressives in Albany. Last week, the New York Post leaked news that the governor is seeking to significantly weaken the state’s bail and criminal justice laws in her proposed $216 billion budget, which is due at the beginning of April. In particular, Hochul wants to give judges far more discretion to order cash bail, dealing a blow to a law many reformers championed in 2019, when Democrats in the state legislature dramatically limited the cases in which money could be used to keep defendants in jail. Hochul also wants to try minors accused of gun possession in criminal court, which would undo another reform passed several years ago.
It’s common for governors and state legislators to pack policy proposals into the budget, rushing changes in before the start of the new fiscal year. In this negotiation process, the governor enjoys a great amount of leverage, and it was in these battles with the legislature that Cuomo most reveled in his clout. Passing bills outside the budget is much harder than cramming them into a massive omnibus document.
Progressives and socialists in the state legislature immediately denounced Hochul’s proposals and voted to vote against the budget if they were ultimately included in the final version. “Now, rank-and-file state legislators had to learn from Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post that the final weeks of budget negotiations will be upended by these reactionary, fear-driven proposals,” tweeted Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher, a Brooklyn member of the Democratic Socialists of America.