By State Sen. Dan Stec
The 2022 Legislative session in Albany marks a historic first with Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York state’s first female chief executive, at the helm.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation in August, after resisting calls to do so for months, was a welcomed relief for me and I know many New Yorkers. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been eager to turn the page and begin a new chapter that we hope is much less contentious or controversial. I wish Gov. Hochul well as our session gets underway and look forward to good conversations and productive debates with her and my colleagues.
The state budget is always our focus from January until the beginning of April. This year we have the additional early session focus of the once-a-decade process of redistricting. Following the U.S. Census, new legislative maps are drawn for all of New York’s congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts.
Unlike years past when lawmakers exercised complete control and engaged in the oft-criticized process of gerrymandering, a voter-approved amendment to our State Constitution in 2014 created an independent redistricting commission.
The commission has held hearings statewide over the past half a year to gather input from citizens and concerned groups about how best to redraw the lines. I appreciate people from our region made the effort to submit testimony. It is very important that, in the best interests of representative democracy, the commission complete its work on-time this month and propose lines which, ideally, the State Legislature will accept. This is something to keep an eye on as the process continues over the next several weeks.
Going back to the budget, I think it is important that Gov. Hochul set an optimistic tone. One way of achieving this is to commit to helping our businesses—big and small—recover from the impact of the pandemic. Many of our businesses showed remarkable resolve and resilience the past year and a half; others tried extremely hard but the sustained shutdown was too big a blow to their bottom line.
The economy is the rising tide that lifts all boats, or the receding tide that leaves some stranded. Regardless of what happens on the federal level, we all know there is a lot New York state can and should do to improve its own pro-job growth climate.
New York is a national leader for high taxes, out-migration and loss of businesses and jobs. Last year, my Senate Republican colleagues and I successfully pushed back against Cuomo’s plan to delay a promised middle-class tax relief program. I am hopeful that tax relief is safe for now, but status quo isn’t going to fix the problem. With billions coming our way in federal funds, now is the time to make smart investments in infrastructure, including repairs to roads and bridges and updating water and sewer systems.
As a former town supervisor, I know how costly these projects are and how much more costly they become when neglected.
Tax relief for businesses—as well as an honest, thorough assessment of the impact of regulations and the manner in which state government interacts with the private sector—would send the message that New York state indeed wants New York businesses to succeed.
I also will keep pushing for more broadband and improved cellular service. The immediate switch to remote work and learning brought to the forefront the disparity we see in certain communities where access to high-speed connectivity is lacking. It’s going to take a lot more funding to close the remaining gaps, but that’s a great place to spend federal funds.
I know many businesses continue to struggle finding and retaining their workforce. Over the past couple of months, colleagues representing other parts of the state visited our region to learn about childcare. The cost and availability of childcare is a challenge that keeps some people out of the workforce.
While I am not supportive of proposals that would create universal, fully subsidized childcare, one thing we could do is to make the process of opening a childcare center more reasonable. Childcare is a big responsibility and we want to make sure it is being done safely, but the process of opening one shouldn’t be a frustrating and unreasonable endeavor that discourages entrepreneurs.
As always, I am enormously grateful and honored to serve as state senator and hope our readers won’t hesitate to reach out for assistance and to offer some suggestions.