Taking Back New York Is More Urgent Than Ever

To kick off the 2022 session of the State Legislature – one that we believed represented one of the truly pivotal sessions in modern history, with New York at a crossroads in so many areas – the Senate Republican Conference put forth a comprehensive set of goals to help rebuild and strengthen local and state economies, focus on the financial challenges facing many middle-class families and small business owners, and make public safety a top priority.

It was called “Take Back New York” and we began rolling it out at the very start of this session — a session that New York’s Democrat legislative leaders brought to a close late last week — with a focus on rising crime and public safety.

But the overall agenda has covered many challenges and crises.

From combating crime to job creation to tax relief, one-party control of New York State government has been a disaster for Upstate New York communities, economies, and taxpayers.  The Albany Democrat direction for New York is producing billions upon billions of dollars of short- and long-term spending commitments requiring billions upon billions of dollars in new taxes, fees, and borrowing for future generations of state and local taxpayers.

This relentless pursuit of a far-left, extreme-liberal agenda was once again, as it has been for the past three years, the priority over a long-term, sustainable future for Upstate, middle-class communities, families, workers, businesses, industries, and taxpayers.

If enacted, the overriding goals of Take Back New York would have:

● Offered a safer and better quality of life for all New Yorkers by repealing bail reform and supporting law enforcement and crime victims, as well as expanding and ensuring access to quality education;
● Made New York more affordable for every resident by cutting the state’s highest-in-the-nation tax burden and enacting a series of measures that lower the cost of living in New York;
● Developed a strong workforce for a strong economy through substantive training and development programs, a major commitment to family farms, and fostering quality and affordable child care for working parents;
● Improved the state’s business climate and expanded economic opportunity by cutting burdensome regulations, investing in physical infrastructure and broadband statewide, and moving more sensibly toward a cleaner energy future;
● Ensured security for our vulnerable populations by securing funding for veterans, providing needed resources to seniors and their caregivers, combating the opioid crisis, and enhancing mental health programs and services; and
● Restored accountability to state government in the aftermath of disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s rampant abuses of executive power.

But that’s not what happened this session under continued one-party, all-Democrat rule.

Last year’s enacted state budget, for example, increased spending by nearly $20 billion – the annual state budget, for the first time in history, surpassed $200 billion – and raised taxes by more than $4 billion. 

There was no turning back from this explosive tax-and-spend path this year under Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders. Far from it, in fact. The new state budget, as I have detailed in previous columns, took yet another huge leap in size and will burden state and local taxpayers for years to come.

A Farm Wage Board established by former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature’s Democrat majorities in 2019 recommended lowering the current farmworker overtime threshold from 60 hours to 40 hours. It’s a move that risks changing the face and the future of New York State agriculture as we have known it for generations – and it could undermine the strength and vitality of many upstate communities, cultures, and economies for generations. Agricultural advocates including the New York Farm Bureau, Northeast Dairy Producers Association and many individual farmers and other farm leaders continue to warn Governor Hochul, who will make the final decision, against lowering the threshold. I have joined many Upstate legislative colleagues to express our own opposition and to repeatedly reinforce what is at stake for our family farms.

Most reasonable New Yorkers also recognize that rising crime and violence, and weakened public safety and security, are the result of the pro-criminal policies being enacted and pushed by this governor and a State Legislature under one-party control. They have emboldened the criminal element throughout this state through failed bail reform, lenient parole policies, an out-of-control Parole Board, cowing to the “defund the police” movement, and an overall careless approach to criminal justice.

It has been alarming to district attorneys, law enforcement officers, and criminal justice experts alike, and it showed no signs of letting up this session.

The Senate and Assembly Republican conferences have repeatedly stood with law enforcement to speak out and keep fighting against the pro-criminal mentality and anti-police policies that keep going too far in New York State and making our state, our communities, and our neighborhoods less safe. We have kept calling for the enactment of legislation that puts crime victims, law enforcement, and safe communities first and begins restoring responsibility, sanity, and common sense to criminal justice and public safety in New York State.

Our alarms and our calls for opposition went unheard.

Nevertheless, the fight will go on. 

It’s time to take back Upstate’s rightful place and restore a more responsible and reasonable approach to governing.

You can read more about “Take Back New York” on my Senate website, omara.nysenate.gov.

It’s more urgent than ever.