January 09, 2024 — Albany, NY — Governor Kathy Hochul today delivered the 2024 State of the State Address and released her “Our New York, Our Future” agenda. (Mike Groll, Don Pollard, Susan Watts/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

Hochul Plays It Safe In 2024 State of the State Address

On January 9, 2024, Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her 2024 State of the State address. Each January, the governor of New York gives an address that lays out his or her plans and proposals for that year. At New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (NYFRF), we pay close attention to each year’s State of the State address to highlight matters of concern to Christian New Yorkers and their families.

Gov. Hochul made public safety a major theme of this year’s address. The Governor intends to invest $20 million to assist district attorneys in prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and removing firearms from their possession. To address bias incidents, Gov. Hochul proposed to add new offenses to New York’s hate crimes laws. Furthermore, the Governor wishes to crack down on unlicensed marijuana merchants by giving additional authority to the Office of Cannabis Management and conferring new enforcement powers upon local governments. At NYFRF, we believe that some of the Governor’s anti-crime proposals are little more than window dressing. We also believe that New York would be a safer and healthier place if the state repealed its 2021 law that legalized recreational marijuana.

Gov. Hochul also focused on issues of mental health. The Governor proposed to increase statewide inpatient mental health capacity by 200 beds to increase access to care for persons with serious mental health challenges. In addition, Gov. Hochul wishes to increase reimbursement rates for mental health providers and to promote out-of-network insurance coverage for mental health services in certain circumstances. Importantly, the Governor addressed the negative impact of social media upon teenagers, expressing support for a bill that would “regulate social media algorithms to make them less addictive” and give parents the ability to block teens’ social media access during certain hours. NYFRF appreciates the Governor’s support for these two pro-family proposals.

The Governor also spoke about the importance of making New York a more affordable place to live. Gov. Hochul proposed to ban lawsuits to collect unpaid medical debts from low-income New Yorkers. She also pushed for a ban on insulin co-pays for New Yorkers in state-regulated insurance plans. Regarding housing, the Governor called for the legalization of basement apartments in New York City, the construction of housing on state-owned property, the provision of grants to cities and towns that build new housing units, and the creation of a tax break for developers who convert commercial space into housing.

Thankfully, Gov. Hochul’s State of the State address did not place great emphasis on pro-abortion and pro-LGBT policies. However, the Governor’s State of the State Book contains two proposals that should cause concern for Christian New Yorkers. First, Gov. Hochul intends to direct the Department of Health to update its Medicaid coverage requirements to promote coverage of so-called “gender-affirming care.” Second, the Governor wants to make “LGBTQ+ cultural competency training” available for social service providers across the state.

To her credit, Gov. Hochul devoted a portion of her State of the State Book to the problem of sextortion. The Governor defines sextortion as a scheme “in which a perpetrator threatens to distribute a victim’s private and sensitive material if not provided with images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.” The FBI has expressed concern about the growth of sextortion efforts, particularly those targeting teenaged boys. Gov. Hochul proposes to offer “sextortion-focused training and technical assistance programs as well as a public-facing informational website” and a public awareness campaign about the problem.

In connection with her State of the State address, Gov. Hochul rolled out a plan to fight maternal mortality and infant mortality in New York. That plan includes “new policies and legislation to expand access to high-quality prenatal care, reduce costs for mothers and families, fight postpartum depression and support infants in the first months of their lives.” As a pro-life, pro-family organization, NYFRF supports the intent behind the Governor’s six-point plan. We only wish that the Governor displayed the same level of concern for the lives of the many unborn babies who are lost to abortion each year in the Empire State.

As other political observers have noted, Gov. Hochul appears to have played it safe in this year’s State of the State address. (A desire to play it safe could explain the absence of any proposals to deal with massive migrant crisis that faces New York City at the moment.) Given that 2024 is a presidential election year, and given that the results of the November congressional elections may play a major role in determining which political party controls the U.S. House of Representatives in 2025, NYFRF believes that the Governor wished to sidestep controversy to avoid a voter backlash this fall.

While some of Gov. Hochul’s proposals are well-meaning, they are unlikely to make much of a positive impact upon New York’s families. At NYFRF, we are mindful of the fact that the root of New York’s problems—high crime, disrespect for human life, moral confusion, family fragmentation, and many others—is ultimately spiritual rather than political. Unless and until our elected officials align themselves with God’s will, their ability to make our state a better place will be limited at best. As Psalm 127:1 reminds us, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”