Governor Hochul allows herself to be pushed around by the legislature

Kathy Hochul gets no respect and no surprise. She doesn’t deserve any.

Random governors – inexperienced, unelected, and with a thin independent power base – start from the outside in. Do you remember David Paterson? He was the last New York governor to take office after an incumbent, Eliot Spitzer, was stalked by a sex scandal — and he never caught on.

Hochul, installed after Andrew Cuomo’s hasty departure, appears to be heading in the same direction. That is a worrying prospect; A state left at the tender mercy of a predatory legislature, where New York seems to be right now, faces a mountain of hurt.

Certainly the legislature treated Hochul roughly, if not rudely. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, grin broadly as they pile more billions onto Hochul’s already overstuffed new state budget. They also politely kick off such high-profile political initiatives as mayoral control of New York schools and the sale of take-out alcohol to the curb.

It doesn’t have to be. Kathy Hochul is constitutionally one of America’s most powerful governors. But authority must be exercised to be effective, and so far it has shown no appetite for it.

She also doesn’t seem geared up for battle — certainly not in the arena, which just chewed up and spat out the famously-skilled and notoriously combative Andrew Cuomo.

Hochul served 14 years on the City Council of Hamburg, a residential community in Erie County of about 60,000 people — or about 55% of the population of, say, Jackson Heights.

She then spent four years filing deeds and mortgages as an Erie County clerk — before transitioning to a single term in Congress and then more than six years on the shelf as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor.

Governor Hochul makes an announcement on combating sexual harassment at the Javits Center on March 16, 2022.
Governor Hochul makes an announcement on combating sexual harassment at the Javits Center on March 16, 2022.
Eric Pendzich/Shutterstock

Ambitious? Yes. Experience? Barely. allies? Nothing of note, apart from the special interests, who pumped around $22 million into their campaign accounts — and favor seekers are notoriously fickle friends.

And there stands Kathy Hochul – the tourist from Hamburg, wide-eyed in Times Square and eager to make a quick buck with three-card Monte.

Unfair? Maybe.

However, it appears to be on the verge of being rolled by a Legislature that wants to add about $6 billion to its proposed budget of $216 billion in new social spending — the additional spending is expected to come mostly from one-off COVID dollars from the federally funded.

And what does she get for it? Certainly not their mayoral control and hooch-to-go bills. Nor does it get a fig leaf to stand behind what is sure to be the hottest topic this election year: crime.

That’s because the over-progressive legislature of 2022, if it doesn’t push new welfare spending, is all about criminal coddling.

Reform bail “Reform?” Not without leadership – and right now Eric Adams is the only elected leader to even speak of tougher anti-crime policies. Good for him, of course, but even the mayor of New York City has limits.

Mayor Eric Adams
Mayor Eric Adams has been a vocal advocate of matters normally a governor’s business.
Gregory P. Mango

Indeed, how strange it is that Adams is the only truly vocal advocate of a whole host of issues that are usually a governor’s concern — crime and civil society disruption, yes, but also education and post-COVID economic development.

But not nearly as odd as a governor walking into a general election with no effort to build a personal public record that voters can recognize and perhaps embrace. New York’s governors have been national leaders over the decades — and while many have made their mistakes, very few have simply rode along.

But that’s where Hochul is right now: the legislature is setting the agenda, Adams is in modest dissent – and she’s just the mouse in the middle.

Can this mouse roar? Will she?

New Yorkers can only hope. Governor Hochul allows herself to be pushed around by the legislature


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