While Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt doesn’t agree with Gov. Kathy Hochul or her fellow Democrats on many issues, he told Capital Tonight that he was pleased to hear her discuss a few proposals in her State of the State address that he and his conference could get behind.
“The middle-class tax cut…is something the Republican conference has championed for many years. So that was something that was good to hear her mention,” Ortt said. “She also acknowledged the exodus of people. She didn’t lay out a specific plan, but she said we have to recognize this. That was important.”
Ortt also noted that farmers were mentioned several times in Hochul’s address. Agricultural issues are important to the entire Republican conference, and he attributed her inclusion of farmers in her State of the State to her western New York roots.
“She is certainly aware of the struggles of farmers,” Ortt said. Ortt and his conference unveiled their own set of priorities this week called their “Take Back New York” agenda.
It includes increasing support for nursing homes and elder care communities, as well as providing tax benefits for family caregivers.
Seniors aren’t the only vulnerable population Republicans are hoping to provide with a boost. They are also interested in increasing investment in veterans’ programs, and “recommitting to combat the opioid crisis with increased investment in prevention, treatment and recovery services.”
An issue that will likely be at the heart of any friction between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature this session is cash bail, a fraught topic that Hochul did not mention during this week’s address.
According to Ortt, the Republicans are on the right side of the issue and will continue to link bail reform with crime rates. He mentioned that his conference would be looking to give judges more discretion, among other changes.
“Even other states that passed cashless bail and didn’t want to punish poor people because they couldn’t afford (bail), still kept in some level of discretion for judges,” he said. “Also, (we would be interested in) narrowing the list of eligible offenses.”
On Wednesday, Ortt’s Democratic counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, told reporters that she had no interest in revisiting the issue of cash bail.
However, later, on Capital Tonight, she expanded on that comment.
“We do not want to criminalize poverty,” she said. “And at this point, we’re looking at data. Data is coming in, (and) where we can, if we were to change something, at least have facts in order to do it.”