Voters across party lines support making changes to New York's law that limited the use of cash bail in criminal cases that would give judges more discretion, a Siena College poll released on Monday found.

But at the same time, Democrats, Republicans and independent voters are backing a legislative proposal that would increase taxes on people who earn more than $5 million a year in New York.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers are debating provisions that could lead to higher taxes for wealthy New Yorkers as well as changes to the state's bail law as part of a $227 billion budget that is due to pass by Saturday.

Top Democrats in the state Legislature and Hochul remain at odds over both, however: Hochul's proposal to end the "least restrictive" standard for judges when determining bail for serious criminal charges has not been supported by members of her own party in the state Senate and Assembly.

Similarly, Hochul has kept to a pledge to not support tax rate increases as Democratic state lawmakers want to see the personal income tax rate for people who earn $5 million and higher grow from 10.3% to 10.8%, and those earning more than $25 million from 10.9% to 11.4%.

Hochul has indicated she's willing to go through the budget's April 1 deadline in order to achieve her preferred budget, including the bail law changes.

Lawmakers and Hochul are also negotiating a budget amid ongoing discontent over the direction of the state and country. Only 39% of voters believe New York is on the right track compared to 49% who believe it's on the wrong track.

The U.S. is on the right track according to only 33% of New York voters while 57% believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.

The poll found New York voters by a margin of 72% to 20% back giving judges more discretion when determining whether bail should be set, including Democrats by a margin of 76% to 17% and independents by a similarly large margin of 71% to 23%. Republican voters also back the move, 69% to 22%.

New York voters have consistently ranked crime and public safety as key concerns for them over the last year. The bail law, first approved in 2019 as a way of ensuring more equal treatment for rich and poor defendants in the criminal justice system, became a focal point in the 2022 campaign season amid a rise in crime that has coincided with the pandemic.

The Siena poll released Monday found a combined 92% of voters believe crime is a serious problem in New York.

But there is also bipartisan agreement on increasing taxes on wealthy people in the state, who supply the bulk of New York's tax revenue.

Republicans back the higher rates by a margin of 64% to 30% and independents 74% to 20%. Democratic voters support the tax increases by 76% to 19%, the poll found.

Supporters of higher taxes on rich New Yorkers point to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic creating more wealth at the upper end of the tax bracket and the need to generate more money for the state in order to offset the effects of a potential recession on the poorest people in the state.

Opponents contend higher taxes will lead to more people leaving New York, including the very rich, which could lead to a reduced tax base.

Other proposals in the budget debate are not as bipartisan:

  • Lawmakers' proposal to provide health insurance to undocumented residents is opposed by 49% of voters and supported by 44%.
  • Voters are evenly divided on increasing the payroll tax in the New York City metropolitan area in order to fund mass transit, 43% to 43%.
  • Tuition increases at SUNY schools are opposed by 64% of voters compared to only 30% who back such a move.
  • Electrifying new buildings under seven stories by 2026 draws 49% of support from voters, including half of independents. Overall, the idea is opposed by 40% of voters in the state.

Hochul's favorable rating with voters is split evenly at 43% between favorable and unfavorable. The poll found 52% of voters support the job she is doing as governor compared to 41% who disapprove.

President Joe Biden holds a 48% favorable rating with 45% of voters holding an unfavorable view.

Former President Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by 38% of voters overall. But 52% of Republicans polled said they would vote for him over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or another GOP candidate. DeSantis drew 27% support from New York Republican voters.

The poll of 802 registered voters has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points and was conducted from March 19-22.