Every year, there are about 13 budget hearings scheduled for February. Each one can last between three and 13 hours. There are only a handful of people who are expected to attend every single hearing, for every bit of testimony.

Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger is one of those people. 

Krueger was asked by Capital Tonight to discuss the themes that ran through some of the testimony she has heard over the past four weeks.

“Everybody’s coming in to talk about more money, but the fact is there are really huge problems in the health care world about the lack of staffing and funding to pay people to come back to work,” she said.

Krueger also mentioned the crisis in affordable housing, the growing migrant population in New York City and mass transit.

“The need to protect the continuation of mass transit throughout the state while facing the challenge of climate change, which I should have started with because, it’s my opinion, that is the number one issue,” Krueger said.  “If we don’t fix that one, we won’t be around the fix the other ones.”

Regarding Gov. Hochul’s New York Housing Compact, Krueger says she supports the concept of building 800,000 new housing units in the state of New York, but she has serious questions about publicly-funded tax incentives and was critical of the 421a tax abatement program.

“I am extremely concerned that we don’t use taxpayers’ money to invest in non-affordable housing,” she said. “The programs we’ve had up until now are overly generous subsidies to real estate for building housing that, frankly, nobody who’s in need can afford.”

While she believes that taxpayer money can be used to build affordable units, she is not interested in programs where “you pretend you’re getting affordability but you’re not.”

421a didn’t work, according to Krueger, because it was never designed to be an affordable housing program. Consequently, she is strongly against any continuation of the program – something Gov. Hochul has advocated.

But Krueger is open to making specific exceptions for projects already in the pipeline and need an extension. 

“If my city council came and said to me, in New York (and said), ‘these five projects are ones that we really want, they do what we need them to do,’ I’m totally fine with giving them extensions,” she said.

Krueger also wants any deals backed by taxpayer money to include affordability in perpetuity, not just through the duration of any tax break. 

“Ironically, in certain parts of New York City, economic development models would have people going through and tearing down blocks and blocks of actual affordable, rent regulated smaller buildings, and replacing them with much larger, completely unaffordable buildings,” she said.