New York state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt was less critical of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget proposal than he has been about her position on the influx of migrants.
“There were things in [the governor’s executive budget] that I think dovetail with priorities of ours,” Ortt said, meaning the Senate Minority Conference. “She talked a lot about affordability.”
In a conversation with Capital Tonight, Ortt also underscored Hochul’s comments about the high cost of living in New York state, and agreed with her that those costs are leading to population loss.
“That, I think, is a real challenge,” he said. “Look it, if spending money though was the solution, then we’d be the most affordable state.”
Ortt said his conference is supportive of funding for pediatric mental health for which the governor added $50 million in her budget to expand inpatient mental health services for both children and adults. She also provided $50 million for community-based hospitals to expand access to mental health treatment for children and adults.
Like many elected officials on both sides of the aisle, Ortt was critical of the governor’s decision to eliminate the "Save Harmless" provision of the Foundation Aid formula which ensures that districts don’t receive less aid than they did the year before. He is also concerned about the new method of calculating inflation for Foundation Aid, which this year, is at 2.4%. The current rate of inflation is 4%.
“…when you look at the [state aid] runs that she put out, they seem to really hammer rural and suburban school districts at the expense of the 'Big 5,' if you would,” Ortt said. “If there’s long-term structural changes that need to happen, let’s do those, but to just come out and say to a district like Newfane, that I represent, a rural district in upstate New York, to say you’re going to lose almost a million dollars in one fell swoop, you know, that’s going to be devastating.”
Ortt saved his most candid criticism for Hochul’s decision to take $500 million from the rainy day fund to help New York City pay for the cost of migrants.
“She’s not using her cachet, the budgetary cachet, we’ve seen other governors do this, to make long-term changes,” Ortt said. “Just today, the mayor of New York City was here saying that’s not enough. He needs more money. So, I would ask, what is the number?”
Hochul has repeatedly called on the federal government to act on border crossings and provide the state and city with more aid.
Additionally, in the wake of a chorus of Republican lawmakers stating they would not support the new bipartisan agreement on the border, state Director of Operations Kathryn Garcia wrote a letter to New York’s Republican congressional delegation saying, “though Governor Hochul has spent months calling for significant federal aid, thus far you and your colleagues in the House Majority have refused to deliver. If at any point you and your colleagues are ready to stop grandstanding and work collaboratively on a serious solution, I assure you this administration is willing to work with you.”