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Health care, climate change crux of Hochul's 2022 plan

Governor Kathy Hochul delivers 2022 State of the State Address in Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol. (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)
Governor Kathy Hochul delivers 2022 State of the State Address in Assembly Chamber at the State Capitol. (Darren McGee- Office of Governor Kathy Hochul)

ALBANY — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her first State of the State address Wednesday, outlining an agenda for an economic comeback from the coronavirus pandemic and new government investments in health care, housing and renewable energy. Hochul, the state's first female governor, is proposing a $10 billion plan to grow the state's health care workforce by 20% over the next five years, saying the pandemic worsened long-simmering staffing problems. That includes more than $4 billion to support wages and bonuses for workers in a health care sector now suffering from a high burnout rate, and $2 billion for improved healthcare infrastructure. Hochul, who became governor when Andrew Cuomo resigned in August, delivered the speech before a limited, socially distant audience in the Assembly chamber at the New York State Capitol in Albany amid the worst surge in coronavirus infections since the virus first hit the state in the spring of 2020. The Democrat also announced initiatives including a proposal to invest $1 billion in electric vehicle deployment and $500 million in offshore wind port infrastructure to meet the requirements of a sweeping state law calling for 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Such projects will power one-third of New York City with wind, solar and hydropower, Hochul said. To help ease the economic pain of the pandemic, Hochul wants to speed up a planned phase-in of $1.2 billion in middle-class tax cuts that began in 2018. She also wants $1 billion in property tax rebates for more than two million middle-and low-income New Yorkers. And with New York's eviction and moratorium set to expire mid-January, Hochul wants to offer free legal assistance for upstate New Yorkers. She said the state could help stave off homelessness by building 100,000 affordable homes and 10,000 supportive housing units for vulnerable residents. Hochul, who is running for governor in this year's election, also vowed to restore trust in state government. She wants to replace the state's ethics enforcement agency, which recently has tussled with Cuomo over millions of dollars he earned writing a book while in office, and subject certain statewide elected officials, including the governor, to a  two-term limit on their service and a ban on most outside income. Other initiatives include making the state’s tuition assistance program available to part-time students and a Jails to Jobs program to help incarcerated people get and stay employed. Hochul later this month is set to release her own one-year budget proposal. Lawmakers have until April to pass a state budget.