Hochul breaks silence on plan to change the state’s bail reform laws


Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters about the 2022 New York state budget and her proposal to roll back some bail reform measures with it. Karen DeWitt / NYS Public Radio

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday that critiques from the left and right on her proposed bail reform changes means that she is in the right place with the plans.

Hochul has been getting blowback from political opponents — both Democrats and Republicans, as well as progressive lawmakers — over a leaked 10-point memo that makes revisions to the state’s 2019 landmark criminal justice reforms, which included an end to most forms of cash bail.

The governor, after remaining largely silent on the proposals for over a week, spoke to reporters and said the criticism means she’s hit the correct balance.

“I think that’s a sign that you’re in the right place,” Hochul said.

Legislative leaders oppose changing the criminal justice laws until there’s more data on whether they are contributing to rising crime rates. They have cast doubt on whether the proposals will be in the final budget. But Hochul said the proposals and other “serious” policy-related items are still being discussed in the final days before the fiscal year ends.

“There’s an urgency out there,” said Hochul, who added New Yorkers can’t wait until the end of the session in June for the items to be decided.

“Time is of the essence,” she said.

The governor stressed the need to lawmakers to hold spending in check. Her budget plan, which benefits from extra money from federal pandemic aid packages and higher-than-expected tax collections, increases spending in many areas, but it keeps budgets balanced for the next five years.

The Legislature has proposed adding as much as $6 billion to the spending plan. Hochul said the state needs to be prepared in case there’s an economic downturn or resurgence of the coronavirus.

Hochul said while there are no hard agreements yet, she does expect New Yorkers to see some sort of relief from high gas prices in the budget.

“We are very sensitive to this,” she said. “This is about people getting to their jobs, and getting the kids dropped off at school, and just trying to live their everyday lives. And the costs keep going up and up. And it’s hard.”

Hochul did not rule out issuing what’s known as a message of necessity to allow lawmakers to immediately vote on spending bills should budget talks go late.

“I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary,” she said.