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

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters inside the press room within the Capitol, March 25, 2022.
Karen Dewitt
WBFO Albany Correspondent
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks to reporters inside the press room within the Capitol, March 25, 2022.

Gov. Kathy Hochul says critiques from the left and right on her proposed bail reform changes means that she is in the right place with the plans. The governor gave reporters an update on that, as well as progress made in state budget negotiations.

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, that included an end to most forms of cash bail.

The governor, after remaining largely silent on the proposals for over a week, says criticism from both sides of the political spectrum means she’s hit the correct balance.

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

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY) released a statement Friday expressing support for the governor's memo. Erie County District Attorney John Flynn serves as first vice president for that association.

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 says 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 said New Yorkers can’t wait until the end of the session in June for the items to be decided. “Time is of the essence.”

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 keeps budgets balanced for the next five years. The legislature has proposed adding as much as $6 billion dollars to the spending plan. Hochul says the state needs to be prepared in case there’s an economic downturn or resurgence of the coronavirus.

Hochul says 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,” said Hochul. “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.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.