Victory Tour

Boasting Budget Gains, Touting Tech Jobs, Declaring a National Treasure

Good morning from Buffalo, New York.

Governor Kathy Hochul has spent much of the week on a victory tour, claiming budget wins on housing, healthcare, public safety, and revamping the State’s cannabis laws. 

The final housing deal included components of ‘Good Cause Eviction,’ a set of policies that enhance tenant protections and limit rent increases, but notably allows municipalities outside of New York City to opt-in to the regime rather than mandating it. Hochul announced the availability of incentives for communities that opt-in, but housing advocates still feel this was a missed opportunity. Andrew Fine, policy director for the housing advocacy group Open New York, said the final agreement was “better than nothing” and added “but there is too much celebration over Albany doing the bare minimum.” 

Lawmakers also approved a housing development tax incentive, known as 485-x, that the development community insists is an essential component for financing construction in New York City. Under the program, developers will receive a 40-year property tax exemption in exchange for keeping 20% of new units affordable, that is below market rate. Developers will also be required to pay a negotiated wage rate to construction workers on their projects, a win for organized labor. Speaking on the entire housing package, Hochul offered, “I refused to accept anything that didn’t meaningfully address the housing supply” and said the agreement is “the most comprehensive housing policy our state has seen in three generations.” 

Hochul was at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy to celebrate the investments to address health disparities saying, “The outcomes for Black women and Black babies are devastating and they’re actually devastating in a great state like New York.”

The final budget included a measure to make New York the first state in the country to offer up to 20 hours of prenatal care covered under paid family leave. Despite pushback from the Legislature, Hochul’s proposals to crack down on organized retail theft and illicit cannabis dispensaries were both included in the final agreement. Businesses can now apply for a $3,000 tax credit to bolster store security and the state will invest $40 million to combat organized retail theft rings. The penalty for assaulting a retail worker was increased to a Class E felony which Hochul said “was a dramatic change for a lot of people in our legislature, who wanted to leave it as a misdemeanor and I’ll just leave it at that.” The budget also dramatically expands the authority of local governments to padlock illegal cannabis shops and expands liability to landlords who permit the activity.

While quite literally holding a padlock, Hochul offered, “These were harder fought gains than you would think, and they’re all common sense, but a lot of opposition. But we overcame that.” 

Not everyone is happy with the results and critics point out that these investments are small in the context of a $237 billion budget while also raising concerns on the total spending—that $237 billion is up $15 billion just since 2021, but all in all, these are wins for Hochul and she is—smartly—taking credit across the state.

President Biden was in New York last week, traveling to Syracuse with Hochul and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to announce a $6 billion federal investment in Micron’s semiconductor factory, a project that is expected to bring tens of thousands of jobs to the region. Biden opened by thanking his fellow Syracuse alum saying, “Folks, I want to thank Governor Hochul for having us here today and for her partnership” before adding “American manufacturing is back, new factories are going up all across the country, and communities like Syracuse are writing the great American comeback story.”

The funding stems from the 2022 CHIPS & Science Act which provides funding to on-shore the supply chains for critical technology, with an emphasis on semiconductor manufacturing. House Republicans rallied against the legislation at the time and despite his age, Biden has not forgotten about it saying, “Your Congressman, Brandon Williams, called it ‘corporate welfare’ and Elise Stefanik, a few counties over, called the CHIPS Act — she said it was, 'Washington at its worst.' I guess they’re not going to be here today to celebrate.” It was also a major win for Schumer who said he had Upstate New York in mind when he wrote the CHIPS Act.

Back in Washington, the Senate approved the $95 billion foreign aid bill that finally passed the House of Representatives after months of inaction by Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), did not mince words when criticizing the members of his own party who stalled the package saying, “So much of the hesitation and short-sightedness that has delayed this moment is premised on sheer fiction. I take no pleasure in rebutting misguided fantasies."

The bill includes $61 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $26 billion in aid for Israel, and $8 billion for Taiwan and other allies in the Indo-Pacific. Of the $26 billion for Israel, roughly $9.5 billion is earmarked for humanitarian assistance for Palestinians which helped get many Democrats on board. Biden signed the bill immediately, saying in a statement, “It gives vital support to America’s partners and they — so they can defend themselves against threats to their sovereignty and to the lives and freedom of their citizens.  And it’s an investment in our own security, because when our allies are stronger — and I want to make this point again and again — when our allies are stronger, we are stronger.”

The White House had requested a foreign aid bill as early as October of last year, but Republican infighting in the House resulted in months of delays. Johnson ultimately relented and brought the bill to a vote in the House and so far, his hardline Conservative members have not made good on their threat to oust him as Speaker. Democrats did suggest they would vote to save Johnson if the motion to vacate was brought to the floor as a result of Johnson’s support of Ukraine, with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) saying, “I don't think we should penalize a Speaker for doing the right thing.” 

Pennsylvania held its presidential primary elections last week and while both President Biden and former President Donald Trump both have enough delegates to lock up their respective party’s nomination, the results provide an insight into the level of support for both candidates in a state that could very well decide the election in November. Nikki Haley, despite dropping out of the race over a month ago, still received over 157,000 votes, or 16.6% in the Republican primary. Whether those voters come back to Trump, vote for Biden, or just stay home remains to be seen. President Biden fared better in his party’s primary, but still had 12% of voters choose Dean Phillips or write in another candidate, a result of the progressive effort to vote against Biden in primary elections to protest his support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

That issue was also in play in Rep. Summer Lee’s primary contest in her Pittsburgh-based district. Lee, a first term member who has self-associated with the “Squad” of progressive lawmakers, faced a primary challenge from a well-funded centrist candidate. Lee’s pro-Palestinian sentiments made her a top target for both Republicans and moderate Democrats, including billionaire GOP donor Jeffrey Yaas who made significant contributions to Lee’s primary opponent, Bhavani Patel. Still, Lee secured an important endorsement from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and support from influential organizations like the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood. Those helped power her to a 20-point win. Lee, the first black Congresswoman from Pennsylvania, is expected to win the heavily blue district with ease in November. 

Finally, it’s Washington, D.C.’s version of the Oscars. The annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner was held Saturday night. The event that harks back to 1921 is a fundraiser for the White House Correspondents’ Association that bestows journalism awards and scholarships. It’s a who’s who of reporters and celebrities and while SNL’s Colin Jost provided the laughs, President Biden tells a joke or two himself.

To many, the most moving moment of the night was Jost’s touching story about his Irish grandfather and decency. Watch here. If you are so inclined, you can watch the whole shebang here.

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On April 29, 1974, President Richard Nixon announces to the public that he will release transcripts of 46 taped White House conversations in response to a Watergate trial subpoena issued in July 1973.


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