Mar. 27, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller
A healthy majority of New Yorkers support Governor Kathy Hochul’s bid to make further rollbacks to the state’s recently reformed bail laws and the state legislature’s proposal to raise income taxes on those making over $5 million-a-year, a new poll from Siena College shows.
The poll spoke to 802 registered New York state voters between March 19 and March 22.
With just four days until an on-time state budget deal is due, by an April 1 deadline, the new survey shows that 76% of New Yorkers support Hochul’s attempt to include in the spending plan a measure that would give judges more discretion for setting bail in cases involving violent crimes, compared to 19%.
The governor’s proposal to eliminate the so-called “least restrictive standard” — which requires judges to employ the least restrictive means for compelling defendants to show up for their court dates — isn’t backed by state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins or Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who both left the measure out of their own budget proposals.
The governor has floated the notion that she could potentially hold up the state budget until she gets the bail reform changes she’s seeking.
According to the poll, an even greater majority of state voters — 76% — are behind the state legislature’s proposal to raise taxes on those making over $5 million-a-year from 10.3% to 10.8%, and on those making over $25 million annually from 10.9% to 11.4%, with 19% against the measure.
At the same time, Hochul’s proposal to raise tuition by 3% at most State University of New York campuses, and by 6% at the system’s four university centers, garnered strong opposition — with 64% of voters against the idea. State lawmakers didn’t include the SUNY tuition hike in their own budget plans.
Both the proposed bail changes and tax hikes on high income earners enjoyed robust bipartisan support, while a possible SUNY tuition increase drew pushback from both sides of the aisle.
“As Governor Kathy Hochul and state legislators work to pass a new state budget, two proposals being discussed enjoy strong bipartisan support and one has strong bipartisan opposition,” said Steven Greenberg, Siena College’s pollster.
“More than three-quarters of voters support increasing the personal income tax for those making at least $5 million, including 64% of conservatives, and at least 60% of every other demographic group,” he added. “And 72% of voters, up from 65% in January, support giving judges more discretion to set bail for those accused of serious crimes, including 76% of Democrats, 71% of independents and 69% of Republicans … There is also strong bipartisan opposition to a SUNY tuition increase of 3-6%.”
New Yorkers also gave a thumbs up — by a 58% margin — to Hochul’s plan to ban flavored tobacco products.
New York voters, however, were split on Hochul’s housing plan, which would require downstate municipalities to build new housing at a rate of 3% every three years and upstate jurisdictions to build at a rate of 1% for every three years, with the goal of constructing 800,000 new units over the next decade. That measure garnered 45% support from registered voters, with 37% opposed.
Both chambers of the state legislature maintained Hochul’s production targets, but left out a key part of her plan — which would allow the state to override local zoning rules for municipalities who don’t meet their targets. Instead legislators opted to double the amount of incentives available for jurisdictions that fail to meet the construction goals from $250 million to $500 million.
The poll also shows that the need for more affordable housing is on most New Yorkers’ minds, with 90% indicating that it’s a “serious problem.” And it demonstrates that 92% of voters see crime is a serious problem.
Following the poll’s release, the Legal Aid Society released a statement blasting what it characterized as Hochul’s “knee-jerk, politically expedient” attempt to eliminate the least restrictive standard. The legal defense attributed the overwhelming support in the poll for Hochul’s bail proposal to politicians and news outlets they say have boosted a “false narrative” that bail reform is responsible for a rise in crime.
“With the budget due in less than a week, Governor Hochul is attempting to hammer through her knee-jerk, politically expedient proposal to eliminate a requirement that pretrial incarceration for bail-eligible charges be the ‘least restrictive’ alternative as a means of providing judges more discretion in setting bail,” the group said.
“But existing law already addresses the concerns raised in today’s poll as judges currently have discretion to set bail or even remand to jail people charged with ‘serious crimes’. The prevailing narrative peddled by the Governor ignores this reality in service of furthering her political agenda.”