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OPINION: New Yorkers are Not Happy, and It’s Not Surprising

By Will Barclay


It’s no surprise New Yorkers expressed dissatisfaction with the state’s direction in a Siena College poll [released on Feb. 20]. We are [about] two full months into 2024, and Gov. Kathy Hochul and her legislative counterparts have done little to address the root causes of New York state’s major economic challenges and spiraling cost-of-living issues. 

Budget talks have danced around big-ticket policy problems like a looming multi-billion-dollar deficit, one of the worst tax climates in the U.S., and the staggering expense of accommodating the thousands of migrants arriving here, which continues to grow, but there has been little talk about overhauling what is a clearly misguided agenda.

According to the Siena poll, 56 percent of New Yorkers reported that the quality of life in the state is worsening while only 14 percent indicated they believe it is improving. That is an overwhelming margin and clearly shows the existing policies are not working. What makes this data even more frustrating is the fact that none of these issues are particularly new to New York. For years, the Assembly minority conference has been calling for a friendlier business and taxpayer environment only to watch the out-of-touch Assembly majority conference double down on failing tax-and-spend policies that exacerbate our struggling economy.

As elected officials, it is imperative we listen to the concerns of those we represent. Polling matters. The voice of the constituency matters. And you don’t have to simply rely on the survey data to see the problems here. New Yorkers continue to leave the state in record numbers, and the overwhelming outmigration numbers tell you all you need to know about what is wrong with New York state. I’m not really sure what else the governor and her allies need to see; the people have expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the work being done here, and many of them have simply left. 

Earlier this year, I spoke on the Assembly floor about how we can make wholesale improvements to New York’s quality of life. [The changes include] stop treating criminals better than law-abiding citizens, expand the availability and visibility of vocational job training in our schools to fill much-needed labor gaps, deliver increased resources and improve services for our state’s rural communities, and bring ethics oversight, transparency, and accountability to government operations. [That is] so we stop wasting money on programs that do nothing to make residents’ lives better and enhance and create programs to make childcare more affordable and accessible.

[In budget negotiations], I sincerely hope that the voices of our constituents rise to the second floor of the Capitol and provide the push needed to give the people what they want — and need. The people aren’t happy, and we must do something about it now.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, 55, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.

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