New York Gov. Hochul silent as state lawmakers pass bill considering reparations for slavery

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is remaining silent days after lawmakers sent a bill to her desk that would begin the process of the Empire State considering reparations as a way to make amends for slavery.

The state legislature passed a bill last week that would create a commission to study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination in New York and make recommendations for potential reparations, such as restitution payments from the government. The commission’s recommendations would be non-binding, meaning the legislature would decide whether to take them up for a vote.

However, Hochul needs to sign the bill into law in order to establish the commission. The governor hasn’t commented publicly on the reparations legislation and didn’t respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment seeking her thoughts and plans on the matter. She is reportedly reviewing the bill.

According to the legislation, Hochul and legislative leaders from the state Senate and Assembly would each appoint three qualified members to the nine-member commission, which beyond slavery would also address lingering economic, political and educational disparities experienced by Black people in New York state. 

‘We want to make sure we are looking at slavery and its legacies,’ said state Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, a Democrat, before the floor debate. ‘This is about beginning the process of healing our communities. There still is generational trauma that people are experiencing. This is just one step forward.’

The commission would be required to deliver a report within one year after its first meeting. 

Meanwhile, the New York City Council is considering new legislation introduced last week that would implement more localized reparations in what proponents say is aimed at ‘rectifying’ historical ‘injustices.’

At the state level, if Hochul signs the bill into law, New York would be the second state to establish a reparations commission, following in California’s footstep.

California’s reparations task force, created by state legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, formally approved last month its final recommendations to the California Legislature, which will decide whether to enact the measures and send them to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The wide-ranging proposals include large-scale payments to qualifying Black residents as well as policy changes that would affect housing, health care, education and several other areas.

Critics argue it doesn’t make sense for people who never owned slaves to pay reparations to people who never were slaves as a way to make amends for slavery, claiming measures such as restitution payments won’t ultimately address the problem. 

However, Democratic state Sen. James Sanders, who sponsored the New York bill, said the entire country most atone for slavery, arguing its impacts are still felt today.

‘America’s original sin must be resolved,’ Sanders told the New York Daily News. ‘What lingers from that period has to be dealt with, and thus reparations. We are talking about a more perfect union.’

Beyond the morality and effectiveness of reparations, critics also say they’re unaffordable.

Hochul and New York state lawmakers recently approved the state’s mammoth budget of $229 billion. According to a new budget projection, New York’s expenses will outpace revenues by $9.1 billion next year and $13.9 billion the following year.

It’s unclear how much a New York reparations plan would cost. In California, the reparations task force has called for initial ‘down payments’ of up to $1.2 million for qualifying Black Californians while they wait for the purported full amount of money lost due to slavery and subsequent racism to be calculated. Estimates have put the total cost of such calculations at about $800 billion, nearly triple California’s total annual state budget of roughly $300 billion. 

Last month, Newsom announced that the state’s budget deficit has grown to nearly $32 billion, which is about $10 billion more than he anticipated in January when he offered his first budget proposal.

Both New York and California have experienced massive exoduses in recent years, with large numbers of residents moving to other states. More than 10,000 New Yorkers, for example, moved to Florida in the first quarter of this year, continuing a trend from the COVID pandemic. 

The Empire State also lost a staggering $24.5 billion in state-adjusted gross income in 2021 as residents fled to low-tax states, according to IRS data.  The data also detailed how California saw the most significant amount of outward migration in 2021, with at least 32,000 taxpayers taking an estimated $29 billion to other states.

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