The 2017 legislative session is officially underway and the senate is already passing important bills (a state spending cap, for one) that are needed to move New York State forward. As I work to address the concerns of the people I represent, my overarching objective will be constant: create new opportunities for individuals to help grow our region of New York.
Economic Development & Job Creation
Recent initiatives to reduce energy taxes, invest in major economic development and transportation projects, and expand job-training programs are all having a positive effect on New York State’s economy. Moving forward, additional broad-based tax relief programs and regulatory reforms are needed to ensure sweeping job growth.
A U.S. Census report last month showed that over 191,000 people left New York between July 2015 and July 2016. The only way to reverse this disturbing trend is to create new economic opportunities here at home. A few of my economic development priorities include:
Broad-based tax relief programs to lower the cost of doing business;
Elimination of outdated and unnecessary state regulations;
Extension of the STAR property tax relief program to small business owners;
Greater workforce training – connecting educators with employers;
Ridesharing for upstate New York.
A More Affordable New York
Along with creating opportunities, we also need to lower the cost to live and operate a business in New York. I have worked to keep property taxes in check and will continue to support measures that will allow hardworking New Yorkers to keep more of their money.
Legislation to enact a permanent two-percent state spending cap has already passed in Albany. We have been following this guideline on a voluntary basis and making it law will ensure state spending will remain in check in the future. We also need mandate relief to help local governments.
A full state takeover of Medicaid would be a game changer. Measures to phase in a state takeover of indigent legal defense services and district attorney salary increases are also needed to help free up local dollars for local needs
Education - Supporting our Future
Ensuring our schools have the resources they need to help students succeed and meet new challenges has always been one of my leading priorities. We need to focus on revamping the Foundation Aid formula to ensure that our low-wealth, high-need school districts are receiving their fair share of state aid.
I also want to focus on college affordability. The 2016-17 state budget provided more than $1 billion for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) to help more families pay for college. We can go further. The senate has passed legislation I continue to support to increase the income eligibility for TAP and to increase the tuition tax credit so more middle class families will receive help paying for the cost of college. I also want to help lower student loan debt. The senate has passed legislation creating the New York Student Affordable Refinancing for Tomorrow (New START) program to allow eligible students to refinance their private student loans through the state at a lower interest rate.
A number of steps have been taken in recent years to tighten ethics laws and restore public trust in Albany. Additional measures must still be adopted including:
Final approval of legislation stripping pensions from legislators convicted of a felony;
Term limits for leadership positions and committee chairmen;
Voter recall for elected officials.
As a member of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction since its inception in 2014, I have helped enact new laws focused on addressing the heroin crisis.
Going forward, we must take additional steps to target drug kingpins who profit and prey on the addiction of others.