Even before session began, the Governor claimed New York was under assault from the federal government. Due to anticipated cuts in health care funding, he said that New York would face a $4 billion deficit. Further, he claimed that the recent federal tax reform would only widen this gap and harm our state. Following this doom and gloom rhetoric, about $1 billion in taxes was proposed with this year’s budget rather than focusing on policies to boost the economy and make New York more competitive. Thankfully, we were successful in pushing back on some of these taxes but still, a new optional payroll tax was created, taxes on drug manufacturers passed, and surcharges on taxis and ride services like Uber and Lyft was also signed into law. It is important to note that the purported cuts to health care never materialized and despite the rhetoric, the state is not bankrupt because of actions taken by the federal government. In fact, many signs show that because of the tax changes made at the federal level that more private businesses–small and large—are choosing to make investments and in even some cases, provide their workers a raise.
After the budget was completed, it was a great opportunity to take up ethics reform. Even amid recent corruption cases involving Joe Percoco, a former trusted staff member of Governor Cuomo and Alain Kaloyeros, who was at the helm of many the Governor’s economic development projects including the failed CNY Film Hub, one would think reforming the state's economic development programs and procurement procedures to prevent the pay-to-play politics would be a priority. Unfortunately, despite measures passing in the Senate and efforts of many Assembly members, including myself, no action was taken by the Governor or the Assembly Democrat Majority.
Another matter that went by the wayside was school safety. For all the criticism, once again, that came out of Albany against the federal government on school safety, nothing passed that would impact school safety on the state level. I advocated for the NYS Sherriff’s Association proposal which was to provide all schools with the financial resources to employ School Resource Officers. Providing students the same sort of protection that the state provides to judges seemed like a reasonable way to protect students. It is important to note that the school resource officers wouldn’t be just anyone. Under this proposal they would be trained law enforcement. In addition to their primary duty in keeping the students safe, they would have a positive presence in the school—a person who would build relationships with kids in school and, in doing so, can gain critical information needed in order to intervene and head off a tragedy. These are also the same trained law enforcement officers who respond to emergencies in our communities when called. Many schools in Upstate are asking for this but they do not have access to funding that would pay for a school resource officer. This is where the state could have helped. Once again, the Assembly Democrat Majority stonewalled this issue and decided to focus more effort on trying to implement more state policies on gun control.
We needed session to focus on what can be changed to improve New York and pass policies that will move our state forward. In addition to ethics reform, school safety and lower taxes, we need to increase penalties for drug dealers, protect victims of domestic violence, and lower property taxes. These are the issues that our constituencies are asking Albany to tackle, not Washington. I will continue to be a voice in Albany that pushes for these and other matters that Upstate residents are calling for.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can friend me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.