The spirit of transparency was realized this week with the convening of a landmark five-way meeting between Governor Spitzer and legislative leaders of both parties in both houses, where discussions set the agenda for the remainder of the 2007 Legislative Session. I feel that this meeting makes some significant progress toward identifying what needs to be done between now and the end of Session next month. My Assembly Minority Conference, represented by Leader Jim Tedisco, identified a number of actions that we can act upon and get passed in the final weeks of Session. My conference is proposing an end-of-year agenda that contains more property tax reform, calls for a statewide energy plan and public safety measures to be enacted before the Legislature adjourns for the year.
There is a pressing need to give New York homeowners lasting relief in the form of a comprehensive property tax reform package. Our proposal is simple: eliminate unfunded state mandates, provide incentives for consolidating local government services, return Medicaid fraud savings back to the homeowners and work to hold the line on local tax increases each year. By retooling our government and implementing common-sense cost-saving measures, New York homeowners will no longer have the burden of being the most-taxed property owners in the country.
Our plan also acknowledges the lack of a statewide energy policy, which jeopardizes the economic security for businesses and residents across New York. I am pleased that others at the table agreed that there is a need to streamline New York’s Article X – the power plant siting law. This law, which helps to facilitate the construction of power plants, expired almost five years ago, making it nearly impossible for power producers to build new generating facilities, despite our state’s growing demand for power. By reviving Article X, we can create new power generating facilities, which will be a big help for residential, commercial and especially industrial customers, all of which pay some of the nation’s highest power rates – twice that of some states. Our approach must be one that streamlines Article X to allow long-term growth of the state’s power producing capabilities. Addressing demands by increasing the supply, power rates can fall in line with national averages, making New York more desirable for businesses and affordable for residents. Also on the table is the creation of an Alternative Fuel Incentive Fund, which would help reduce our state’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels by giving consumers tax credits for the purchase of hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles that take advantage of the alternative fuels – much of which will be produced right here in New York State.
Recent statistics released by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services indicates that violent crime rates are on the rise. These, and the increasing frequency of murdered police officers, are the driving force behind my conference’s call for additional measures to deter would-be killers and toughen sentences for repeat criminals. We are advocating for the reinstatement of the death penalty, as well as the Chronic Criminal Act, which would mandate a felony sentence for a repeat criminal convicted of their fourth misdemeanor conviction in ten years.
As the session comes to a close, there will be much debate over these and other issues. I assure you that I will be working toward reducing taxes, energy costs and passing measures to combat rising crime.