As 2017 ends, there is no doubt that we in the New York legislature have much work to do to get our once great state back on track. We are still moving in the wrong direction economically, especially outside the New York City metropolitan area. Albany powerbrokers are still picking winners and losers and the culture of Albany is still dominated by special interest and self-dealing. Despite this, there were some positive developments in 2017 that should give us some optimism and momentum to really fix our state as we begin 2018.
All the best,
- Homeownership drives the economy and is a key component of the American Dream. To those ends, the NY First Home bill was signed into law in 2017. This law allows state income tax deductions of $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for couples saving for their first home. It is similar to the concept behind the 529 Education Savings plan whereby pre-taxed dollars go into this account to be used for the purchase of a first home.
- After many years of planning and completing the approval process, ground was broken on the Cricket Valley Energy Center in the Town of Dover. The Cricket Valley site was specifically chosen because of its proximity to the existing Iroquois Pipeline and no further pipeline expansion was required to accommodate the construction and operation of Cricket Valley. Cricket Valley will be one of the most efficient, low-impact energy producers in New York state. This high-efficiency natural gas plant, in conjunction with the continued advancement of renewable energy and storage in New York, will continue to move New York toward a cleaner generation fleet.
- Buy American legislation passed the legislature and was signed into law in 2017. With this law, state entities such as the the Department of Transportation and Dormitory Authority will use American-made iron and steel.
- The Legislature refused to allow New York to become a Sanctuary State in 2017. Many in the Assembly Majority broke with their party leadership to oppose this misguided legislation. Meanwhile, I introduced legislation that barred the use of state tax dollars to pay for sanctuary cities to litigate against the federal government or to replace federal funding withheld due to the municipalities refusal to obey federal immigration law.
- Direct care workers at state-funded agencies got a raise in 2017. Prior to this legislation, direct care workers were paid between the minimum wage of $9.70 to $13.00 hourly to protect and enhance the lives of New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. As a result of this low pay, the agencies that employ these workers faced a job vacancy of 10% and a 23% turnover rate in yearly employment. This lack of stability also had a detrimental impact on the developmentally disabled. In 2017, the state legislature authorized additional funding to help recruit, train and retain dedicated direct care workers. This in turn provides continuity to the lives of developmentally disabled New Yorkers. The funding also helps those workers who do continuous work with the developmentally disabled and who are often on public assistance themselves. I almost never call for increased spending in any area of the state budget, but the primary role of the state is to protect vulnerable populations such as the developmentally disabled.
- The tide is starting to turn against corporate welfare. Lawmakers who have in the past voted to approve billions in state funding that goes to hand-picked corporations have started to question the efficacy of these policies. Legislation has been introduced to end some of the more notorious corporate welfare boondoggles such as Start Up New York and the $420 million annual Hollywood film subsidy. The Governor even vetoed a ridiculous bill that would have provided millions more in tax incentives for hiring of women and/or people of color to direct or write television shows in New York.
- My Assembly office continues to be efficient with taxpayer resources, saving the taxpayers about $500,000 dollars since taking office by treating your tax dollars with respect. For example, in years past we have cut the postal budget in half. In 2017, our office increased our presence on social media, grew our email subscribership and launched a weekly radio broadcast and podcast to keep residents of the district informed without spending tax dollars. By doing so we eliminated the entire mail budget and saved the taxpayers another $50,000. Meanwhile, I have an outstanding staff who go above and beyond to answer constituent questions and concerns.
- Nearly five years after it was passed in the middle of the night, the fight against the anti-2nd Amendment SAFE Act continues. I will keep fighting until this unconstitutional law is repealed.
- Our Veterans and military were honored and supported in 2017. We again hosted the annual D-Day commemoration and Salute to WWII Vets event at Freedom Park. Meanwhile, we also started a new tradition of honoring local students who have enlisted in the military at an Armed Forces Day ceremony.
- Our District office continues to provide outstanding constituent services and remains engaged in the community organizing a Thanksgiving food drive and a Toys for Tots Drive among many other community activities.