By Assemblyman Will Barclay
With a new year comes new commitments and renewed hope. Last week, the Assembly welcomed new representatives.
The swearing-in ceremony reminds all who attend to renew our commitment to public service.
As we await the Governor’s State of the State address, I hope our state will turn its focus on improving the economy, investing in infrastructure and work toward improving education.
Upstate Economy a Priority
We need to work to make our state more welcoming and friendlier to business and residents by creating meaningful economic policies that assist businesses and property owners. Casinos are not the answer to growing our economy.
We need to get down to basics and even the playing field for all by lowering the cost of doing business and cut regulations and taxes on businesses.
A recent study by the Empire Center for New York State Policy indicates that since 2000, 2 million residents have left our state for other states.
While weather is a concern for some, jobs are also another reason why people decide to leave.
Taxes are another reason.
Let’s focus our next session on keeping the residents we have and encouraging our college graduates to stay here with new jobs.
To do so, we need to reduce taxes and the state mandates we place on localities.
We need policies that inspire people to stay, rather than punishing people with fees and more taxes so they move to neighboring states.
Invest in Infrastructure
The Thruway Authority adopted a budget containing a $25 million shortfall.
There needs to be better oversight of the authority or we will continue to pay the price.
For starters, we need better transparency and better accountability from the Thruway Authority.
This year, New York is in a unique position because we are expected to receive a multi-billion dollar windfall from legal settlements.
This money should be used on infrastructure like our bridges and roads as well as sewer and water.
We also need to expand broadband, and provide more people with access if we are to remain competitive.
Common Core, Education Needs Attention
We still need to take a closer look at what is working and what is not regarding Common Core with a comprehensive review.
The new curriculum continues to be a concern for parents and teachers.
Although the Governor vetoed the legislation, we should delay student test scores’ impact on teacher evaluations.
We should also give more discretion on how it’s implemented by local school districts.
Too often we see local discretion taken away at the local level. Our teachers and school officials are in the best position to know whether students understand the curriculum.
In terms of state aid funding, we need to make it a priority to end the gap elimination adjustment and target more school aid to low-wealth districts.
Improving Public Safety
Last month, following the Grand Jury’s decision in the Eric Garner case, a deranged man acted in revenge and killed two NYC Police officers, Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu.
The man who killed the officers posted on social media prior to the killings saying that the he was going to kill police officers in retaliation over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
Not only have these cases sparked anti-police rhetoric in New York state and around the country, but some organizers of these demonstrations and public figures have done little try to calm the anti-police message.
Tragically, this has placed police officers from around the country in danger.
Following these decisions, there has been a lot of talk coming out of Albany, mainly from the Governor’s office about police reform.
While little details have emerged on what these reforms will entail, I want to air on the side of caution and encourage my fellow colleagues in the State Legislature not to act in a knee-jerk manner as was done with the SAFE Act.
Any legislation aimed at reform needs input from law enforcement, legislators and the public.
Our police put their lives on the line each day to save others.
Our families and communities are safer because of their selfless work.
I am also advocating for:
• Reduced size of state government.
• Mandate relief for local governments and school districts.
• Personal income tax reductions and corporate franchise taxes for all New York businesses.
• Lower worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance costs for employers by implementing reforms and eliminating regulatory burdens and assessments.
• Pass meaningful synthetic drug reform.
• Pass harsher penalties against child abuse.
What are your thoughts?
I’d like to hear what your priorities are for your representatives.
My office can be reached by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.