Our children are one of our most valuable assets and education is the key to their futures. As a father, I want the best education possible for my son and for your children as well. Increased funding allocated in the budget for our local school districts is a must. Without adequate resources and programming, our schools and educators cannot properly prepare our students for what lie sahead. As such, a priority for me is obtaining increased school aid to better fund arts, sciences, technology, athletics, and other programs which allow students to develop into well-rounded, successful adults. Exciting new programs planned for our schools, including agricultural science, computer science and mechanical engineering cannot become a reality for our children without adequate state funding. Knowledge and education are the basis for all things that can be accomplished in life. Teachers provide the power of education to today's youth. In order for our students to be successful, all teachers need to feel supported and heard. It is important to reinforce how critical teachers are to all aspects of education. While many students find success by continuing on from high school to college, not every student wishes to go to college. Possessing a traditional college degree should not be the only metric for success. There are many very successful professionals out in the world without college degrees, specifically in the trades. Supported by state funding for career and technical education, our schools should erase the stigma surrounding jobs in the trades and help connect interested students with these jobs through in-school course work and apprenticeships, and that is why I will continue to be a strong advocate of 'Learn for Work'.
Keeping Our Communities Safe
As a body of statewide elected officials, it is our obligation to pass legislation that protects the safety of our residents. I have sponsored many bills to help keep first responders a PRIORITY and safe from harm. THE TIME TO REPEAL BAIL REFORM IS NOW! It is heartbreaking to hear stories from families of loved ones who have been killed, hurt and victimized because of the dangerous, new bail reforms. New Yorkers are understandably outraged because these crimes could have been prevented. Instead, Albany felt it knew better and passed this irresponsible measure. Now lives are being lost and families are being torn apart. The overly permissive bail reform changes have become a danger to the public, and for the state to hold onto a failing policy so closely flies in the face of logic. It’s time to come to grips here, New York is not safer under bail reform. Serious changes are needed to ensure repeat criminals don’t just get to walk away with a desk ticket. We’ve seen too many people hurt. We also must keep our correctional officers safe from harm. The HALT Act has been an abysmal failure, making our prisons all the more dangerous for everyone working and being housed there. Policies like the HALT Act favor the comfort of the few especially difficult and dangerous prisoners, over the protection of other workers and inmates.
Protecting Upstate Values
Upstate New York is where we call home and I am proud to represent such a vast and beautiful part of our state. We believe in our communities, families and freedoms given to us by the constitution. I promise to hold true to these values and stand firm to the radical left, including protecting and preserving our 2nd amendment rights. Upstate has too long been forgotten by the governor and the majority leaders. I will always be fighting for upstate and will continue to do so.
We are at a crucial point right now in regards to our healthcare system. Having experienced the COVID-19 virus first hand, I unfortunately can understand the traumatic effect it can have on an individual and their loved ones. There are no words to express the amount of appreciation I have for our health care professionals. Their constant care and unwavering attention during my illness will never be forgotten. They are testament to the healthcare workforce who work to save lives every day, putting themselves at risk in order to help others.
Going out in my district and meeting our veterans is one of the greatest honors for me as an assemblyman. We wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we do today if not for their service. I am proud to be able to travel the district to meet with veterans groups and discuss current legislation to benefit them, but more importantly, discuss what more can and should be done. It is imperative that we have input from the men and women that we wish to help. I want to know their needs so that I can craft legislation to serve them as well as they have served us. In addition, all of the things we hold dear are protected by the brave men and women of our armed forces. We go about our daily lives, pursuing our dreams because we have members of the military who protect us within our borders and overseas. However, when they come home – many from areas of war – there are not enough services to address their needs. The state Legislature must do everything in its power to provide for our veterans who have given so much to us. I have supported many initiatives that would provide MUCH NEEDED funding for veteran services, such as a proposed $500 million investment in a pandemic relief package in the 2022-23 State Budget called “Invest In Vets.” This which would provide spending in operational and capital support for veterans programs. I will CONTINUE to be a strong voice for our veterans in the state Legislature.
Local agriculture is the backbone to our economy. In fact, it is the largest industry in New York State. As a former apple grower, I know firsthand the hard-work that is put into it. My very first year as a legislator in the NYS Assembly, I had the honor of being named to the Farm Bureau’s Circle of Friends. Many of our families make a living in the agriculture industry. It is important for them to know that I support their work and will continue to fight tirelessly for legislation that will keep them in business for years to come. I’ve spoken to countless farm leaders throughout the state, and the fact remains the same - Lowering the Overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours a week is another costly regulation that will force family farms to close and will have crippling effects on our agriculture industry. This will be a disaster for our local farmers, the same farmers who work 365 days a year to provide us all with high quality, home grown foods. If this goes into effect, seasonal and migrant workers will be forced to move to neighboring states to find employment and maximize their earning potential. New York’s farmers have faced financial pressures even before the pandemic. In the aftermath, many are fighting for survival. Farm schedules and operational procedures are not stable--they are entirely dependent on factors that cannot be controlled. Rain, sudden frosts & unpredictable weather force farms to have to extend their hours to protect crops, meet productivity goals, and harvest the crops we so heavily rely on day in and day out.
Ethics & Transparency
Since before taking office as a member of the New York State Assembly, I have held a staunch position against corruption in state government. It is a disservice to the residents we represent and there is no place for it. I believe in and proudly sponsor comprehensive ethics reform measures to root out corruption and prevent further issues. One of those measures, was Assembly Bill A3945. This bill, also known as the 'Public Officers Accountability Act' specifically targets the problem of corruption and criminal activity in state government and provides severe consequences for elected officials who defy the public's trust. New York State government has witnessed scandal after scandal. New Yorkers are tired of it, and frankly, so am I. By not taking action on comprehensive and commonsense ethics reform measures, the Assembly Majority are allowing corruption to continue to blossom. By ignoring the calls of residents to enact meaningful ethics reform they are not doing their jobs. By their actions today, whether intentional or not, Assembly Majority are allowing corruption to have a home in the Legislature. That is unacceptable and I will continue my fight to put an end to it.
Taxes & Unfunded Mandates
In the past the state has made up budget deficits on the backs of the hardworking middle-class with millions in tax increases. I have not supported that in the past, and I will not support it now. I will not pile on to the heavy burden our residents are already facing. Our Middle-class families are such a crucial part to our communities and our legislature needs to help, not hurt them. I have been calling for the state to take a very hard look at areas of wasteful spending in our budget for years. There is no more important time than now for that to be done. I have witnessed partisan agendas forced through the Legislature with reckless abandon and I have seen both sides successfully work together for the good of our state. One of my biggest concerns with past state budgets was the enormous number of tax hikes despite receiving over $23 billion in federal aid. In my opinion, there was no need for tax increases or budget cuts, as the federal aid helped us close our deficit significantly. Additionally, the $18.7 billion in overspending was outrageous and just plain greedy. I have been calling for the state to take a very hard look at areas of wasteful spending in our budget for years. I believe we should have worked more within our means, with less unnecessary spending, unfunded mandates and luxury projects. We need to help New York climb back out of this hole, not dig it deeper. New York State is increasingly unaffordable for residents to live in, which is why so many have fled to other states. Our district is no different. Unfunded programming forced on our local municipalities by the state Legislature means that we foot the bill. Those costs are passed on to our families through taxes and that leaves less money for what is more important, like groceries, gas, education and, yes, the occasional family vacation. We need to STOP these unfunded mandates to keep our taxes at a manageable level.
As the state representative of a district that covered seven counties, I have driven across roads from the Mohawk Valley to Orange County. The state needs to make an investment in improving our roads and bridges – there are billions in unmet infrastructure needs. Fixing upstate New York’s failing infrastructure is a top priority of mine. We can achieve this by securing more funding for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program (CHIPS) and Bridge-NY. In recent budgets, CHIPS received an additional $100 million in funding; upstate transit systems received $10.6 million more than previous years, and PAVE-NY received $50 million more. Keeping our local roads, bridges, and infrastructures in good shape is crucial for public safety and economic recovery. We must maintain this momentum moving forward. It is impossible to make the substantial capital improvements we need upstate without a long-term vision and a real financial investment. Our roadways and bridges are essential to a community’s ability to thrive. I am constantly meeting with Highway Superintendents, local elected officials & constituents to address these concerns and will continue to fight for adequate funding for our roads and bridges. Another priority of mine is CLEAN WATER. Water is our most precious resource. Very recently communities in our state have received shocking news that their drinking water is not only unsafe, but dangerous due to the hazardous chemicals found in it. Additionally, our water infrastructure systems are aged and in need of upgrades. Our local towns and villages cannot bear those costs alone. I continually work to secure funds to protect our aquifers and source water, offset the cost of replacing dangerous lead pipes and provide assistance to our local governments to upgrade our wastewater infrastructure. Everyone deserves access to clean drinking water Clean, safe drinking water is essential for public health and to encourage economic growth.
One of the top issues I have heard about from countless constituents is broadband access or lack thereof. All New Yorkers deserve broadband. I was pleased to see some movement in the push for getting broadband to all through the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act. I have also co-sponsored several pieces of legislation related to broadband. A critical bill I want to outline is; A.896, which would enact the ‘wireless broadband eligible facility permitting act’ to provide for uniform regulation of certain wireless facilities. This bill intends to ease the burden on local governments by reducing their administrative costs and incentivizing wireless carriers to co-locate their equipment at existing wireless facility sites, rather than construct new sites. Another important bill is A.4197, which relates to fees associated with agreements between municipalities and fiber optic utility companies. This bill aims to reduce the cost of expanding broadband access throughout New York by reversing the use and occupancy fee assessed in the 2019-2020 state budget. There is still much work that needs to be done and bring us into the 21st century.