State Senator James Seward on Thursday visited the Herkimer County Office Building to outline his legislative agenda for the 2013 Senate session.
The senator highlighted his top priorities during the stop on a tour of his district, which include the need for comprehensive mandate relief for local governments and schools, a continuation of job creation and attention to education aid for the neediest school districts.
“New York has made significant strides over the past two years, but we have in no way reached the pinnacle of what can be achieved,” said Seward, R- Milford, to lawmakers and members of the public gathered in the legislative chambers. “The entire state, and the 51st Senate District in particular, is on the verge of making real advances, now it’s up to Albany to provide the necessary tools to help tap our full potential.”
According to Seward, the property tax cap signed into law in 2011 is making a difference, but it is only part of the solution. He said in 2012 mandate relief measures were approved, including sweeping pension and Medicaid reform, that will save local governments and taxpayers more than $2.4 billion over the course of five years.
“We need to help local governments and school districts manage their expenditures efficiently while maintaining vital services. That’s why I supported $1 billion in mandate relief advanced by the state Senate when the property tax cap was adopted. The Assembly and governor would only agree to $127 million worth of finical relief. Comprehensive relief must be a priority moving forward,” he said.
Medicaid reform is an issue that continues to remain at the top of Seward’s list.
He said the topic has finally started to resonate in Albany and while initial steps have been taken to reduce the mandate, more must be done to bring true savings to taxpayers.
When it comes to education in Herkimer County Seward noted many districts are strapped for cash and coming to a crossroads. “This is a low-wealth, high-need area and when it comes to cutbacks our schools are faced with cutting core courses such as math and science, compared to other high-wealth schools in the state that consider eliminating a fourth language or extracurricular actives,” he said.
Seward noted the inequities of New York’s education aid formula have been exposed and partially repaired. “A large portion of new aid provided in the 2012 - 2013 state budget was funneled to the schools that need it most. Further addressing the demographic differences that exist in our state must be part of a fully revised education aid formula,” he said.
Seward also addressed educational aid needed for the safety of students. “I want to ensure the state helps to pay for capital improvements needed for security and staffing,” he said.
Seward said while hopes to see funding for educational aid to ensure student safety, he does not agree with the state’s new gun law and what it will do to Remington Arms. “I am very sensitive to gun violence, but I am also very aware of the reality of gun violence and its connection to those who are mentally ill. I agree with the gun ban’s harsher penalties, which are long overdue, but for Herkimer County, the home of Remington Arms, the negatives of the law outweigh the positives,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Seward said the new law is going to make it tough for Remington to grow, but he plans to continue discussion with top management to make changes and adjust to the new law.
“Gun control may not be popular around here, but in the past the state and federal government have been very supportive of Remington Arms and they hopefully they will continue to be supportive,” said Herkimer County Legislator Gary Hartman, D - Herkimer.
According to Hartman, Senator Charles Schumer, former Congressman Michael Arcuri and Congressman Richard Hanna have all helped to support Remington Arms by securing more than $100 million in grants for several federal military contracts at the Ilion plant.
Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono, R - Schuyler, said the implementation of the new gun law will not only bring costly change for Remington Arms, but the entire county.
“Where is this money going to come from,” asked Bono.
He said currently the sheriff’s office deals with background checks, but with all the new rules more funding will be needed to complete gun checks. He said there has only been one person dedicated to this job, but as of right now the sheriff’s office is in need of a part-time position due to the change.
“By implementing the new gun law without the thought process of ramification and emotion I feel as if the governor is stepping on the back of Herkimer County’s neck,” said Bono.
Seward said by partnering with Gov. Andrew Cuomo several new job creation programs such as the NY-Works initiative, Recharge NY and reinvesting in SUNY schools are paying dividends, but are only scratching the surface. He said tax breaks for upstate businesses and manufacturers is a priority.
“Business tax cuts and new credits have been approved by the Senate and must receive full adoption to foster private sector job growth. In particular, legislation I sponsored that would eliminate all business taxes on manufacturers passed the Senate, but not the Assembly. Over a three year period, the legislation would reinvigorate the manufacturing sector with $495 million in tax relief,” he said. “I want Albany to focus on small businesses and manufacturing so they will continue grow in upstate New York.”
Seward gave his support to the growing agriculture-based business like yogurt production and craft brewing. “These two industries have a strong base here locally and I look forward to cultivating further development through targeted tax credits and regulatory streamlining,” he said.
Seward also said he hopes to help connect the agriculture industry to other emerging industries.
In order to support rural areas, facilitate job growth and economic opportunity, Seward said further emphasis must be placed on the expansion of broadband and cellphone accessibility.
“Cellphone service is important for our rural areas from a quality of life perspective and as a tool for first responders,” he said.