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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 2, 2010


Senator Breslin faces scrappy challenger, Martland, in Dem primary

By Anne Hayden

Luke Martland said it will be a close race, but he thinks he can defeat incumbent Senator Neil Breslin in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for the 46th District, which covers all of Albany County.

Breslin has held the seat for 14 years. He doesn’t see Martland as much of a threat, and said his time in office will work in his favor, because he is running “on his record.”

“What record?” Martland wanted to know. “He has never shown leadership. What has he done to shake things up?”

Martland maintains that, while Breslin often votes the “right way,” he does not fight hard enough for reform.

“I think I’ve accomplished a lot in my 14 years,” Breslin said. At 68, he is serving his seventh term as New York State Senator. Breslin, an Albany native, graduated from Fordham University, and the University of Toledo Law School. Currently, Breslin practices law as “of counsel” to the firm Hiscock and Barclay and serves as a member of the Executive Committee.

Martland, 47, is also an Albany native, and, after graduating from Brooklyn Law School, he worked in New York City as a prosecutor for 20 years. He moved back to Albany in 2007 to head the Office of Sex Offender Management in the Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Martland most recently worked in Governor David Paterson’s office, handling criminal justice and transportation issues. He resigned from that position this spring to run for the senate.

“Our government is completely broken. I have the energy and passion to fight for change,” Martland said.

“It’s in the hands of the voters, but I think my 14 years in the senate is an asset,” reiterated Breslin.

Martland, however, said that, as he has campaigned door-to-door, he has encountered a lot of “anti-incumbent sentiment,”

“The anger is more visceral than I thought,” Martland concluded. “The government is broken; I have never seen it so bad. We’re at a tipping point, and, if we don’t fix it now, we never will.”

Whoever wins in the Democratic-dominated district will face Republican Robert Domenici in the November election. Domenici, who is retired after 22 years in the Army, runs a business at the Watervliet Reservoir.

The Enterprise asked Breslin and Martland to talk about their views on five issues that are currently in the spotlight in New York State government.

Leadership

“The leadership is completely dysfunctional. There is no leadership,” Martland said. He cited the budget process as an example. The legislature did not even look at the budget until after the April deadline for adoption had passed, he said. During the four months during which the budget was overdue, Martland said, legislators took vacations or worked three-day weeks while threatening to furlough state workers.

“The end result is a budget that is not balanced,” Martland said. He said an independent budget office should be formed, to make sure the state budget process is transparent and accurate.

“They didn’t even attempt to do the job,” said Martland. The current system does not benefit anyone besides the incumbents, according to Martland,

“They use the system to raise money to get re-elected,” he said. He called the government corrupt.

Breslin said he is also calling for reform in the senate leadership.

“I was one of the first two or three to call for the resignation of Senator Pedro Espada, and I’ve been very vocal about Senator Ruben Diaz,” said Breslin. Espada is being investigated by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, accused of taking money from health clinics in his district, for which he had gotten member item grants.

Diaz was one of the four Hispanic Democrats that threatened to defect to the Republicans unless they got more consideration. Diaz never did defect, to the Republicans. Espada did — paralyzing the senate. When he returned to the Democrats, he was made majority leader, although John Sampson is acting as leader, running the Democratic conference; Breslin is the assistant majority leader. Espada is being given no money for his primary campaign.

“It is my hope and belief that the Democrats will pick up one or two seats in the election, and that Espada will be defeated in a primary. That would result in the end of the need for every single Democrat vote to pass legislation,” said Breslin. He said, because the Democrats only have a one-seat majority, it is too easy for one or two senators to hold up the voting process.

Job growth

Last year, Breslin received an award for being Labor Man of the Year from the Capital District Labor Counsel. He said he was very involved in Global Foundries, a semiconductor foundry company that recently opened in Malta.

“I was involved in negotiations to make sure local labor would be involved; there were over six million hours of labor for local workers,” according to Breslin. He said he would work to make sure that the programs at the local community and four-year colleges are able to address the needs of the local work force.

Breslin said the state work force has been reduced in the last decade, and, with the recent retirement incentive, it is being reduced even further, in an effort to save state spending. State salaries have also been frozen, but Breslin said salaries can’t be cut because they are subject to contracts.

“The source of job growth is small businesses. We need to provide a positive business environment to sustain long-term growth,” Martland said. The way to do that, in his opinion, is to lower the cost of operating a business in the area. He said the government needs to cut down on the regulation of small businesses.

“There is too much oversight, and there are too many regulations, which pose burdens on businesses and their locations,” said Martland. He said the Capital District needs to attract businesses and make them want to stay.

“We don’t need to expand government, but I am against furloughs and lay-offs for state workers,” Martland said. He said the worst thing to do when jobs are scarce is to lay off workers.

Education funding

The federal educational jobs bill, passed last month, will send $10 billion to school districts across the country to prevent teacher layoffs; an estimated $607 million will go to New York State. The federal Department of Education will make allocations to states based on overall population and student enrollment; states will then distribute the funds based on their formulas.

There are two possible methods of distribution — through the state aid formula or through Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Title 1 is based on poverty counts, which typically favors big-city school districts. The state aid formula would distribute the funding across the state.

Martland said he favors the Title 1 method of distribution.

“We need to direct money to the neediest districts. Education and health-care are the last things that should be cut,” said Martland.

“No matter how we distribute it, the money has to go to high-needs schools first; the inner city schools and the rural poor schools,” Breslin said. He said everything possible must be done to make those schools equal to all others.

“For years, we have distributed money to schools that don’t need it, and they end up building something they don’t need, which is a waste of money. We have to be careful,” according to Breslin. He said the ultimate goal is to improve the math and English scores for children in New York State.

Taxes

Breslin said he thinks the tax tables should be rearranged to protect the middle class.

“Income tax isn’t as progressive as it should be, and the wealthy aren’t paying their share,” said Breslin. He also said property taxes should not be increased, and, if they are, there should be a tax cap, and people’s incomes should be taken into account to establish the property-tax rate.

According to Martland, local taxes have been increasing at twice the rate of inflation for the past two years.

“We need to cap taxes at the rate of inflation,” Martland said. He is “very averse” to increased taxes and borrowing, and is opposed to any increase in sales tax.

“The property taxes literally drive people out of their homes. We need to make cuts that send an example,” said Martland.

Marriage equality

For Martland, who is gay, marriage equality is a topic that hits close to home.

“I’d like to be able to marry my partner,” he said. Breslin voted in favor of the marriage equality bill, but, Martland said, Breslin is still a part of the senate leadership that did not want to vote on the bill in the first place.

“I don’t think he’s a fighter; he just goes along with the leadership,” said Martland.

Breslin said he is highly in favor of marriage equality, and is endorsed by Empire Pride Agenda, which he called the number-one gay and lesbian organization in the state.


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