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Regional Archives The Altamont Enterprise, October 14, 2010
Race for Senate’s 46th District
By Anne Hayden
ALBANY COUNTY In a three-way race to represent the 46th District in the state senate, incumbent Democrat Neil Breslin said he thinks the voters are comfortable with him at this difficult time, and he is confident he will be re-elected.
Breslin’s main competitor, Robert Domenici, running on the Republican and Independence party lines, said he believes Breslin has failed New York State during his 14 years in office.
“Breslin has been in both the minority and the majority, and still, we got nothing. We lose, and lose, and lose, and we need to stop this loss,” said Domenici.
Breslin won a primary challenge against Luke Martland in a district dominated by Democrats.
The third contender, Michael Carey, is running on the Reform Party line, and said he has the most experience with reforming state government, and has inside knowledge of the legislative process. The death of his son, under state care, led him to lobby for laws to protect the disabled.
Carey is running on the Reform Party line, a party he created himself by gathering 6,000 signatures, not tied into the national party of that name. “I named it ‘reform’ because that’s what we need,” he said. “It’s a completely independent party line.”
“I work extremely well with all legislators regardless of party, and a majority of the issues are bipartisan. I believe things can always be changed for the better, and that is real reform,” said Carey.
Domenici is also sounding the reform bell, and agrees with Carey that parties don’t matter.
“I don’t care about politics; I will stand up against both parties if I have to,” Domenici said. He retired from the United States Army as a lieutenant colonel, and owns Strategic Response Initiatives, a Veterans Affairs certified service; it is a Department of Defense-based company, located at the Watervliet arsenal.
Domenici, though he is endorsed by the Republican and Independence parties, said he considers himself an “independent moderate.”
“I believe both the Democratic and Republican parties have failed New York. Breslin has been in office for 14 years, and what have we gotten? Zero,” Domenici said.
Breslin, however, said he is not concerned about either of his challengers. At 68, he is serving his seventh two-year term as New York State Senator. An Albany native, he graduated from Fordham University, and the University of Toledo Law School. He currently practices law as “of counsel” to the firm Hiscock and Barclay and serves as a member of the Executive Committee.
“I work very hard, and have passed more legislation over the past 10 years than any other Democrat,” said Breslin.
Carey has lobbied for legislation that he says resulted in eight laws being passed.
Carey grew up in Albany County, in Glenmont, and holds a two-year degree in heating and air conditioning. He operated a heating and air conditioning business for five years, and a snow removal business for over two decades.
In 1993, Carey and his wife, Lisa, had their first son, Jonathan, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 6. Jonathan suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of caregivers at a private school for children with autism in Dutchess County, his father said. In 2007, Jonathan died while under the care of the OD Heck Developmental Center.
Since Jonathan’s abuse, and ultimately his death, Carey has lobbied with the state’s legislature to pass multiple bills for protection of the disabled; the most notable of the laws is Jonathan’s Law, which gives parents and legal guardians access to incident reports and investigative records of abuse.
The Nov. 2 election will determine who will serve the next two-year term as senator of the 46th District, which covers all of Albany County.
The Enterprise asked Breslin, Domenici, and Carey to talk about their views on five issues.
“I absolutely think we need to cap our taxes,” Domenici said. But, he said, if taxes were capped before spending were reduced, it could create problems. In Domenici’s opinion, the first step would be to reduce spending and regain control of the government’s budget, and then put a property tax cap in place.
“A tax cap is not a cure-all. It can help in some areas, but hurt in others,” said Domenici. For example, a small school district could be adversely affected by a property tax cap. The most important thing, according to Domenici, is not a tax cap, but a cap on spending.
“We need to look at where we can consolidate, streamline, and save ourselves millions of dollars. We need to find out what the government does well and how we can make it more efficient. We need to involve the work force, the unions, the people,” Domenici said.
Carey said he definitely supports a tax cap, and thinks a 2-percent cap would be fair.
“In this type of economy, people can’t afford to pay their taxes at the rate they have been going up,” said Carey. If the legislature were able to get rid of areas of fraud, waste, and overspending, taxes may even be reduced, he said.
“Democrats continue to increase taxes without increasing jobs, and the only result is taxing everybody more. It is driving people out of their homes and out of the state. It’s poor management,” Carey said. He said his plan would be to make cuts and adjustments in spending.
“I’ve already voted for a tax cap twice,” Breslin said. He is in favor of a cap, but said he’d like to see it integrated with a “circuit breaker.” Things like income and ability to pay school taxes should be taken into consideration, said Breslin. If everyone had a fair assessment, it would keep things under control, and there would be no tax issues, he said.
According to a recent report from the state comptroller, New York, since the recession began two years ago, has lose 367,400 jobs and the state’s unemployment rate peaked at 8.9 percent, a 17-year high.
According to Breslin, a $25 million fund for loans for entrepreneurs in New York State was set up during the latter part of the spring, and it will be implemented next month. Companies will be able to apply for loans to stimulate small business growth, he said.
The Power for Jobs program is another way the state can help businesses save money, said Breslin. The program provides low-cost energy to job-creating businesses and not-for-profit organizations.
“We also need to continue to support nanotechnology at the University of Albany, and Global Foundries in Malta; we need to work with community colleges to make sure their training is in concert with Global Foundries and affiliated industries,” Breslin said.
Domenici said New York State needs to change its definition of business culture.
“Upstate New York is in a depression and has been for the last 10 years. Businesses and people have been leaving the state. Why is that? The 14-percent tax rate,” said Domenici.
He wants to see the taxes reduced, and the private sector welcomed back into the state. He would cut payroll taxes, and capital gains taxes, he said.
“Every time we need to make money, we raise taxes on businesses, and they leave. The businesses that are left are getting destroyed. We need to take New York money and invest it in New York businesses,” Domenici said. Businesspeople in office would understand that building a viable climate for business would make the area less susceptible to a downturn in the economy, he said.
“New York sits in the hub of the northeast; all air, rail, and ground travel systems connect here in Albany, we have some of the best university systems, and we need to tie that all together,” said Domenici. He said the state should invest in young entrepreneurs, who would create family businesses and stay local for decades.
“I took my own business and built it up from $100 to a million dollars; in Buffalo, Wisconsin, and Ohio I have created over 300 temporary and full-time jobs,” Domenici said.
“I don’t believe the recession is over. That’s a falsehood,” Carey said, based on the unemployment rate. Under the federal HIRE Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, two new tax benefits are available to employers who hire previously unemployed workers. A payroll tax exemption provides employers exemption from the 6.2-percent share of Social Security tax on wages; also, for each new hire employed for 52 weeks, businesses are eligible for a general business tax credit of 6.2 percent of the wages paid to the employee. Carey believes a similar program should be implemented at the state level.
“As we get more people off the unemployment rolls and off of food stamps, the difference will be made up in other areas. I think that’s the most practical thing to jumpstart the economy get businesses hiring,” Carey said.
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 funding across the state.
“Federal programs will never solve education problems, but since the funding came through, we need to look at a very equitable way to distribute it,” said Domenici. Right now, the “big five” Syracuse, Buffalo, Yonkers, Rochester, and New York City are going to get all of the money, and upstate will get very little, according to Domenici.
“Upstate has different problems than the big five; we have regional geographic problems instead of population problems. We’ll continue to die if we don’t build an equitable education system,” Domenici said. He has personal experience, he said, because he served on the South Colonie school board for 12 years, and was elected twice to the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
The legislature continuously pushes money downstate because that is where Democratic senators come from, Domenici said.
“We’re failing our students. We’re losing out to the cities. We can’t let that happen,” he said.
Carey said he also thinks the funds should be distributed in an equitable way.
“It’s unfair that downstate gets more funding than other areas,” he said. In Carey’s opinion, the school districts need to work harder to manage the resources they already have.
“What is causing a lot of issues is the pension system. You keep entering more and more people into the system, and the budgetary amount is bumped up to pay for that; they need to look at these areas and re-negotiate contracts,” said Carey.
Breslin has a different view. He believes the money should go to the high-needs schools first.
“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. The inner city and the rural poor schools…everything possible must be done to make those schools equal to all others,” said Breslin. The ultimate educational goal, he said, is to improve the math and English scores in New York State.
New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals decided in 2004, on a death penalty case, that the deadlock instruction to juries was coercive and violated the state constitution. The bill was sent back to the legislature, to fix the flaw, but it has not been fixed so the death penalty cannot be implemented in New York State.
“I would oppose any attempts to reinstate the death penalty,” said Breslin.
Carey said he thinks the death penalty should be used only in very limited situations, and only with overwhelming DNA evidence that proves guilt.
“The last thing I’d want to see is a person who didn’t commit a crime put to death,” said Carey. People’s lives can be turned around and changed just by serving a prison sentence, he said.
“I’m pro death penalty, but only under very strict circumstances; we have to make sure the civil liberties of both victims and criminals are protected,” said Domenici. He said he would only support the death penalty if there were DNA evidence.
The State Assembly has a solid Democratic majority. For decades, the State Senate had a Republican majority, but the Democrats two years ago won a slim majority.
Breslin he thinks the senate would face gridlock if the majority were to become Republican.
“With a Democratic majority, we’ve come to decisions much more quickly, and had better general agreement; we’ve seen historic health-care legislation passed, drug laws cleaned up, labor pay improved, and women’s rights improved,” said Breslin.
Domenici said he thought a majority swing would be a good thing.
“We need balance in government. I don’t care about politics, I will meet with everyone regardless of party, to figure out how the get the county back on its feet,” said Domenici.
Carey said he believes a majority of issues are bipartisan.
“If you work together, you can get some really great things done to protect the residents of New York,” said Carey.