My two terms in the New York State Assembly were exciting and informative. Working together with Rob Astorino in Westchester and colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Albany, we did great work in trying to get our County and State back on track. Now we look forward to a new challenge in the New York State Senate.
From strengthening our State’s ethics laws, to making Albany more accountable to the taxpayers, to enacting sound environmental policies and examining the hazards and viability of hydrofracking, our three legislative sessions contained a number of notable accomplishments.
But perhaps the greatest success was the passage of legislation which will help homeowners and renters afford to stay in their homes in these difficult economic times. By passing a strong property-tax cap and some overdue mandate relief, lawmakers have taken an important step in providing residents with needed relief from the highest property taxes in the United States.
While the mandate relief included in the three budgets I worked on was far from comprehensive and was disappointing to me personally, it is a change in the right direction and reduced the cost-drivers that drive up local taxes. Now we must continue to work on eliminating unfunded state mandates in order to lower taxes across our region. I hope with your help to continue to lead the charge in this new fight.
I am also pleased that the Legislature was able to pass important rent-stabilization legislation to cap the amount tenants pay for their apartments, shielding them from the rising cost of living in one of the most expensive regions in America. The City of White Plains will now be able to strengthen its rent-stabilization laws by adjusting income thresholds to more accurately reflect current wages and the rate of inflation.
I was pleased to vote four times for equal pay for women, and numerous times against $1.5 billion in new taxes, fees, fine increases and extensions. As the ranking member on Veterans Affairs in the Assembly, I introduced legislation to protect our veterans, fund the VA Home in Montrose and worked to insure that the VA Hospital in Montrose will always be there to serve our veterans, as they have served us.
Following Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, the response by our public utilities had left much to be desired. I called upon the Governor, in the months following, to convene a task force to examine the response to those storms, and determine what changes would be needed to effectively prepare for future incidents of this magnitude.
I was also pleased to vote for the passage of a property-tax cap, significant unfunded-mandate relief, and the first major rent-cap measure since the mid-1990s, all of which will go a long way toward making the Westchester-Putnam region a more affordable place to live.
We set the right tone during my terms in office for a State that is facing a serious economic crisis and taxpayers who have had enough of Albany’s fiscal incompetence. Moving forward, lawmakers must now redouble their efforts to pass much needed reforms, and to repeal or suspend outdated laws and regulations. We must also push important changes like the repeal of the onerous MTA payroll tax, which I am pleased to say we finally passed through the Legislature and eliminated, easing the tax burden on all New Yorkers.
In the future the Governor must put forth an Executive Budget that reduces state spending, holds the line on taxes and works toward needed reforms, such as independent redistricting. The institution of the state spending cap and the changes to our pension system were also important first steps we took to put our State in fiscal order, while still being mindful of the neediest in our society. I will continue to work with officials at every level of government, while in or out of office, to transform state government and return us to the status of the “Empire State.”
The current national financial crisis has brought laser-like clarity to the sad state of Albany politics and corruption. I was pleased to author a bill for the toughest ethics reform legislation in the State’s history, a version of which was adopted and signed into law by the Governor. There will never be a better opportunity to make significant reforms at the state level. I have also worked to create transparency in government, so as to allow our citizens to more easily recognize the consequences of overregulation, automatic pay raises, weakened anti-terrorist laws, unsustainable education financing, and the need for Medicaid reform. It should be noted that Medicaid consumes $54 billion dollars or approximately 40% of the states $135 billion dollar budget.
I’ve been in public service my entire life, beginning the day I left high school to enlist in the Army and volunteered to serve as an Infantry Sergeant in Vietnam, in 1968 and 1969. I proudly carried on a tradition passed on from my grandfather to my father, and from me to one of my two sons today. I carried on that service in the New York State Police for over twenty-one years, and later as a district leader, and then a Councilman in the Town of Lewisboro.
During my journey, after the Army I went back to college and after completing two undergraduate degrees, completed my education by receiving a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where I was awarded a Pickett fellowship in Criminal Justice Policy and Management from the National Institute of Justice, in recognition of my over twenty-year contribution to the law enforcement community in the United States.
Additionally, I started a security consulting business, using the investigative experience gained in the State Police to help government and business uncover and prosecute fraud, waste and abuse in the work place.
As a college professor I had the great personal pleasure of teaching in the areas of Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Terrorism and Security Management at Iona College, where I was Chair of the Criminal Justice Department, and at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, where I provided expert commentary on the aforementioned subjects to the national and international TV, radio and print media. Quite frankly, leaving teaching was the only difficult part of my decision to run for office, but having the honor of serving my community, state and country was an opportunity I could not, and would not, pass up.