To the Editor:
I am very excited going into the new year that so many of my goals and priorities mesh with what Governor Spitzer has set forth in his 2008 State of the State message, as well as with both houses of the state government. As always, I’m committed to work for what’s important to maintain and improve the quality of life in my district and across New York State.
Governor Spitzer’s State of the State address emphasized the need to once again make New York state the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family. To do this, he said, we need “good jobs, and more of them; better schools; good, affordable health care; strong, safe, and vibrant neighborhoods; and lower taxes.” I agree with the Governor that these are indeed the priorities for all New Yorkers, the ones I have been working for, and about which the Legislature is in consensus. I’d like to share what I have done and what I will continue to do as Assemblywoman of the 90th district to address these priorities.
Currently, property taxes are spiraling out of control. As chairperson of the Real Property Tax Committee, I introduced legislation last year calling for a Blue Ribbon Commission of experts to come up with solutions for alternative school funding mechanisms. To help bring control back to the people, I’ve proposed introducing a property tax solution similar to the one currently in place in Massachusetts. Massachusetts caps property taxes but allows local school districts to override the cap for high priority items. I have also introduced a middle class circuit breaker bill to help those people most acutely impacted by property tax increases. This legislation sets up a plan to look at a person’s income in relation to the total tax bill. If a person pays over a certain percentage of his or her income in taxes, the State would reimburse a percentage of the “over and above” amount, based on income level.
In his State of the State, Governor Spitzer similarly proposed a commission – bipartisan – to be led by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and invested with Moreland Act powers, to return three sets of recommendations: “A package of reforms that looks at root causes of what is driving taxes so high, including unfunded mandates on schools and municipalities and ways to maintain the State’s commitment to highest quality education more affordably; proposals on how to make tax relief fairer to the middle class taxpayer; and, a proposal for a fair and effective cap to school district property taxes.” I will continue to work with this bipartisan commission and support property tax relief.
My commitment to help constituents get a handle on increasing costs also aligns with energy savings in my Smart Meter bills introduced late last year. Smart metering allows homeowners to control their utility bills. A meter is placed within the home to allow a person to monitor and utilize off-peak times of lower utility demand. It also lets the consumer know exactly what they will pay, minute by minute, for the energy they use, known as real-time pricing. Additionally, this is an incentive to cut back on use of lights, appliances, etc. Smart metering helps reduce costs, helps mitigate potential overflow on the utility’s grid, and helps reduce overall energy consumption which taxes the environment. I will continue to push to allow smart meters in homes, for a pilot program of smart meters in Westchester, as well as calling for smart meters to be required in new construction.
I continue to look for ways to save taxpayers money by consolidating and encouraging shared services between school districts, municipalities and county and state government. Surely, in times of economic hardship, we can do a better job at reducing overlap, and streamlining our processes. I will push locally for these groups to come together and take a hard look at ways to save.
Education and health go hand in hand. Healthy, well-fed kids have a better chance at succeeding in school and in life. Eradicating childhood obesity would also help ensure that our children are not sentenced to a lifetime of serious illness. It would save hundreds of millions of state dollars in health care costs related to heart disease and Type II diabetes. My focus on nutrition in schools continues to be a priority, and one which the Governor also chose to highlight in his State of the State, where he called for passage of the Healthy Schools Act to take junk food out of schools.
In order to reduce taxes and improve outcomes for schools in my district, I worked hard to make sure that money from the Contracts for Excellence initiative would come into the 90th district. Now, our schools have extra help that targets proven reforms, such as smaller class sizes, more time in school and teacher training. Governor Spitzer highlighted this investment in education, and I will continue to support measures that lead to improvements for pre-K through 16 education.
Finally, the infrastructure of our neighborhoods is key to the success of our district and our state. I am preparing to announce much needed multi-modal funding grants that target infrastructure improvements to roads, sidewalks and rails. I am pleased to report that approximately $300,000 in multi-modal grants, $230,000 for ferry dock replacement in Ossining, and $36.5 million for the Ossining and Scarborough Train Station rehabilitation will be coming into our district to make improvements in this critical area.
I am excited to continue to work together with my constituents in the 90th district towards these goals. My priorities are formulated through responses to my newsletter questionnaires, and at town meetings. Please be sure to participate in my upcoming town meeting schedule to make sure your voice is heard. Together, we can maintain and improve the quality of life we’ve come to expect here in the Hudson Valley.
Assemblywoman, 90th Assembly District