In press conferences across his district, state Senator James L. Seward (R/C/I-51st District) unveiled his priorities for the 2005 legislative session.
"In brief, I am fighting for budget reform, Medicaid reform to address local property taxes; a solution to the CFE court decision that helps upstate schools; economic development and government reform," Seward said.
Seward’s agenda includes:
* Constitutional changes must be passed again to go on ballot;
* A new agreement is necessary on legislation vetoed by the governor so that New York has a budget on time in 2005 -- without waiting for vote on constitutional changes this fall.
* Senate has passed budget reform for 10 years. We need to agree on changes that produce an on-time budget each and every year.
GOAL: An on-time budget each and every year.
Property tax reform
* Medicaid. Senate and governor have both advanced changes. NYSAC has called for capping counties' shares of Medicaid expenses. Begun this year a state assumption of Family Health Plus which will save counties $125 million this year. A Senate task force produced 40 recommendations last year, including pharmaceutical changes; preferred drug program; copayments; managed care and eligibility tests. We need a partner in the Assembly to make this a reality and reduce pressure on county real property taxes.
* School taxes. Improve and broaden STAR exemption to reduce pressure on local school taxes.
GOAL: Reform Medicaid, end unfunded mandates and reduce local property taxes.
*Education funding reform and CFE - Referees have recommended an increase of almost $15 billion in aid for NYC schools, with no plan on how to pay for it, no improvements in accountability and no recommendations for school districts upstate. CFE plan would double total state education spending, and it provides no balance to assist upstate schools.
GOAL: An education plan that helps upstate schools, property taxpayers, and helps students achieve more in their classrooms.
Economic development/business assistance
* Enact Seward "Freedom Plan" to reduce cost of health insurance to businesses.
* Renew current empire zone program and extend empire zones to each county in the state, including Greene, Schoharie and Tompkins.
* Create state business ‘czar’ to cut red tape, reduce regulations, encourage start-up businesses and new ventures, work with state businesses, and recruit business from other states;
* Initiate a panel that identifies state rules and laws that inhibit business growth and raise costs for employers and entrepreneurs and alternatives. Develop and publicize the "dirty dozen" of rules that hurt business growth and investment, and subject them to votes by the legislature or expiration.
* Expand "Power for Jobs" program
* Enact workers’ compensation reforms.
GOAL: Re-energize New York’s business climate and create jobs through tax and regulatory relief.
Legislative - government reform
Senate has a decade of action on budget reform legislation, including initiating joint legislative conference committees and public legislative expenditure reports; putting live Senate sessions on the Internet and cable television; passing initiative and referendum and lobbying reform legislation; and passing local government mandate relief measures.
*Hearings by a new Senate panel will focus on:
>Initiative and referendum ;
>Local government reform;
>Public authorities reform;
*GOAL: Changes and recommendations to make state government and the legislature more open and responsive.
"I am not returning to Albany to fight for the status quo," Seward said. "We need changes to get this state back on track in growing jobs, improving the economy, enhancing education and changing New York to a place that keeps and attracts young people as a great place to live."