State Senator John J. Bonacic (R/I/C - Mt. Hope), said 2005 was a productive year in terms of education, tourism, and housing initiatives in his Senate District but he expected 2006 to be a year filled with diverse issues as Governor Pataki ends his third and final term as Governor.
Bonacic cited as successes for 2005 the $10 million he and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill secured to renovate SUNY New Paltz's 34 year old student union building, as well as the $38 million in increased school aid he helped secure as part of the budget for his Senate District as education related highlights.
"New Paltz is one of the best colleges in the SUNY system and its reputation continues to grow. The $10 million we secured as part of the budget is a vote of confidence for the continued leadership at New Paltz and the students who are going there," Bonacic said.
In addition, Bonacic cited the groundbreaking of the Sullivan County Fire Training Center, for which he obtained $1.125 million to build; the announcement of a new $3.1 million high speed quad at Belleayre, towards which he secured $1.9 million; and new housing initiatives he helped develop, including the $10 million Access to Homes Program, as key goals of his that were met during 2005. Bonacic, Chairman of the Senate Housing Committee, said the Access to Homes will provide funding to those with limited mobility so they may stay in their homes and not be forced into nursing facilities or other publicly subsidized housing.
Looking at 2006, the Senator said he expected numerous issues to be considered which could affect the people of the Hudson Valley and Catskills, including:
* FRAUD: Medicaid and Insurance fraud cost New Yorkers billions of dollars a year. The Senate has passed antifraud legislation (S. 2390, S.487, S.122) with strong criminal sanctions. Unfortunately, as in so many other cases, the Assembly's Democratic Majority has thwarted efforts to lock up those who commit crimes against New Yorkers.
"Robbery doesn't just take place at gunpoint. The white collar crimes of insurance fraud and identity theft amount to robbery by computer, but is just as wrong and ought to be dealt with in a bipartisan manner and with strong criminal sanctions," Senator Bonacic said.
* SEX OFFENDERS: The Senate has passed comprehensive legislation (S. 4793-a and S. 3273) which would address sex offenders. Elements of the Senate plan include civil commitment of predatory sex offenders, lifetime GPS monitoring, and longer prison sentences. The Assembly leadership has refused to permit a vote. "These bills would pass the Assembly overwhelmingly. They deserve an up or down vote but instead are held hostage by the Assembly's leadership," Bonacic said.
* EDUCATION FINANCE: Despite the efforts of some special interest groups to "pick our taxpayers pockets and shift 92% of school construction spending to New York City", Bonacic pledged to continue his efforts to make sure all children benefit from a responsible school finance plan. "All children, regardless of where they live, deserve an educational opportunity which is second to none. I will continue to work to allocate the funds the children of this State need, but will never consent to the Robin Hood approach of taking from some of our Districts to spend more elsewhere," Bonacic said.
In addition, the Senator said, school property tax reform should also be a priority for 2006. The Senate Republican Majority has offered a multi-point plan to reduce school property taxes. The Assembly leadership has offered no alternative.
* CASINO GAMING: In June, the Assembly passed casino gaming legislation which would have authorized a casino at Kutshers' Country Club. That legislation did not, however, provide for any local impact payment from casino revenues to help the people of our region cope with some of the costs which come from casino gaming. Moreover, since that time, the Mohawks, who would have owned the casino, have pulled their support away from Kutshers' as the location and shifted their support to siting a casino at the Monticello Raceway.
The Federal Government must still issue needed permits and State and local compacts must be approved prior to the Mohawk casino moving forward.
Senator Bonacic said he expected numerous other issues, "including the cost of health insurance, workers compensation, Rockefeller drug reform, open space preservation, and a continued effort to make home ownership more affordable" to be considered during the upcoming State Legislative session. Senator Bonacic also invited area residents to visit his website, www.senatorbonacic.com, for more information on these, and other issues.