Statement By Senator Steve Saland On The 2008 State Of The State Address

Stephen M. Saland

January 09, 2008

Senator Steve Saland (R,I,C Poughkeepsie) responded today to Governor Spitzer’s 2008 State of the State Address.

"As we begin the 2008 Legislative Session, I have high hopes for the future of New York. The Governor and I share many of the same goals and I look forward to working with him to achieve these goals. As always, with State of the State Addresses, there is little or no detail. We have to wait for his budget on January 22nd to get the details of how he proposes to make all this happen."

"The Empire State should be the premier place to live, work and do business. But ask anyone you meet and they will tell you resoundingly that this is not the case. And one of the most compelling reasons is the crushing burden of property taxes. I have made property tax reform one of my priority issues and have sponsored and passed many bills addressing this issue. But the response from the Governor and the Assembly until now has been at best lip service, at worst dead silence. I am heartened the Governor is finally willing to come to the table and discuss the issue. I look forward to hearing more about the bipartisan commission he is forming to look at the issue. Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. He proposes to do what I and the Senate Majority have already done during prior sessions. He wants the commission to look at unfunded mandates. Well, welcome aboard Governor -- I have long said that unfunded mandates on school districts and municipalities just drive up local taxes. I am proud that throughout my tenure as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, no unfunded mandate has been reported from my committee.

The Senate’s tax relief plan builds upon our previous efforts to increase the amount of rebate checks; and I have a plan to eliminate school taxes, at local voter option, and replace them with a fair system of State funding. As for the Governor’s plan for a property tax cap, as they say, the devil is in the details. Reform and not just relief -- that should be our focus."

"While we need to rein in property taxes, as the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, I am committed to ensuring that we will not do it at the expense of our schools. Our children deserve the finest education we can provide. Last year the Governor’s proposal to inadequately fund suburban and rural schools was simply unacceptable and I fought and won a record increase in funding for New York’s schools. I am hopeful he will not make us fight that same battle again this year. The Governor has indicated he is committed to investing in education and taking accountability to the next level. I will be carefully scrutinizing the Governor’s proposals."

"I am encouraged by the Governor’s remarks on health care. Even if we rein in property taxes, provide an unequaled education for our children and stimulate the upstate economy, if we have an unhealthy population we will still be behind the curve. The Governor talks about universal health care, making health insurance affordable for everyone, insuring every child in the State and focusing on prevention as well as treatment. His last year’s proposal would have eviscerated the State’s health care system. Some of the local hospitals and nursing homes which have taken care of our loved ones, and in which we have placed our trust for so long, might have been forced to close, were it not for the efforts of the Senate Republican Majority. I look forward to hearing the Governor’s plans to help keep health care affordable and accessible for all New Yorkers."

"One way to address health care problems is to start right at the beginning, with our children. Childhood obesity has become epidemic and schools need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. The Governor and I both have school nutrition proposals and I look forward to working with him to resolve the differences so we can take a coordinated proactive approach to solving this problem."

"I am also heartened by the Governor’s commitment to a billion dollar investment in the upstate economy. Given that the Senate already has a multifaceted plan called Upstate Now, I am hopeful we will be able to work together to jump start our upstate economy -- we’ve waited too long. The time is now."

"I have long been a supporter of revitalizing the Poughkeepsie Rail Bridge. I believe it will be an important economic boon for the region. The Hudson River is a natural treasure for residents and visitors alike to enjoy. I am thrilled, as are the many supporters of Walkway Across the Hudson, that the Governor agrees that this historic bridge can and should be converted to a magnificent park, bikeway and walkway. I know that, upon completion, thousands of visitors will enjoy it for generations to come. I look forward to working with him to make this one of the signature pieces of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentenial Celebration."

"All in all, I am encouraged by the Governor’s plans for the State for the coming year. His 2008-2009 budget will include ‘tough choices’, as he put it. New Yorkers can accept ‘tough’ as long as it’s ‘fair’. Let’s work together and put politics aside to make sure the ‘fair’ doesn’t get lost."