Despite early agreements on major issues that had been blocked for years, State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer (D-Mamaroneck) today said the 2007 legislative session ended in disappointment and frustration for Democratic senators who have been pushing for legislation critical to their 9-to-5 working family agenda.
"Senate Democrats helped negotiate and pass a flurry of important bills early this legislative session, including civil confinement of sex offenders, workers’ compensation reform and ethics reform," said Senator Oppenheimer. "Unfortunately agreements on other key issues– such as the Paid Family Leave Act, economic development reform, the Healthy Schools Act and video game violence– remain elusive."
"I will keep working with the Governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass sensible, progressive measures that bring positive change to the lives of all New Yorkers, Senator Oppenheimer said. "In fact, our entire Conference was willing to stay in Albany until negotiations were successful."
"Economic development reforms and job creation are perfect examples of where Albany failed us. Job creation in New York lags far behind the rest of the country. Upstate job growth is practically nonexistent. Everyone acknowledges it, yet we were unable to agree on a job growth strategy, Article X legislation, Empire Zone and IDA reforms, and Power for Jobs reform to jump-start economic development in any region of the state."
Senator Oppenheimer said her "Brownfields Shovel-Ready Site Program" would have allowed the state to purchase and clean up dozens of contaminated sites in economically poor neighborhoods, thus allowing businesses to develop the properties to generate quality jobs and affordable housing.
"The Paid Family Leave Act is another issue that we should have been able to find common ground on and get an agreement," the Westchester lawmaker said. "Allowing workers to contribute 45 cents a week from their paycheck as insurance against needing to take paid family leave and then giving that employee the right to take up to 12 weeks paid leave from work for care of a newborn or elderly parent is sensible social and economic policy."
Senator Oppenheimer also hopes that her proposal to expand the Tuition Assistance Program for undergraduate and graduate students will be part of the discussion during next year’s budget negotiations.
"As we work with the Governor to overhaul our state’s public universities, colleges and community colleges, we must stay true to the mission of SUNY and CUNY," she added. "That means providing every student with the opportunity to earn a college degree. TAP expansion is essential to fulfilling that mission."
"While we made progress in Medicaid reform and school aid reform, we also missed opportunities to make sweeping changes to our state government and level the playing field for public and political participation," Senator Oppenheimer said. "We couldn’t agree on campaign finance reform, Senate rules reform, expanded Conference Committees, public authority reform, redistricting reform or MTA reform."
"We all understand that New Yorkers are being overwhelmed by local property taxes. That’s why I voted in favor of the rebate check for homeowners as part of the overall budget," said Senator Oppenheimer. "But we must also come to terms with the root causes of high property taxes. That means reducing mandates, such as Medicaid costs on county governments, and finding regional savings for local governments."
Senator Oppenheimer said she was also disappointed that agreements could not be reached on the Healthy School Act and curbing violence in video games. "These measures would protect our children, promote healthy eating habits in and out of our schools, and establish an anti-violence awareness program to address youth violence," she concluded.