Senate Candidates Look For Chamber Votes

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October 28, 2016
Taxes, regulations, the minimum wage and corruption in Albany were all on this breakfast menu.
State Senate candidates from four different districts shared breakfast with the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 27—and then got down to a substantive debate about the issues at the Best Western Plus in Kingston.
The candidates, who appeared before more than 200 local business leaders, included:

•    New Windsor Democrat Chris Eachus, who is seeking the 39th District seat now held by longtime Republican Sen. William Larkin of Cornwall. Larkin did not attend.
•    Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, who is being challenged in the 42nd District by Democrat Pramilla Malick of Minisink. Malick did not attend.
•    Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and his Democratic challenger Sara Niccoli, who is the supervisor in the Montgomery County town of Palatine and a family farmer. They are running in the 46th District.
•    Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, and his Democratic challenger Jermaine Bagnall-Graham of Shelburne, an IT specialist for Bassett Healthcare Network. They are running in the 51st District.

Bonacic didn’t mince words when he said the area is finally emerging from the “Great Recession” that began in December 2007.
“We’re slightly coming out of it now,” Bonacic said. “Ulster County, by the way, is doing very well. Of the seven counties in the Mid-Hudson, your unemployment has dropped the most.”
So it was no surprise when the first question asked by Chamber President Ward Todd came from a local business owner, who asked what the candidates would do about the high taxes and regulations that keep him from expanding.
Bonacic, who has been in the Senate since 1998, said local businesses are “flourishing” in Orange County where he lives thanks to business incubators. He said he also steps in from time to time to help local businesses with red tape.
“I can tell you we spend a lot of time calling those bureaucrats and getting small businesses some relief,” he said.
“What we need is lower taxes and help with regulatory relief.”
Eachus, who has been an Orange County legislator for 11 years, agreed with Bonacic that Orange County has attracted business.
“We do that because we’ve reduced the taxes down there,” he said. “We’ve made it worth their while to come in.”
Eachus said he would unveil an economic development plan soon that calls for incentives for small businesses and moving away from the property tax to the income tax.
Amedore, who owns a small business, said he is well aware of the mandates and regulations.
“It has put an almost suffocating stronghold around our necks,” he said. “We have big government heavy on our back and deep in our pockets.”
Amedore listed a litany of roadblocks put before local businesses and said a GOP-controlled Senate is needed as a check to the Democratic Assembly.
“What I have been doing as a state senator is bringing that small businessman’s voice to our conference,” he said.
Niccoli said as a family farmer she is also well aware of how regulations limit “both growth and sustainability.”
“I experience every day the struggles of trying to keep a business alive in upstate New York,” she said. “As a town supervisor, I see how stretched small businesses are.”
Niccoli noted that while the state invests $9 billion in economic development, many Chamber members probably don’t qualify. She called for more low-interest loans and grants and said the state much also address the high cost of health care.
Seward said traveling through his district, he hears local businesses complain about high taxes, red tape and regulations.
“If you look at the growth areas of our country, it’s pretty simple,” he said. “Those are lower-taxed areas [with] lower regulations. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to come up with the answer here.”
Seward called the STAR program, which gives property tax relief to residential homeowners, “one of the best things we’ve ever done.” He would like to see STAR extended to businesses.
Bagnall-Graham agreed that New York is “overregulated on everything” and vowed to bring the experts to the table—and promised to listen.
“You all are the experts,” he said looking out at the Chamber crowd. “You know what’s hurting you.”
Bagnall-Graham, who served a graduate internship with the city of Norwich, also called for more tax incentives for local businesses.
“If we’re overtaxing you, there is no way you can grow and continue to hire,” he said.
The candidates were also asked about New York’s graduated $15 minimum wage.
Seward, Bonacic and Amedore said the Senate GOP compromised to get a graduated plan. Seward and Amedore said Gov. Andrew Cuomo was prepared to ram through the $15 figure before the compromise plan; Bonacic said Cuomo was “pandering to the unions in New York City.”
The senators said an economic study to see the impacts of the hike was part of the compromise. Eachus and Bagnall-Graham said they were anxious to see the results.
Bagnall-Graham saw a possible silver lining for businesses in the hike, saying, “When [people] make more money, they will be happier and invest.”
Niccoli favored linking minimum-wage hikes to inflation.
The candidates were also asked about the corruption in Albany that has ended the careers of several high-ranking officials.
Bonacic said the vast majority of public officials in Albany are not corrupt.
“This is very painful to the people who have dedicated their lives to public service,” he said of the corruption.
The candidates were also asked about the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). The candidates also favored some sort of reform. Niccoli said she would favor streamlining SEQRA, as long as the environment was still protected.
Ulster County encompasses four separate state Senate districts.
The 39th Senate District includes the towns of Plattekill and Marlborough in Ulster County.
The 42nd Senate District includes the towns of Denning, Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale, Shawangunk and Wawarsing in Ulster County.
The 46th Senate District includes the city of Kingston and towns of Esopus, Hurley, Kingston, Lloyd, Marbletown, Saugerties, Ulster and Woodstock in Ulster County.
The 51st Senate District includes the Ulster County towns of Rochester, Olive, Shandaken and Hardenburgh.
Ward Todd, President
(845) 338-5100