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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"What are the early returns showing?"
ALBANY, Feb. 24 -- I post a new legislative survey on my Senate website (found at www.omara.nysenate.gov) at the start of every legislative session in January, and this year was no different – with the exception that this year is turning out to be one of the timeliest surveys we’ve ever done.
And, as a result, one of the most useful.
My “2014 Community, Jobs and Economy Survey” offers a fairly detailed questionnaire on key issues that are dominating current negotiations over a new state budget (and as we get ready to turn the calendar to March and hit the homestretch on enacting the final 2014-15 state budget, I’m finding this local input particularly informative), but that also have drawn widespread public attention throughout these early months of the legislative session in Albany.
Needless to say, it’s a matter of fortunate timing that I’m getting this valuable snapshot of what so many of you are thinking and feeling on critical issues being debated at the moment and for the foreseeable future -- including unfunded state mandates, the cost of Medicaid, the future of Monterey Shock, the future of the Marcellus Shale, Common Core, the NY SAFE Act, the regional fight against the spread of meth and the rise of heroin, and several others.
I’ve always maintained that while these annual online opinion surveys are not by-the-book scientific polls by any measure, they at the very least provide a solid indication of local views.
So I thought I’d share some highlights from the early returns. I’ll also issue a reminder that the survey’s still available on omara.nysenate.gov for anyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to participate.
On two issues that have sparked a public outcry unlike almost any other I can recall during the past decade I’ve served in the State Legislature – the NY SAFE Act, and Common Core – the direction of local opinion seems pretty clear. The survey asks respondents if the SAFE Act should be repealed: 71% say yes. On the question of support for or opposition to Common Core: 63% are opposed.
In response to one very straightforward question -- “Do you support hydrofracking?” -- the current response largely falls in line with what we’re seeing in prominent statewide polls. Fifty-one percent support it, 37 percent are opposed, and the remaining 12 percent remain undecided.
On the strictly economic and fiscal reform front, 75% of respondents believe it’s a high priority to provide local governments and school districts relief from unfunded mandates, 65% believe that enacting job-creating tax cuts is a top priority this year, and 65% also believe that reducing the cost of Medicaid is one of our most important priorities.
Generally speaking, the top three issues that respondents are “most concerned about” are 1.) cutting wasteful government spending, 2.) reducing state and local taxes, and 3.) unfunded state mandates.
Closer to home, nearly 70% of respondents are against the Cuomo administration plan to close the Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility later this year.
Interestingly, the future of Monterey was back in the news over the past week as a result of Governor Cuomo’s recently announced plan to have New York State pick up the cost of providing a college education to state prison inmates as a way to lower recidivism rates and thereby cut prison costs over the long run. It was an opportunity for me and other Monterey supporters to remind the Cuomo administration that Monterey Shock already works – and has worked for a long time – to achieve these very same goals.
I noted that the SAFE Act and Common Core are two of the most highly charged issues that I can ever recall, but the early reaction to the governor’s college-for-inmates proposal has been nearly as strong. For one thing, the timing’s bad. Hardworking, law-abiding students and families across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions are sacrificing and struggling to find a way to pay for college in the face of rising tuition costs and other expenses, and they’re not asking for a state handout to get that education. It’s just another bad move at the worst possible time for New York State taxpayers. We need to stay focused on cutting taxes, keeping state spending under control and turning around the upstate economy. Now’s no time to add another questionable – and potentially very expensive -- state spending commitment.
Obviously Governor Cuomo’s college-for-inmates plan arrived too late to be included in the full “Community, Jobs and Economy Survey,” but I’ve posted a quick poll on omara.nysenate.gov to give you an opportunity to comment on this issue too. Polling over the first few days showed sentiment running strongly against it and, as of this writing, approximately 70% are opposed.
Keep the opinions coming.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp
Bottom row: Tom Gifford, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field.
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482
Stewart Field, Watkins Glen, 535-2335
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Gary Whyman, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Phil Palmesano--
Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869