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Senator Tom O'Mara

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Senator Tom O'Mara last won the day on March 5 2023

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  1. We can’t afford to let this one fly under the radar and so it remains worthwhile to warn, once again, as many of us have been warning throughout the past several years, that the Albany Democrat climate agenda currently moving forward across this state is a perfect storm of unaffordability, unfeasibility, and unreliability. It cannot be stressed enough: Since the 2019 enactment of what’s known as the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” (CLCPA), we’ve watched Albany Democrats move at world record speed to pile one unaffordable mandate on top of another unworkable mandate on top of the next unrealistic mandate trying to inflict a zero-emissions economy on this entire state – and altogether these actions will come with a devastating price tag and consequences for ratepayers and taxpayers, businesses and industries, school districts, farmers, local economies, and more. Earlier this year, for example, I joined legislative colleagues and school district representatives, including Horseheads Central School District Superintendent, Dr. Thomas Douglas, to focus on just one fast-moving state energy mandate requiring, starting in 2027, that all school buses purchased in this state be electric. We stood together to warn that it is projected to be the most expensive unfunded state mandate to ever hit local school districts and property taxpayers. I have introduced legislation (S8220/A8447), sponsored in the state Assembly by area Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, to immediately delay this mandate and do what should have been done long before passing it, which is to undertake a thorough cost-benefit analysis; take other actions to ensure affordability, feasibility, and reliability; and be forthright with taxpayers and ratepayers on what this is going to cost them. Keep in mind that the all-electric school bus mandate is just one of numerous energy mandates already in the state’s pipeline and on the way to hit all New Yorkers extremely hard in the very near future, including: No natural gas within newly constructed buildings, beginning in 2025; No new gas service to existing buildings, beginning in 2030; No replacement natural gas appliances for home heating, cooking, water heating, clothes drying beginning in 2035; and No gasoline-automobile sales by 2035. The overriding point for those of us who have been warning about these looming mandates is not that we don’t believe New York State should be moving toward cleaner and more renewable energy, because that’s simply not the truth. We do believe it and we have supported actions that already make New York State a national leader. New York State consumes less total energy per capita than all but two other states. New York State’s per capita energy consumption for the transportation sector is the lowest in the nation. In 2020, New York State’s per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were lower than those of any other state; but then the Albany Democrats closed the Indian Point nuclear energy plant and CO2 emissions have increased over 40% in the New York City area since the closure. The important reality that keeps getting overlooked (or ignored) by the other side is that Albany Democrats want 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and zero emissions by 2040 -- despite our state emissions accounting for just 0.4% of total global emissions and recognizing that, even if we could somehow get to zero through the imposition of these drastic, draconian measures imposing untold hardships on New York’s communities, residents, industries, and local economies, it will have virtually zero impact on the statewide, national, or global climate. The latest Empire Center report warns that the costs to New Yorkers could well prove to be over $1 trillion by 2050 – and that’s in a state already recognized as one of the nation’s least affordable places to live, one of America’s highest taxed and regulated states, and the state that is losing population faster than any other in the country. Consequently, as we move into the final weeks of the current legislative session, we cannot let this fly under the radar of public attention and scrutiny. The all-Democrat energy strategy as it stands is not realistic or achievable. It is not responsible or rational. It lacks critical foresight, and it unreasonably risks energy grid reliability and affordability. At the very least, it demands reassessment and reexamination before it’s too late. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  2. New Yorkers are losing hope and the signs of it are all around us. We lead the nation in population loss thanks in no small part to the fact that we continue to be one of the nation’s highest taxed and most heavily regulated states – in other words, one of America’s most unaffordable places to live, work, and raise a family. The latest statewide polling of registered voters from the Siena College Research Institute showed Governor Hochul having her lowest-ever favorability rating. The poll also found that more than 80% of New Yorkers believe the ongoing arrival of thousands upon thousands of illegal migrants is a serious problem – and keep in mind that the poll was conducted before the Albany Democrats enacted their latest state budget and delivered another $2.4-billion handout to provide programs and services for illegal migrants. Needless to say, a majority of poll respondentscontinue to dislike the job that Governor Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and the Biden Administration are doing (or, more accurately, not doing) to address New York’s border crisis. The poll also revealed that most New Yorkers believe that crime across this state has gotten worse over the last year. Approximately 60% of voters remain concerned that they will be a victim of crime. Yes, New Yorkers are losing hope. But what’s being done to restore it? To kick off the 2024 legislative session – one that we believed represented a pivotal session with New York at a crossroads in so many areas – the Senate Republican Conference put forth a comprehensive set of goals to help rebuild and strengthen local and state economies, focus on the affordability challenges facing so many middle-class families and small business owners, and make public safety a top priority. At that time back in mid-January, I said, “We face an affordability crisis. We face a border crisis. Law and order are in free fall. The Albany Democrat direction for New York simply fails to produce any hope for a long-term, sustainable future for communities, families, workers, businesses, industries, and taxpayers. New York is a state in decline that continues to become less safe, less free, less affordable, less economically competitive, less responsible, and far less strong for the future. We are at a dangerous crossroads and we must enact an across-the-board agenda to cut taxes, address affordability, and rebuild stronger and safer communities.” We called it “A New Hope for the Empire State” and we began rolling it out at the very start of this session with a focus on fiscal responsibility and affordability for all taxpayers, rebuilding and revitalizing New York’s local economies, and addressing rising crime and public safety. Albany Democrats have gone in a completely different direction. It continues to put this state’s future on high alert. Their direction for New York is producing billions upon billions of dollars of short- and long-term spending commitments requiring billions upon billions of dollars in new taxes, fees, and borrowing for future generations of state and local taxpayers. The overriding goals of our New Hope agenda would have: Offered a safer and better quality of life for all New Yorkers by repealing bail reform and supporting law enforcement and crime victims; Made New York more affordable for every resident by cutting the state’s highest-in-the-nation tax burden and taking other actions to lower the cost of living in New York; Improved the state’s business climate and expanded economic opportunity by cutting burdensome regulations; Moved more responsibly and sensibly toward a cleaner energy future without ignoring affordability, feasibility, and reliability like the strategy currently set in motion under Governor Hochul is doing; and Restored accountability and local decision making to state government in the aftermath of rampant abuses of executive power throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not where Democrats have gone so far this session and there’s very few signs of it turning around any time soon. The size of the state budget continues to skyrocket. There is no turning back from this explosive tax-and-spend path this year. Far from it, in fact. The new state budget, as I have detailed in previous columns, took yet another huge leap in size and will burden state and local taxpayers for years to come. The same goes for law and order. Albany Democrats are turning criminal justice on its head. Most reasonable New Yorkers recognize that rising crime and violence, and weakened public safety and security, are the direct result of the pro-criminal policies being enacted and pushed by this governor and a State Legislature under one-party control. They have emboldened the criminal element throughout this state through failed bail reform, lenient parole policies, an out-of-control Parole Board, cowing to the “defund the police” movement, and an overall careless approach to criminal justice. In short, our calls to make New York more affordable, responsible, safer, sustainable, and hopeful, have, once again, been going unheard. Nevertheless, the fight goes on to rebuild and reclaim hope for a more reasonable approach to governing this state. It's more urgent than ever. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  3. In a recent column, I wrote about Chemung County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Theetge who, while in pursuit of a suspect in a retail theft operation at a Target store in Big Flats, Chemung County, was struck and severely injured by the getaway vehicle being used in the crime. Investigator Theetge is 35 years old. He suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding. Gratefully -- thanks to his own fortitude and strength, and the incredible care and support he has received -- Investigator Theetge is steadily improving. But he and his family face a long road of recovery. Sadly, and tragically, the ongoing spread of lawlessness throughout this state once again hit far too close to home last week when two Syracuse law enforcement officers – Onondaga County Sheriff Lieutenant Michael Hoosock and Syracuse Police Officer Michael Jensen -- were gunned down and murdered in the line of duty on Sunday, April 14. In the aftermath of the Syracuse tragedy, Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, in words that echo the sentiment of so many throughout this region and state, said, “I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m hurt. Just like everybody else in Syracuse. There is what I believe is a target on the back of law enforcement. People have come to a new level of brazenness towards law enforcement and if that doesn’t scare the hell out of our community then I don’t know what will." Sheriff Baxter is right about a “a target on the back of law enforcement” and a “new level of brazenness towards law enforcement.” Many believe it stems directly from the brazenness of Albany Democrat policies and a mindset that have failed and refuse to recognize – in fact, that deliberately work against -- the need for law and order. As I have stated many times over the past several years, the consequences are clear: a rapidly declining Empire State. Beginning under former Governor Andrew Cuomo and continuing under current Governor Hochul, working in tandem with a state Legislature under all-Democrat control, New York State’s criminal justice system has been turned upside down and inside out. Failed bail and discovery law reforms. A “Raise the Age” law (aka the Gang Recruitment Act) that removes criminal responsibility for violent 16- and 17-year-olds, thereby providing incentive for gangs to recruit and utilize younger members. A parole system that continues to outrageously release the most violent of inmates, including cop killers and child murderers. A correctional system that has become a powder keg of violence because it handcuffs administrators and correctional officers from being able to maintain control, and the inmates know it. The approval of new laws like the so-called “Clean Slate Act” facilitating a widespread sealing of millions of criminal records, 2.3 million records to be exact, including for any number of violent crimes including assault, armed robbery, attempted murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and others, regardless of the number of criminal convictions an individual has. The halls of state government are out of control and, consequently, the streets are out of control. Under the cover of a so-called “progressive” political ideology that has taken over the reins of power in Albany, this state has become less safe. Plain and simple. Statewide polling throughout the past few years confirms that New Yorkers view crime as one of the most critical issues confronting the state and that New York is moving in the wrong direction to address it. Albany Democrats keep trying to defend a mindset for which there is no defense. They keep trying to assure the rest of us that public protections remain in place. That, somehow, the reality of their “no consequences” approach to law and order is not real. Instead of changing their own ways, they keep trying to convince us that all we need to do to make things better is to stop believing what we keep seeing and hearing every week. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  4. On the evening of Friday, March 30, Chemung County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Theetge, in pursuit of a suspect in a retail theft operation at a Target store in Big Flats, just two miles from my home, was struck and thrown by the getaway vehicle being used in the crime. Investigator Theetge, 35 years old, suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding. As of this writing, he remains hospitalized in critical condition. First and foremost, please keep Mike and his family in your prayers. The outpouring of community support has been incredible. According to the Chemung County Sherriff’s Office, individuals or businesses wishing to make a direct donation to the Theetge family should contact the Sheriff’s office at 607-737-2950 (Road Patrol) or 607-737-2987 (Administration) for assistance in doing so. The prevalence of ever-rising retail theft across this state and nation reaches home here in the Southern Tier in a shocking and tragic way. This is not just a big city issue, it’s right here in our own backyard in rural, upstate New York. We are all being impacted by the consequences of no consequences resulting from the Albany Democrats’ soft on crime and punishment policies. It’s estimated that retail theft is costing New York State businesses upwards of $4 billion annually. Polls have shown that retail workers are fearful of being attacked at their workplaces. One recent survey conducted by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, for example, revealed more than 80 percent of retail workers say that they are worried about an active shooter coming into their workplace. Yet, raise the prospect of increasing criminal penalties to crack down on retail thieves -- for example, legislation to make it a felony offense to assault a retail worker – and the response from leading Albany Democrats demonstrates the mindset destroying law and order in New York State. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie recently said, "I just don't believe raising penalties is ever a deterrent." Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins joined her Assembly counterpart in expressing the same sentiment, “Both houses find that merely raising penalties, does not necessarily get at, you know, diminishing the amount of crime." Another leading Senate Democrat, Brooklyn Senator Kevin Parker added, “I don’t see any increase in penalties coming out of the state Legislature.” It’s preposterous. If retail thieves, if criminals in general, don’t fear the consequences of their actions – and they don’t in New York State today – there’s no stopping this explosion of crime and violence. You might just as well wave a white flag of surrender. “It’s better off to commit a crime than get a job in New York,” says the President of New York’s Bodega and Small Business Association “How do you deter crime except by penalty?” asks Nelson Eusebio, who heads the National Supermarket Association and Coalition to Save our Supermarkets. He’s right. For her part, Governor Kathy Hochul has acknowledged the growing retail theft crisis and put forth a $45-million plan to establish a new state-level task force to coordinate statewide responses. The governor also wants to: set up a New York State Police Smash and Grab Enforcement Unit dedicated to building cases against organized retail theft rings; increase funding for local district attorneys to prosecute property crime cases and to bolster the ability of local law enforcement to combat retail theft; and establish a Commercial Security Tax Credit to help business owners offset the expense of store security measures. That’s all well and good, but can any of the above be truly effective without being accompanied by tougher penalties for criminals? Yes, the governor has expressed her own support for increased penalties as part of the broader deterrent and enforcement strategy, but she failed to put it in her proposed executive budget, which is where she has the most power with the Legislature’s Democratic supermajorities. Consequently, it’s clearly going nowhere in the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the governor appears in no position to be able to sway their opinion. Writing in the New York Post, longtime New York City newspaper columnist Michael Goodwin reacted to Assembly Speaker Heastie’s “penalties are not a deterrent” way of thinking this way: “Because (Heastie) has a life-or-death grip on every piece of legislation that moves or doesn’t move in Albany, his admission illustrates why lawmakers have allowed and even encouraged the waves of crime and public disorder that are destroying New York. The lenient bail laws, the handcuffs on judges, the raising of the age from 16 to 18 for young offenders to be treated as adults — they all play a role in the coddling of criminals and the victimization of the innocent. The murder of (New York City) Police Officer Jonathan Diller by a career criminal who along with his partner had racked up at least 35 combined arrests underscores the devastating impact Heastie and his Democratic collaborators are having.” Goodwin hits the bull’s eye here. New York State under one-party control has spent the past several years coddling criminals and victimizing law-abiding, innocent citizens. The plague of retail theft goes on ravaging New York and other cities and, as I started this column, the prevalence of lawlessness is seeping into every corner of the state, including the horrific encounter that left Chemung County Sheriff’s Investigator Mike Theetge fighting for his life. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  5. On the fourth anniversary of ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s now infamous March 25, 2020 executive order forcing New York’s nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients back into their facilities — a move that many believe directly contributed to the COVID-related deaths of more than 15,000 seniors in long-term care facilities — I joined legislative colleagues and “Voices for Seniors” advocates at the Capitol last week to remember one of the most terrible chapters in this state’s history. The remembering remains necessary because Governor Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature’s Democrat leaders seem determined to forget. The ongoing, unexplainable lack of urgency on a comprehensive, top-to-bottom, independent examination of New York’s COVID-19 response -- including its costs, what New York did right and, more importantly, where things went wrong – remains unacceptable, but that’s where things stand. A desperately needed reassessment and reexamination has never been a frontline priority for Albany Democrat, even though it’s critical, unfinished work. Exhibit A is the fact that Governor Hochul has shown no interest whatsoever in getting to the bottom of New York’s tragic decision to pressure nursing homes into accepting COVID hospital patients. As I said, it will forever be one of the saddest chapters in this state’s history. We cannot allow it to be ignored and forgotten. New York State’s COVID response needs to be independently examined for the sake of justice for the families who lost loved ones in nursing homes and to ensure that what went wrong, on many levels, never happens again. Yes, two years ago, the Hochul administration announced a contract with a Virginia-based consulting firm to delve into the state’s COVID-related policies and actions beginning in March 2020. Set aside the troubling fact that the release of this review’s findings, despite costing taxpayers at least $4.3 billion, has been repeatedly delayed, even worse is that, from the beginning, these hired investigators have reported directly to the governor and her top aides. In other words, Governor Hochul essentially chose to follow the playbook of her predecessor, disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo, by conducting an in-house review of New York’s COVID response instead of convening an independent investigatory panel. Recall what took place in that first in-house review conducted by the Cuomo-led state Health Department. The report tried to conclude that the March 25th directive "could not be the driver" of COVID cases or COVID-related deaths in nursing homes. However, a later investigation found that the report had been "substantially revised by the Executive Chamber and largely intended to combat criticisms" about the directive. It was later uncovered that former Governor Cuomo and his inner circle misreported the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes with the state attorney general finding, in early 2021, that the Cuomo administration had “undercounted” COVID deaths in New York State by as much as 50%. Reports have revealed that the Cuomo response was replete with lies, misinformation, stonewalling, whitewashing, and ultimately, bald-faced personal gain for the former governor with a $5.1 million book deal. Now, Governor Hochul wants to call her hand-picked reviewer an “outside, independent” investigation but that’s far from the case. Many of us remain troubled that it’s the only reexamination underway and it’s one that will wind up being just another in-house, multi-million-dollar whitewashing of the truth -- another stonewalling effort to cover up and conceal bad decisions, especially on nursing homes. “The best way to ensure New York is better prepared in the future, is to openly and honestly assess the mistakes of the past. Thousands of families continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones in nursing homes due to the disastrous March 25th directive from former Governor Cuomo. They deserve the thorough, transparent investigation that was promised, not more inaction from their state government,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said at our news conference last week. Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay added, “Four years of unanswered questions, four years of families grieving, four years of zero transparency. Governor Kathy Hochul promised families an independent review of the state’s policies during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. New York families are still awaiting that review. Making matters worse, the Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force, which was designed to study deep-rooted issues in New York’s long-term care systems and nursing homes, has never met.” From the earliest days of the pandemic, when I first began serving as the Ranking Member on the Senate Investigations Committee, Senate and Assembly Republicans have repeatedly requested legislative hearings equipped with subpoena power to seek answers and provide accountability for the families who lost loved ones due to the previous administration’s mishandling of the pandemic. Of course, since then, many abuses of power at the highest levels of New York government have come to light. Yet, for some reason, Albany Democrats have tried to keep any meaningful, independent reviews at bay. In fact, since the Democrats obtained complete one-party control six years ago, there has been no exercise of checks and balances between the branches of government, certainly no legislative oversight of the executive. Remarkably, what has continually defined the post-COVID Hochul administration is a glaring lack of urgency to reexamine the pandemic response, absolutely no urgency from the Democrat supermajorities in both houses of the State Legislature for a review of all of it, from the beginning until now -- its costs, shortcomings, outright failures, what worked and what didn’t, what actions should remain in place going forward and what needs to be scrapped immediately. The longer the state’s one-party control avoids an honest and independent reassessment of the most devastating public health crisis this state ever faced, the more transparency gets clouded, the more credibility is eroded, and the more the effectiveness of New York’s future responses is jeopardized and weakened.
  6. It was back to the races for Senate Democrats at the Capitol last week – the race, that is, to see who can be first to inflict yet another energy mandate on New Yorkers. In fact, since the 2019 enactment of what’s known as the “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” we’ve watched the one-party control of the Albany Democrats move at world record speed trying to pile one unaffordable mandate on top of another unworkable mandate on top of the next unrealistic mandate in their race to try to inflict the devastating consequences of a zero-emissions economy on this entire state. As this state’s energy strategy currently stands, it's a race to unaffordability and to run manufacturing out of the state. Yet they were at it again last week with the approval of a piece of legislation known as the “New York Heat Act.” For her part, Governor Hochul included a version of the same legislation in her proposed state budget and calls it the “Affordable Gas Transition Act.” There will be nothing affordable about it. That’s the point our Senate and Assembly Republican conferences have been making since the start of this disaster in the making five years ago. Natural gas bans. All-electric school bus fleets. No sales of gasoline-powered vehicles. Round and round the Albany Democrats go and you know the rest, nobody knows where they’re going to stop. What we do know, what’s becoming as clear as the clearest sky, is that we’re all going to pay a heavy, heavy price once the bills truly start coming due -- and it’s going to be a cold, hard truth. During a news conference Senate Republicans held after the Senate Democrats approved the Heat Act last week (you can view the full news conference on omara.nysenate.gov), I once again stressed the important reality that keeps getting overlooked (or ignored) by the other side: Albany Democrats want 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and zero emissions by 2040 -- despite our state emissions accounting for just 0.4% of total global emissions and recognizing that, even if we could somehow get to zero through the imposition of these drastic, draconian measures imposing untold hardships on New York’s communities, residents, industries, and local economies, it will have virtually zero impact on the statewide, national, or global climate. Furthermore, it will require gigantic taxpayer-funded, government subsidies, impose heavier and heavier burdens on ratepayers, and fuel a whole new set of environmental consequences and crises, many of them currently unforeseen. And again, our state-level actions on their own -- our solo, utopian leap into the energy unknown -- will make a pittance of a difference to addressing the global climate challenge. Many of us have called it a perfect storm of higher costs and drastic consequences and that’s exactly what’s playing out. The bottom line is that we can’t continue to overlook the better because we want the perfect. The perfect does not exist. The Heat Act, for example, calls for capping utility costs for 25 percent of the lowest-income New Yorkers, according to the plan’s supporters. What they don’t highlight is that the funding needed to continue to operate the state’s energy grid will come out of the pockets of the 75 percent of the ratepayers who won’t receive any assistance under the legislation. In other words, a small group of citizens will benefit while hard-working, middle-class families largely bear the burden. Further, the Heat Act would eliminate the “100-foot rule” for gas service and put at risk thousands of local jobs for utility workers. New York State consumes less total energy per capita than all but two other states. New York State’s per capita energy consumption for the transportation sector is the lowest in the nation. In 2020, New York State’s per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were lower than those of any other state but then, the Albany Democrats closed the Indian Point nuclear energy plant and CO2 emissions have increased over 40% in the New York City area since the closure. New York State has been a champion in this arena and we should continue to be a leader on reducing emissions, yet it has become fundamentally important to keep sounding the alarm that the all-Democrat energy strategy as it stands is not realistic or achievable, it’s not responsible or rational, it lacks critical foresight, and it unreasonably risks energy grid reliability and affordability. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  7. The April 1 deadline for enacting a new state budget is fast approaching and the Democrat majorities in the Senate and Assembly are adopting their respective “one-house budget resolutions” to highlight the priorities they will bring to the negotiating table. It’s a crucial step in the process. Most importantly, it gives the public a chance to see where state leaders want to take New York. Remember that Governor Hochul kicked off this budget season by proposing an Executive Budget totaling approximately $233 billion which, if enacted, would be the largest-ever state budget and simply continue the out-of-control fiscal practices that will forever define this era in state government under one-party, all-Democrat leadership. Consequently, our Senate Republican Conference last week sent a letter to the Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate to at least give voice to the priorities and policies we believe should serve as the foundation of any new budget. In part, we wrote, “The lack of affordability in the Empire State has clearly reached crisis proportions, with thousands of New Yorkers fleeing to more affordable states. The high taxes in our State have exacerbated this crisis, while also directly contributing to our poor business climate. The Senate Republican Conference is committed to reversing these dangerous trends…We are also committed to common sense reforms to address New York’s criminal justice crisis, as well as the growing illegal immigrant fiasco that appears to be spinning completely out of control. In addition, we continue our fight for smart, sustainable and workable energy policies, a stronger mental health system, and a public education system that will ensure a brighter, better future for millions of children throughout New York State.” Our agenda builds on the legislative agenda we released at the start of this new year, “A New Hope for NY,” that we believe helps point the way to a better, stronger, and safer state for more New Yorkers. Among many calls to action, we think the next state fiscal plan must: reject the additional $2.4 billion in funding Governor Hochul has proposed for migrants — $4.3 billion over two years; reject the Governor’s plan to alter the School Aid formula to eliminate the “save harmless” clause for Foundation Aid – a misguided change that would result in direct funding cuts for 337 largely rural and suburban school districts statewide, including many across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes; reject the Governor’s plan to permit the closure of five more state prisons, which would undermine public health and safety, destabilize local economies, and lead to more dangerous working conditions for correctional officers; reject the Governor’s proposed cuts for New York’s critical transportation infrastructure, especially a significant cut for local roads and bridges through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) program; permanently cap state spending by reinstating a two-percent spending cap, the lifting of which has cost New Yorkers approximately $35 billion over the last three years; eliminate costly unfunded mandates that drive up local property taxes, including blocking the all-electric school bus mandate on local school districts; require full accountability from the state’s Climate Action Council, especially to require a full and transparent cost-benefit analysis of any and every mandated action. You can read our full letter on my Senate website, omara.nysenate.gov. New York State faces an affordability crisis. We face a border crisis. Law and order are in free fall. We must enact an across-the-board agenda to cut taxes, control spending, address affordability, and start truly rebuilding stronger and safer communities.” Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  8. The more this state keeps blindly moving ahead to impose outrageous energy mandates on all New Yorkers, the clearer it becomes that the current plan is not affordable, feasible, or reliable. To say nothing of realistic. Let’s focus on the impact on school districts and school property taxpayers coming down the line in the very near future -- because that’s the latest debacle coming to light and it’s getting more expensive by the minute. In 2022, Albany Democrats enacted a new law mandating that, starting in 2027, all school buses purchased in this state will have to be electric. We’re beginning to find out what that mandate truly means. Last week at the State Capitol, our Republican legislative conferences gathered with school district representatives to begin spelling it out for everyone (Note: You can view the entire news conference on my Senate website, www.omara.ny.senate). First, it will be enormously expensive. Electric buses cost up to three times as much as conventional diesel buses. Additionally, schools will be required to undertake significant electrical infrastructure and distribution line upgrades, as well as address major workforce transitions. The cost of the conversion has been conservatively estimated at between $8 billion and $15.25 billion more than the cost of replacing them with new diesel buses. For already overburdened local property taxpayers, it’s emerging as yet another hard hit from yet another unfunded state mandate out of Albany. Furthermore, it would be unworkable right now. The existing electric grid can’t support it. Electric vehicles are showing an inability to operate or charge in frigid temperatures, and it does get cold in New York. Designed to operate best in 70-degree temperatures, electric vehicles lose up to 40 percent of their traveling range in extreme cold and the time required to charge them is much longer. A pilot program in Vermont found traveling range decreased by 80 percent in some instances. The current timeline raises far too many troubling questions on affordability, as well as on reliability and safety for student transportation. In short, it seems reasonable and fair to reassess and reexamine the current timeline and its potential impact on school districts, students and families, and local communities. With that in mind, I have joined Assemblyman Phil Palmesano to introduce and sponsor legislation (S8220/A8447) to delay the mandate on school districts until 2045 or until all state agencies convert their own fleets of vehicles first, so that we could at least have the experience of that conversion before dumping this mandate on schools and ultimately the school property taxpayer. Additionally, the legislation would: authorize the state Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the state’s top energy regulators, to override the mandate if it is determined that zero-emission school buses are not feasible for a particular application; direct the state Commissioner of Education to complete a cost-benefit analysis for each school district that considers the costs necessary to comply with the zero-emission school bus mandate; and direct the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to consult with the state Office of Fire Prevention and Control to develop appropriate fire suppression and safety procedures related to lithium and hydrogen-based fires. One of the local school district superintendents who joined us last week in Albany to help sound the alarm, Dr. Thomas J. Douglas, Superintendent of Horseheads Central School District, summed it up very effectively, “The total cost will ultimately be borne by the local tax base since this is really an unfunded mandate. The sad fact is that there is no guarantee that this technology will work predictably in Northeastern winters. All the governor, NYSERDA, and PSC need do is look to the Midwest this past winter to see electric vehicles and chargers not being able to run in frigid temperatures. We cannot risk that with our children. Put simply, the state must pump the brakes on electric busing.” Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  9. There are two nomination processes underway across the Senate district I represent that I’d like to bring to your attention and encourage your participation. As a reminder, the 58th Senate District encompasses Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, and Yates counties, and part of Allegany County (the towns of Alfred, Almond, Amity, Andover, Birdsall, Burns, Grove, Independence, Scio, Ward, Wellsville, and Willing). The first process will help select our region’s 2024 inductee into the New York State Senate “Veterans Hall of Fame.” The Veterans Hall of Fame is an online tribute to the military service and civilian lives of distinguished veterans from here at home and throughout New York State. It was established in 2005 and honors veterans whose service in the United States Armed Forces has been accompanied by service to the community and accomplishments as a civilian. I’ve been grateful to induct numerous local veterans including, among others: Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., a distinguished Korean War veteran and widely respected for his long-standing and active service to veterans and government in Watkins Glen and throughout Schuyler County; Warren A. Thompson, a World War II United States Army veteran, lifelong Steuben County resident and farmer, and stalwart in the county’s civic and veterans affairs; Paul C. “Digger” Vendetti of Elmira, a World War II United States Navy veteran and longtime caretaker at Woodlawn National Cemetery; Dennis L. “Denny” Wolfe, Sr. of Chemung County, a well-known area Vietnam War veteran and founder of the Vietnam War Museum in Elmira; and, last year, Andrew Swarthout of Yates County, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran and mainstay of local veterans’ organizations. Nominations for the Veterans Hall of Fame will be accepted until Friday, March 1st. Nomination letters should include a short biography highlighting the nominee’s military service, and civilian service awards and achievements, and be e-mailed to me at: omara@nysenate.gov. The second ongoing nomination process is to help choose this region’s representative for the Senate’s 2024 “Women of Distinction tribute. The "Women of Distinction" program, now in its 26th year, offers the opportunity to honor local women making outstanding contributions to area communities. My Senate colleagues and I annually select a “Woman of Distinction” honoree from our respective legislative districts. It’s a meaningful recognition. We all know someone who makes an enormous difference to the community at large. Whether she is a service provider, a law enforcement officer going above and beyond the call of duty, a teacher, a nurse, a business leader, or simply a community resident known for her good deeds, I'd like to see her recognized. My past “Women of Distinction” honorees have included, among others: Carol Berry of Hornell, a regional library professional and director of the Dormann Library in Bath; Beverly “Bev” Stamp, co-owner and operator of Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, a beloved ambassador of New York State’s nationally and internationally renowned wine and grape industry; Lauren R. Snyder, a public health professional from Penn Yan who served as the Yates County Public Health Director; Dawn R. Smith, Transition and Care Management (TCM) Program Manager at the Bath VA Medical Center and local veterans advocate; Carmella Hoffmann, Owner and Operator of Sunset View Creamery in Odessa (Schuyler County); Kathryn J. Boor, a native of Chemung County and the former Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell University; Pauline “Polly” Holbrook, a longtime stalwart of civic affairs in the city of Hornell and the Canisteo Valley; Natasha Thompson, former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier; and, last year, Nancy Kirby, a longstanding advocate and leader for small businesses and entrepreneurship throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. The deadline for submitting a nomination for this year’s Women of Distinction recognition is Friday, February 23rd. Nominations can be submitted online on my Senate website, omara.ny.senate.gov. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  10. One of the most controversial actions of Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed 2024-2025 state budget is her move to cut education aid to more than half of New York State’s school districts outside of New York City. If enacted, the governor’s proposed education cuts would fall most heavily on certain regions, including many small, largely rural school districts across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. Here's a few of the most staggering cuts to schools in the 58th Senate District: Hammondsport would suffer a 30.7% or $1.6M cut; Penn Yan, 18.5% or $2.2M cut; Watkins Glen, 16.8% or $1.9M cut; and South Seneca, 16% or $1.5M cut. The governor’s education proposal can’t stand. The property tax increases required to ameliorate these cuts would be prohibitive. That’s the message my Senate Republican colleagues and I delivered at the Capitol last week. As I’ve stressed time and again, New York State has been steadily moving closer to the edge of an economic and fiscal cliff – due in large part to the spending appetites of former Governor Cuomo, Governor Hochul and, since 2018, the Democrat-controlled, biggest-spending Legislature in state history. The bottom line is that the state budget, between 2018 and 2023, has grown by upwards of $60 billion! This growth is in the first five years of one-party Democratic control of both houses of the state Legislature, and the offices of Governor, Comptroller, and Attorney General. Just that growth alone is larger than the budgets of more than 30 states. It is larger than the states of Florida and Texas combined, each of which has a larger population than New York. It spends 1½ times more per capita than California which has more than twice our population. From the outset, many of us have warned about this out-of-control spending, that it would never be sustainable and puts a new generation of state and local taxpayers at risk of shouldering an even heavier burden far into the future (keeping in mind that New York is already recognized as one of the highest-taxed, least affordable to live, and most unfriendly to business states in America). In fact, the bill’s already coming due for Democrat overspending. We start the current year facing a state budget gap of $4.3 billion, with ongoing deficits in the next three years projected to be $5 billion, $5.2 billion, and $9.9 billion, respectively. Consequently, Governor Hochul – suddenly painting herself as a diligent fiscal disciplinarian and watchdog -- unveiled her 2024-2025 state budget proposal with the following statement, “We can't spend like there's no tomorrow, because tomorrow always comes.” That’s true, however the governor needed to stand for it long before now. And it’s equally important to understand the context of the governor’s full game plan this year. Her opening gambit offers a $233-billion spending plan, an increase of $4 billion over New York’s current budget that represents a significant increase and, if enacted without any changes at all (and I've yet to see the Legislature come back with a budget that spends less than the Executive's proposal) will be the largest-ever state budget. There are proposed cuts and negligible belt-tightening, but not truly for the sake of any long-term fiscal discipline in this state. It’s being done, instead, to accommodate higher (and long-term) spending elsewhere – while, at the same time, knowing full well that the Legislature is left with no choice but to demand restorations in key areas. As I noted at the start, education is the prime example of this gamesmanship. Governor Hochul’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of what’s known as the “save harmless” provision of the state education aid distribution formula. “Save harmless” is utilized to ensure fiscal stability for school districts, especially high-need districts, and has long been critically important to small and rural schools. According to our Senate Republican budget analysis, this move would cut nearly $170 million from approximately half of the state’s school districts and result in particularly hard hits in specific regions of the state, including, as I said, small and rural districts across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes. The Governor made much fanfare of “consumer protections” in both her State of the State and Executive Budget presentations. However, her education budget proposal is nothing short of “Bait and Switch” lacking “Truth in Advertising.” While local school districts get cut in excess of $400 million in this budget, she includes another $2.4 billion (bringing the two-year total to $4.3 billion) to provide taxpayer-funded assistance and services to the ever-growing surge of asylum-seeking migrants flowing into New York from the nation’s southern border. In addition, to add insult to injury, the state will pay the federal government $15 Million to rent a former military base, Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, for use as a migrant shelter to house migrants the federal government has allowed to flow illegally across the Rio Grande! Her budget also spends $150 Million for floating pools in the rivers of New York City (I kid you not) and $45 Million for planting trees, to name just two. These may be nice things, but not in times of what should be fiscal austerity and in the midst of staggering cuts to rural, suburban, and small city school districts. That’s just one example of the shell game going on here. In other words, Governor Hochul’s proposed budget is not truly aiming for long-term fiscal discipline and responsibility. It’s a budget that in the name of fiscal discipline attempts to take away from some to keep giving away far more to others. That’s a game we can never play, in my opinion, with the quality of education for our small, rural school districts across the Upstate region, or any school district at all for that matter. The Senate Republican budget analysis reaches this conclusion, “As proposed, the Executive budget includes few proposals to deal with the high cost of the everyday lives of New Yorkers. There is little in the category of affordability proposals advanced, that work towards mitigating the increased costs in food, home fuel or transportation that everyday New Yorker’s face. There is little in the way of improving New York’s business climate which has been rated one of the worst in the nation. There is little in the way of addressing the State’s outmigration problem which, according to a study in October of 2023 by the Economic Innovation Group, has caused New York to lose $24.8 billion in net adjusted gross income (AGI) during the pandemic.” That's a significant loss of tax revenue. We desperately need to get New York State’s fiscal house in order. But it’s outrageous for Governor Hochul to target small, rural school districts. That’s not an answer to this state’s deep-rooted fiscal irresponsibility. It’s just redirecting misguided priorities that won’t move us any closer to fiscal stability, taxpayer relief, or long-term affordability and sustainability for most New Yorkers. I need you to join in the fight opposing Governor Hochul's budget cuts to our schools and handouts to illegal immigrants. Please contact the Governor directly by calling 518-474-8390 and by emailing at: governor.ny.gov/contact.
  11. Budget adoption season is underway at the State Capitol, which means, first, that joint Senate-Assembly public hearings on Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2024-2025 Executive Budget proposal have started and will remain underway until mid-February. Conducted jointly by the Senate Finance Committee, and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, these forums examine and critique the governor’s proposal in detail and solicit testimony from state agency officials, public policy and fiscal experts, local government representatives, business leaders, educators, farmers, law enforcement, and many other advocates. I have served as the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee since 2021 and continue to welcome having a direct voice on the legislative committee most responsible for overseeing the adoption of the state’s annual budget. These hearings highlight the course that New York government is looking to set for short- and long-term fiscal practices and responsibilities. They also begin setting the stage for the Legislature’s negotiations with the governor over a final state budget. Most importantly, they are a chance for the public to learn more about what’s being planned by Governor Hochul and legislative leaders for the future direction of New York State. On that note, you can also find the Senate Republican Conference analysis of the governor’s proposed budget on my state Senate website, www.omara.ny.senate.gov. Remember that the governor has proposed a 2024-25 budget that starts at $233 billion, already an approximately $4-billion increase over the state’s current, record-setting budget. In other words, the governor and the Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly majorities – the biggest-spending Legislature in state history -- will start final negotiations over a new budget looking to increase state spending by at least $4 billion. In other words, it’s likely to go significantly higher. My initial reaction to the Hochul proposal was the following, “This state already faces multibillion-dollar deficits well into the future because the Albany Democrats can’t stop spending and Governor Hochul still proposes a spend, spend, spend strategy. It’s been uncontrolled spending to the point that having put in place massive, long-term spending commitments -- and with massive commitments looming in the Democrats’ pursuit of a radical climate agenda and the provision of untold services to an ever-surging migrant population -- New York State taxpayers already face multiyear, multibillion-dollar deficits. It ignores the reality that New York remains one of America’s highest-taxed, least-affordable, most debt-ridden, and overregulated states that leads the nation in population loss.” Senate Republicans will continue to be a voice for lower taxes, less regulation, greater accountability, economic growth, job creation, and more common sense on state fiscal practices. I welcome this year’s budget hearings, at this critical time, to put a spotlight on a range of policies and programs that will decide the future and strength of our local communities and economies. In my view, we need to keep working against a New York State tax and regulatory mindset that puts our businesses and manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage, imposes red tape that strangles local economies, or prioritizes higher and higher spending, overtaxing, outrageous mandates, and burdensome overregulation. Our Senate conference also recently unveiled a “New Hope for the Empire State” legislative agenda that proposes a range of policies focusing on public safety and security, economic growth and job creation, tax relief and regulatory reform, and affordability initiatives to try to reverse New York’s nation-leading population loss. The first budget hearings were held last week and covered Health/Medicaid, transportation, and public protection. During the week ahead, we’ll examine economic and workforce development, human services, and elementary and secondary education. Archived videos of each hearing will be available on the state Senate website at www.nysenate.gov/events. These hearings take a lot of time -- and they cover plenty of complex and detailed ground – but they provide the first glimpse inside this critical decision-making process underway at the state capital. They can be viewed on the Senate website listed above, as well as on my previously mentioned Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov.
  12. Now it’s our turn. Over the past few weeks, Governor Hochul has had her say and put forth her priorities for New York in both a State of the State message and, most recently, in last week’s unveiling of her proposed 2024-2025 executive budget. Ultimately, she will undertake negotiations with her Democrat counterparts in the Senate and Assembly leadership to put in place a final state budget that will carry New Yorkers forth into the ongoing, all-Democrat vision for New York’s future – a future, by the way, that too many New York residents keep telling us they’re not happy with. But now there’s another vision for this state’s future. Last week at the Capitol, the Senate Republican Conference unveiled a plan that we’re calling, “A New Hope for the Empire State.” It’s a comprehensive legislative agenda that, we believe, pinpoints the failings and shortcomings of New York government under all-Democrat control, which speaks to challenges and crises that one-party government is not addressing, and that begins proposing alternative priorities and solutions for where we want to take this state. It's a legislative agenda putting forth ideas and strategies for fighting back against the high taxes and excessive cost of living that have delivered to New York the dubious and devastating distinction as the state with the highest population losses in America. It’s a legislative agenda putting forth ideas and strategies for fighting to reclaim some sense of law and order again in New York, a state under all-Democrat leadership where the criminal element runs rampant, rising crime and violence rules too many streets and neighborhoods, and a “no consequences” approach to criminal justice has made a mockery of public safety and security. It's a legislative agenda putting forth a bolder and stronger commitment to responsible fiscal practices including spending restraint, across-the-board tax relief, regulatory reform, commonsense investment, serious mandate relief for local governments, and the value of local decision-making. In other words, it’s a legislative agenda giving voice to priorities and responsibilities in New York government that, to put it as simply and straightforwardly as possible, have been handed a death sentence by Albany’s current powers that be. In putting forth a detailed report on “A New Hope for the Empire State” last week, we wrote, “Over the last five years, New Yorkers have had a front-row seat to what unaccountable government looks like. One-party control has made New York increasingly unaffordable. Residents feel unsafe and are unsure that things will get better in the future. Far too many New Yorkers have looked at this sad reality and decided the only option was to leave the state for somewhere they can make a better life for their families.” You can find out more about “A New Hope for the Empire State” and read our full report on my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov. In announcing the plan, Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said, “New Yorkers are deeply dissatisfied with the direction of our state and our Conference is here to provide an alternative path forward. I have traveled throughout the state and people are tired, frustrated, and angry. They feel forgotten.” Here at the outset of the 2024 legislative session, these ideas demand and deserve a place in this government. We face an affordability crisis. We face a border crisis. Law and order are in free fall. The Albany Democrat direction for New York simply fails to produce any hope for a long-term, sustainable future for communities, families, workers, businesses, industries, and taxpayers. New York is a state in decline that continues to become less safe, less free, less affordable, less economically competitive, less responsible, and far less strong for the future. We are at a dangerous crossroads and we must enact an across-the-board agenda to cut taxes, address affordability, and rebuild stronger and safer communities – and we’ll be fighting for this new direction and a new hope every step of the way in the weeks and months ahead. Senator Tom O'Mara represents New York's 58th District which covers all of Chemung, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga and Yates counties, and a portion of Allegany County.
  13. To kick off the 2023 legislative session – one that we believed represented a pivotal session with New York at a crossroads in so many areas – the Senate Republican Conference put forth a comprehensive set of goals to help rebuild and strengthen local and state economies, focus on the financial challenges facing many middle-class families and small business owners, and make public safety a top priority. At that time back in early January, I said, “New Yorkers across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, and statewide, are worried about making ends meet. They see this state becoming less safe, less affordable, less free, less economically competitive, less responsible, and far less hopeful for the future. Albany Democrats acknowledge that New York State has an affordability crisis causing the exodus of our citizens to more affordable states, however the Democrats are intent on raising taxes to increase handouts to their base. They have no interest in reining in out-of-control spending, eliminating taxes, lowering costs, cutting burdensome regulations and mandates, or restoring public safety. We need to rescue New York by restoring the right priorities to turn things around, rebuild stronger and safer communities, and work toward a more responsible and sustainable future." We called it “Rescue New York” and we began rolling it out at the very start of this session — a session that New York’s Democrat legislative leaders will bring to a close later this week — with a focus on fiscal responsibility and affordability for all taxpayers, rebuilding and revitalizing New York’s local economies, and addressing rising crime and public safety. Albany Democrats have gone in a completely different direction. It continues to put this state’s future on high alert. Their direction for New York is producing billions upon billions of dollars of short- and long-term spending commitments requiring billions upon billions of dollars in new taxes, fees, and borrowing for future generations of state and local taxpayers. The overriding goals of our Rescue New York agenda would have: Offered a safer and better quality of life for all New Yorkers by repealing bail reform and supporting law enforcement and crime victims; Made New York more affordable for every resident by cutting the state’s highest-in-the-nation tax burden and taking other actions to lower the cost of living in New York; Improved the state’s business climate and expanded economic opportunity by cutting burdensome regulations; Moved more responsibly and sensibly toward a cleaner energy future without ignoring affordability, feasibility, and reliability like the strategy currently set in motion under Governor Hochul is doing; and Restored accountability and local decision making to state government in the aftermath of rampant abuses of executive power throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s not where we have gone this session under continued one-party, all-Democrat rule. The size of the state budget continues to skyrocket. There was no turning back from this explosive tax-and-spend path this year. Far from it, in fact. The new state budget, as I have detailed in previous columns, took yet another huge leap in size and will burden state and local taxpayers for years to come. The same goes for law and order. Albany Democrats are turning criminal justice on its head. Most reasonable New Yorkers recognize that rising crime and violence, and weakened public safety and security, are the direct result of the pro-criminal policies being enacted and pushed by this governor and a State Legislature under one-party control. They have emboldened the criminal element throughout this state through failed bail reform, lenient parole policies, an out-of-control Parole Board, cowing to the “defund the police” movement, and an overall careless approach to criminal justice. In short, our calls to make New York more affordable, responsible, safer, and sustainable have, once again, gone unheard this session. Nevertheless, the fight goes on to rescue and restore a more reasonable approach to governing this state. It's more urgent than ever.
  14. For all of us, the crisis at the nation’s southern border is no longer just a story on the nightly news. And if you still don’t think the migrant crisis could be headed our way across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, it’s time to take off the blindfolds. “New York is now a border state,” Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt said last week at a Capitol news conference, where we gathered to propose steps to counteract its potential impact on communities statewide. He’s right. For the moment, set aside the finger pointing, and the cultural and partisan divides that have surrounded immigration policy for years now, producing nothing but gridlock in Washington and political grandstanding everywhere else. Instead, focus on what’s happening on the ground in New York City and, slowly but surely, finding its way throughout the state. Since last spring, New York City has received an influx of at least 60,000 migrants. It is already overwhelming the city’s ability to find housing and provide social services. New York City Mayor Eric Adams has declared it out of control and projects it will already cost the city at least $4 billion. I'll remind you that, long ago, New York City declared itself a sanctuary city. They opened their arms to shelter undocumented immigrants. They asked for it and they should not, now, push their self-created problem to areas of the state that did not. Nor should we be footing the bill for it. In other words, it’s just the beginning here in New York State. The recently enacted state budget included a billion dollars to help the city respond. That’s right, state taxpayers are already footing the bill and, consequently, it seems fair to ask all of the who, what, when, where, and why questions underpinning this worsening crisis. That’s what our Republican conference started doing last week. In a letter to Governor Hochul we wrote, “We are gravely concerned by the lack of transparency around the placement of migrants throughout our state…Specifically, we would like to know how long migrants will be housed for, where specifically they will be housed, how much is being paid for their housing, and what services they are receiving and for how long. We also request that information about potentially moving migrants is communicated from you or your administration directly to the municipalities.” The city of New York is already shipping hundreds of newly arrived migrants to hotels, motels, and other makeshift shelters in nearby, suburban counties. Reports have surfaced that Governor Hochul is eyeing other locations around the state including, for example, dormitories on State University of New York campuses. Our immediate focus falls, once again, on the lack of transparency coming out of the Hochul administration. The governor recently said, “It’s no surprise that there will literally be thousands of more individuals coming across the border and ultimately finding their way to the state of New York.” That’s exactly the point governor: We don’t want any surprises but we’re suspicious that your administration is going to be full of surprises moving forward. Localities share this suspicion, including a number of counties across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions that have declared states of emergency hoping to head off any surprises from the state. Governor Hochul and her Democrat, New York City allies in the Legislature appear ready and willing to once again override local decision making -- just like they did throughout the COVID-19 pandemic -- and begin shipping migrants all over New York. In fact, right now, it looks like the only plan on their table. Our Republican conference believes that localities must have the ability to say no. Furthermore, we don’t believe the state can randomly displace homeless New Yorkers, families of domestic violence, or other vulnerable populations from their current places of shelter just to make room for migrants being bussed out of New York City. We have introduced legislation, which I co-sponsor, to achieve each of these goals. “Local elected officials should have the option to decline hosting migrants in their communities should they not have the necessary accommodations and other resources,” we wrote to the governor. Welcome to New York’s border crisis.
  15. Early last week, when it became increasingly clear that Governor Hochul and the Legislature’s Democrat leaders were not going to stick around at the State Capitol to enact a budget now a month overdue, we renewed our call for desperately needed accountability in this process. While the governor stepped out on her own Friday night to announce a “conceptual” agreement with legislative leaders on a final budget, as of this writing it remains a Governor Hochul “take my word for it” budget. There’s no legislation for the public to review. Keep in mind that the enactment of a new state budget is the most impactful action that state legislators take every year. It reaches into the pockets and the everyday lives of all New Yorkers. That will be especially true this year when Governor Hochul and Albany Democrats finally put the finishing touches on a new state budget pushing state spending to its highest level ever and, at the same time, including far-reaching, non-budget-related policy initiatives that many good government groups believe should not even be considered as part of the budget adoption process. Yet, negotiations go on entirely behind closed doors. That becomes especially troubling – and dangerous -- in this era of complete one-party control of state government where there is an unprecedented lack of legislative checks and balances. The public is kept in the dark like never before. We know that taxpayers will be shouldered with their heaviest-ever burden footing the bill for at least a nearly $230-billion spending plan, one of the world’s largest governmental budgets! We know that there will be tax and fee increases. We know that there will be new mandates. We know that debt will increase. We know that there will be winners and losers. And we know that it’s poised to include monumental policy actions like banning natural gas hookups in the construction of new homes and buildings by 2026, an even higher state minimum wage (a move that farmers, small business owners and others have been warning against, and rightly so) and some sort of attempt (will it even begin to go far enough?) to address the failed bail reform that continues to devastate public safety and security across this state. What we still do not know, however, with any specificity, is exactly how Governor Hochul and legislative Democrats intend to carry it all out – or, for that matter, what surprises are still in store. The bottom line is that we don’t know and that’s the point Senate and Assembly Republicans are making clear: Before any legislator votes on this year’s final budget, our constituents deserve to know what’s in it. Specifically, we called on Governor Hochul and legislative Democrats to reject the use of so-called “messages of necessity” once the budget legislation is printed and ready for a vote. The State Constitution includes a vital “aging” provision that essentially requires a three-day waiting period (commonly called “aging”) before legislation can receive a final vote. While three days is not nearly enough time in the context of a stack of budget legislation as thick as dictionaries, it at least gives individual legislators, the press, the public, and all interested parties the chance to review the plan’s details. However, a longstanding loophole in the law authorizes governors to issue a “message of necessity” to bypass this three-day waiting period and allow for an immediate vote on any piece of legislation once introduced. It’s time to bring this state’s budget adoption process out into the light of day. Fundamental checks and balances have effectively gone by the wayside in this state government. This budget demands a full public airing and the appropriate time for review and debate, but that’s not where we are headed. It's a broken process that keeps producing bloated state budgets that taxpayers will never be able to afford.
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