CHESTER – Candidates for the State Senate’s 39th District voiced stark differences in opinion regarding New York’s current fiscal responsibility and regulatory practices during a virtual debate, Thursday evening, at the Citizen’s foundation Seligmann Center.
Democratic incumbent James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) and Republican candidate, Orange County Legislative Chairman and Montgomery Village Mayor Steve Brescia covered a wide range of topics in the one-hour debate, ranging from controlling the spread of COVID in the district’s Hasidic communities, daycare services during the pandemic, Newburgh’s public water issues, to unfunded mandates for educational institutions on behalf of the state.
Regarding those issues, the two candidates shared similar perspectives: PPE needs to be continually available and liaisons for the Hasidic community need to be facilitated, daycare services are crucial to working families, Newburgh’s water needs to be safe and the state should be paying the approximate third of the unfunded mandates for SUNY schools, particularly community colleges. However, there were differences with how to fund those issues and how the state should be garnering and allocating its budget, specifically with regard to economic development.
Brescia put forth the argument that economic stability will come from deregulation in the state. He claims New York has the highest utility rates and of the highest taxes compared to any state in the country. Brescia said his leadership, the Orange County Partnership, along with county administration, has brought a substantial amount of economic development for the district to that end.
“We’ve enhanced the Moody’s bond rating. We’ve doubled our fund balance. We’re the envy of New York State. We’re of the most financially fit counties in New York State and that doesn’t come from a lack of leadership,” said Brescia. “You’re getting, in Albany, a lack of leadership. Are your lives better today than they were two years ago when he [Skoufis] became senator, or a few years before that when he became an assemblyman? I don’t think so. Check the record. Vote for the person that has leadership ability, has common sense and is going to take it to Albany to make a difference,” Brescia maintained.
Skoufis said he thinks there needs to be a tax on New Yorker’s who make $5 million, or more, pre year – a moderate tax, in his words, to help these deficiencies. Additionally, he took aim at the Orange County IDA’s situation with Medline, an investigation that was conducted by the Senate Investigations Committee, which he chairs, along with a local bill that would cost new homeowners in Orange County $1,000 in additional taxes if their house was purchased for $250,000 (the tax increasing incrementally with home value).
“He doesn’t want to raise any new revenue to do anything,” said Skoufis. “He wants to make cuts. We have a $14 billion deficit. He doesn’t want to raise any taxes, except for, unless you buy a home in Orange County, by the way, and you’re middle class, or working class; but, he doesn’t have any way to pay for any of the things that he wants to do,” he said.
Regarding the Medline investigation, Brescia said that there have been eight audits and the corruption allegations are tactics to prevent economic development in the county. Skoufis maintains that Brescia, in his own words during the debate, essentially admitted to a collusive action, between the various county entities involved, to expedite a project that benefitted just those who were involved in the decision-making and neglecting the impact on the surrounding areas.