GLOVERSVILLE — State Sen. James N. Tedisco, R-Glenville, met this morning with local community leaders at the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce office, laying out some of his agenda for 2017.
Chamber President and CEO Mark Kilmer said his agency invited the senator to “tell us about his platform.”
Tedisco, in turn, touched on various topics, from the governor to infrastructure to education needs.
The senator said Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has “not had the best of relationships” with state legislators, began the year with six confusing “State of the State” addresses across the state.
“This year did not start too well,” Tedisco said.
But Tedisco said he and his colleagues were slated to have lunch with Cuomo today in Albany.
The 66-year-old Tedisco follows the long local tenure of former state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, who retired. Tedisco represents New York’s 49th state Senate district, which comprises parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.
Following a brief talk with the chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee and local business leaders, Tedisco was due to tour the HFM BOCES P-Tech Program at Jansen Avenue School in Johnstown. The program is a new model for high school education that includes college-level, credit-bearing coursework and a pathway to high-skill jobs.
Tedisco, who was Assembly minority leader from 2005 to 2009 and most recently Assembly minority whip, told chamber officials he now is chairman of the Senate’s Social Services Committee.
He said he backs a proposed bill by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, that would require DNA testing of children toddler-age and younger found in homes where suspects are arrested for drugs.
“I think it’s an important bill,” Tedisco said.
Tedisco said the two houses of the state Legislature — the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled Assembly — sometimes seem “a million miles away” from each other politically. But he said Cuomo and the state representatives need to work “holistically” on issues for the good of the entire state. He said the governor has proposed 114 “possible” proposals in a $160 billion state budget, but more detail must be fleshed out.
“There’s a lot of great ideas and a lot of great projects,” Tedisco said.
But he alluded to Fulton County residents age 50 to 80 who work hard during their life, but can’t afford to stay in their homes because of high taxes.
“He puts together a lot of commissions,” Tedisco said of Cuomo.
He mentioned the governor’s Mandate Relief Commission, which he said hasn’t done much on the topic of burdensome state mandates.
Tedisco said 200,000 people have left New York state in recent years in what he called a “brain drain” of potential young talent.
“They see the opportunities aren’t there,” he said.
Tedisco said he sees a need for Worker’s Compensation Program reform, something that was started by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. He said the Senate wants to “partner” with Cuomo on those reforms.
“The governor has talked about that this year,” Tedisco said,
Tedisco said existing health care taxes totalling $6 billion are not often going to the indigent as intended, a “serious concern.”
On the subject of infrastructure, Tedisco said Cuomo has promised broadband development.
“We have to have some dedicated funds,” he said, like CHIPs funds. He said he has an “action plan” that will do that with infrastructure needs such as bridges, water, sewer and gas lines.
“Every year, municipalities count on it,” he said of CHIPs funding.
He will be working hard for that for Fulton County and his district on the new proposal.
Tedisco also briefly touched on education, noting school districts need their fair share of state aid from Cuomo’s proposals.
“We have got to adjust to the formula so that it has parity and fairness,” he said.
Jack Scott, general manager of radio station WENT, asked about the consequences of proposed free tuition on private universities. The senator said schools like Union College and Skidmore College might be affected.
“I think you’re going to be looking at a diminishment of those attending,” Tedisco said.
Tedisco said he’s proud of what New York state has accomplished with the STAR Program, which provides tax breaks to eligible state residents. But he said the state has to be aware it doesn’t commit “governmental malpractice” on its residents, treating the symptoms of problems, but never providing a cure.
Tedisco said he supports some standardized testing in Common Core, but the state educational initiative should not be the “Holy Grail” of education. He said a “cookie cutter” approach for education doesn’t make sense. He said he doesn’t understand why there are standardized evaluations for teachers.
“It just boggles my mind,” Tedisco said.