The Assembly has made a long-anticipated leadership transition. However, the progress in the chamber has been far from steady, nearly nonexistent. Enough is enough. We need to put an end to the distractions and get back to work.
The governor has decided to tie many controversial legislative policies to this year’s executive budget. This agenda-driven tactic is an act of unilateral control, and while it may be seen as efficient to some, it also rejects the possibility for decisions to be made through a fair democratic process. While the details of the budget continue to be deliberated upon, I will advocate for meaningful proposals that move Long Island forward.
One of the newly-unveiled sections of the budget proposal includes a nearly $69 million tax on health-insurance policies. The revenue from this tax will be used to fund administrative costs to maintain New York’s Obamacare health exchange. This is just another tax that will ultimately make health insurance less affordable. This proposal is a clear example of how state leaders are out of touch with the financial burdens our middle-class families face. Instead, it supports an inappropriate use of hard-earned taxpayer dollars footing the bill for expenses that were not anticipated. Rather than perpetuating costly initiatives that do more harm than good, we should be supporting meaningful programs and reform that will benefit all residents.
I am also advocating for Nassau County school districts to receive the funding they need to thrive, and ensure that teachers and students are appropriately provided for. In order to address the issues at hand, I support common-sense solutions that will reform the common core, restore funding for our schools, focus on a teacher-centric curriculum and return local control to our schools.
In addition to the pre-existing concerns many residents have about New York’s current education structure, the issue of school aid funding being withheld by the governor is causing problems for our local districts. As a former school board president and member, I know firsthand that holding these numbers hostage is detrimental to our schools. Many schools depend on this funding, and not knowing how much they will receive disrupts their planning process. Local school boards and superintendents are unable to plan budgets or make any significant financial decisions for the upcoming school year. Not disclosing these numbers is an irresponsible decision that puts political agendas before the needs of our schools.
One final area that needs attention is the infrastructure in our region. While I am pleased that a small allotment of money will be used to improve airports and bridges on Long Island, I will continue to advocate for an increase in infrastructure funding for Nassau County, and many other counties in the state. Despite past efforts to provide financial support to completely rebuild our bridges and highways, there are many still crumbling and in need of improvement. We must fund repairs that increase safety for all travelers, daily commuters and out-of-state visitors alike. Tourism and business are the heart of New York’s economy and in order for that to continue, we must tend to our roads and highways.
Instead of passing a budget with strings attached, the legislature should be working together to provide the best possible financial solutions to areas that need it most. While the major issues that I have highlighted should take priority, I believe we need to address this year’s undeniable point of contention – ethics reform. In order to make any significant progress, we must first restore accountability and transparency to the legislature.
Assemblyman Michael Montesano (R,I,C-Glen Head)