The candidates seeking to represent the North Fork in the State Legislature next year have received a stern warning from one of the area’s largest business groups to either fix state government or face being thrown out of office in two years.
“You know folks, it’s getting tired,” North Fork Chamber of Commerce president Joe Corso said of oft-repeated campaign pledges to both create jobs and lower taxes. “No matter who’s in power, nothing seems to change.”
Mr. Corso’s comments came during the chamber’s meet-the-candidates dinner at the Portly Grape in Greenport. He was addressing incumbent GOP State Senator Kenneth LaValle and both Democratic Assemblyman Marc Alessi and his Republican challenger, County Legislator Dan Losquadro of Shoreham. Mr. LaValle’s Democratic foe, Rocky Point attorney Jennifer Maertz, was invited but did not respond, said Mr. Corso.
A spokesman for Ms. Maertz told The Suffolk Times the candidate had personal business Monday and had to miss two events that evening. No reason was offered for her not responding to the chamber.
The chamber had hoped to include congressional candidates in the discussion, but both Rep. Tim Bishop and GOP challenger Randy Altschuler were unavailable.
Mr. Corso said both the state and federal governments need to reinvent themselves.
“You can’t cut spending and you can’t cut taxes at the same time,” he added. “We’ve been hearing that for 30 years.”
Mr. LaValle, finishing his 34th year in office, promised a smaller government in the next two years.
Saying New York spends more on Medicaid then California and Texas combined, the senator called for “surgical cuts.” Spending on that program and state employees’ pensions is no longer sustainable, Mr. LaValle said, adding, “There are going to be dramatic changes there.”
The Republicans generally blamed Democrats, who control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, for the state’s fiscal troubles.
“We need to break their veto-proof majority and force them to deal with suburban representatives,” said Mr. Losquadro, the County Legislature’s minority leader.
Responding to a question about why Albany has become “a magnet for crooks,” the senator said that while suburban representatives have “exemplary” records, the same cannot be said for the New York City delegations, which dominate the Legislature.
Mr. Alessi said New York’s current financial troubles can be traced back to the mid-1990s era of deregulation, which included lifting caps on health insurance premiums. That not only hurts consumers, it drives up the cost of schools and local government, he added.
Calling himself “a policy wonk, not a politician,” the assemblyman said the state must develop a new model for funding education. With districts competing for a share of state school aid, “the way we fund education is making us turn on each other,” he said.
Mr. Corso said that unlike past years, voters will be paying close attention after the elections have passed.
“We need to look at the people we put in power and hold their feet to the fire,” he said. “If they don’t perform, we should vote them out in two years.”