11/06/12 4:06pm
11/06/2012 4:06 PM

We’ll be live blogging Election Day results all night tonight. We’ll also have reporters with Congressman Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler.

Follow along with the results, watch live streaming video of the speeches and to share your own election night thoughts and opinions.

We’ll also have reaction from Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Dan Losquadro and County Legislator Ed Romaine, who’s running in a special election for Brookhaven Town Supervisor.

Additionally, we’ll have reporters keeping tabs on town elections in both Riverhead and Southold.

Tonight’s blog will be sponsored by Blackwells at Great Rock in Wading River and Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

11/06/12 5:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler at a Riverhead debate in September.

First Congressional District

Tim Bishop (D-Southampton)

Five-term incumbent Tim Bishop, 62, worked at Southampton College for 29 years, starting as an admissions counselor and serving for many years as provost, the chief administrative post. He left the college when first elected to Congress in 2002, defeating incumbent Republican Felix Grucci.

Mr. Bishop says if re-elected his legislative priorities will include job creation and economic expansion, protecting the environment, working for seniors and the middle class, providing access to affordable health care and supporting veterans.

A twelfth-generation Southampton resident, Mr. Bishop received his bachelor’s degree from The College of the Holy Cross and his master’s from Long Island University.

He serves on the Committee on Education, the Workforce and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Congressional Arts Caucus.

Mr. Bishop voted for the Affordable Health Care for America Act, commonly known as Obamacare, and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, and his voting record reflects that he votes with the majority of House Democrats on almost every key issue.

Randy Altschuler (R-St. James)

Randy Altschuler, 41, is currently the executive chairman of CloudBlue, which recycles electronic equipment. Prior to that, he was the CEO of OfficeTiger, a company that provided office support services with employees around the world.

Mr. Altschuler ran for Mr. Bishop’s congressional seat in 2010, losing by 263 votes after an intense recount that proved to be the longest in the nation that year.

Mr. Altschuler attended New York City public schools, received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, studied abroad as a Fulbright Scholar and received his MBA from Harvard University.

If elected, Mr. Altschuler pledges to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, work for the Republican plan for Medicare and Social Security reform, reform teacher tenure requirements and support school voucher programs.

First New York Senatorial District

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson)

Incumbent Ken LaValle, 73, has held the 1st District state Senate seat since 1977, having been elected in November 1976. He has been chairman of the Senate committee on higher education since 1979 and is chairman of the Senate Majority Conference. He was a teacher before entering politics. Since he’s been in office, he earned a law degree from Touro College and is now a practicing attorney as well.

Mr. LaValle said he continues to receive support from his constituents, which is why he has won his re-election bids by overwhelming margins.

He says he’s working to get approval for the commission that Riverhead Town has advocated as a way of fast-tracking projects at EPCAL and, among other things, has been instrumental in establishing the Stony Brook Business Incubator in Calverton; has secured grant money for the J. Kings food processing facility in Baiting Hollow; and has helped to create a synergy among the three East End hospitals.

Mr. LaValle also lauds the 2 percent government tax levy cap.

“We’ve also reduced taxes for every tax category, with the majority of it going to the middle-income taxpayers,” he said.

Republicans currently have a majority in the state Senate, while Democrats control the Assembly.

Mr. LaValle is the father of two grown children and lives in Port Jefferson with his wife, Penny.

Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack)

Challenger Bridget Fleming, 52, is a matrimonial attorney who has been a Southampton Town councilwoman since March 2010.

Prior to that, she has served as chief of a Manhattan district attorney’s office unit that prosecuted fraud in public assistance programs such as welfare, public housing and Medicaid. Before that, she said, she prosecuted sex crimes.

As a Southampton Town Board member, Ms. Fleming says she’s helped to eliminate a budget deficit, thereby restoring the town’s credit rating; focused on proper staffing and controls in the town finance department; and spearheaded economic initiatives such as the Farm Fresh Market in Flanders, which is run by teenagers and sells local produce, and the Youth Build Project in Riverside, which teaches young people about sustainable building methods while restoring blighted homes.

She claims Mr. LaValle has not been effective in bringing the East End its fair share of school aid and says the amount of money East End residents pay in state taxes is more than what they get back in state services.

“Money comes out of our district, goes up to the pot in Albany and then doesn’t come back with us getting our fair share,” she said a recent debate. “We need somebody who is fighting for our local needs.”

A resident of Noyac since 2001, Ms. Fleming lives with her husband, Robert Agoglia, a general contractor, and their 9-year old son, Jai.

First New York Assembly District

Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham)

Making his first bid for re-election, Assemblyman Dan Losquadro is opposed by Nicholas Deegan, a Mattituck carpenter.

Mr. Losquadro’s introduction to politics came in 2003, when he was elected to the county Legislature representing the 6th District. In 2006 he was named minority leader. He had previously worked as a senior property claims estimator for State Farm Insurance.

He won his Assembly seat in a very close race against Democratic incumbent Marc Alessi. Although Mr. Losquadro’s margin of victory grew in subsequent weeks, on Election Night the two were separated by only 40 votes.

Raised in Wading River, he currently resides in Shoreham.

He opposed the effort to shift Southold and Shelter Island to the South Fork’s Assembly district and supported the rollback of the MTA payroll tax on East End businesses and taxing entities.

Mr. Losquadro has said the region’s high taxes are a drain on business.

Nicholas Deegan (D-Mattituck)

Nicholas Deegan is a native of County Wicklow, Ireland, and ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat on the Southold Town Board. His first experience with local politics came in 2007 when he won a seat on the Mattituck Park District board of commissioners, running on a reform platform. He claimed park district cellphone and gas credit cards had been misused, and both were discontinued after he took office. He won a second term in 2010.

But in a move he believes is invalid, the park district recently told Mr. Deegan that he cannot serve as commissioner because he failed to take the oath of office at the start of his second term.

During a recent Mattituck Chamber of Commerce candidates luncheon, Mr. Deegan voiced support for strengthening women’s rights, increasing government efficiency and raising the state’s minimum wage.

Southold Town Trustee

Michael Domino (R-Southold)

Michael Domino, a former president of the North Fork Environmental Council, is running in a special election against Democrat Jeri Woodhouse of Orient.

He was appointed to his seat for one year after former Trustee president Jill Doherty won a seat on the Southold Town Board last November. Mr. Domino is a retired high school science teacher who owns a deli in Greenport. He also served as president of the North Fork Environmental Council.

In particular, Mr, Domino and Ms. Woodhouse diverged in their views on issues related to nitrogen levels in septic systems and their impact on the Peconic Bays.

Regarding the continuing debate on efforts to reduce levels of nitrogen entering local waters, Mr. Domino is not a proponent of a removal system known by the brand name Nitrex recently approved by the Suffolk County health department for use in residential septic systems.

Some environmental advocates have been pushing the county to mandate use of the system, while critics say it is too expensive and may not be effective.

“The problem is funding, as usual,” said Mr. Domino. “You don’t just throw money at a problem. In many cases, there’s no need to change the [septic] systems we have now. The discussion now is being driven by a company that has a technology that they are pushing. It may or may not work. I’m not advocating a real quick jump on very costly solutions. I would take a go-slow approach with something like that.”

Jeri Woodhouse (D-Orient)

Ms. Woodhouse, who owns the food business Taste of the North Fork, chaired the town Planning Board during Josh Horton’s administration and ran unsuccessfully for a Town Board seat in 2009.

Ms. Woodhouse disagree with her opponent on the septic system issue.

“There’s a lot of new research that shows there are new kinds of septic systems that can be put in place,” she said. “The problem is they’re very costly. I believe there’s funding available that can make it possible for people to purchase them. We should see if we can bring some of that money here because it’s vital to our economy to have clean water.”

10/24/12 5:09pm
10/24/2012 5:09 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Candidates for federal, state and local races , including State Senator Kenneth LaValle (standing), had the chance to introduce themselves to voters during the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Wednesday.

Candidates running for federal, state and local offices answered Southold residents’ questions Wednesday afternoon during the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce’s “meet the candidates” luncheon at the Meetinghouse Creek Inn in Aquebogue.

Jeff Strong, president of Strong’s Marine in Mattituck, moderated the two-hour event where nearly 20 people gathered to listen to each candidate’s platform.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) left after making an opening statement because he had another event to attend to this afternoon on Shelter Island. His Democratic challenger, Bridget Fleming of Noyac, was absent.

Below is an excerpt from a pair of questions asked.

Question to congressional and state candidates: Do you see the local economy getting better or worse and what are your plans to help improve it?

Congressional candidates’ answers:

Incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton): The local economy is struggling from what has been the deepest recession in our nation’s history other than the Great Depression. I think there are signs that we are recovering, but we have a long, long way to go. One of things I’m working on is trying to bring the federal government back to the table in terms of investing in local wastewater infrastructure. The second thing is dealing with environment issues. I think the environment is our economy and the economy is our environment.

Challenger Randy Altshuler (R-St. James): When you speak to people locally, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the air. It’s scaring the daylights out of everybody. You see it from unemployment rates going up over the past decade to people becoming underwater with their mortgages. Some local businesses are seeing a little bit of a pick-up, but a lot of them are saying it’s still doing pretty poorly. I think we need change and the only way I think that will happen is if we have more business people in office.

State Assembly candidates’ answers:

Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham): I don’t think the economy is doing very well at all. I think, in large part, that’s because of the burden that is placed upon businesses and residential taxes that drive up the overall cost of living. New York State spent $20 billion on Medicaid expenditures last year. We need to control spending in areas where people may not think relate to education funding. But if we save a billion dollars in Medicaid expenditures, that’s a billion dollars we can put back into education funding.

Challenger Nicholas Deegan (D-Mattituck): I think the local economy is starting on an upspring. The bigger thing out here is transportation. If we’re going to be able to sustain the agritourism and wine industries, then I think we have to deal with transportation very quickly so that by next summer we have a plan going into place. The roads can only handle so much. We need to get some of the traffic off the road.

Question to Town Trustee candidates: There are reports stating water quality is affected by stormwater runoff and septic systems. Do you agree and what’s your plan to improve water quality?

Town Trustees’ answers:

Trustee Mike Domino (R-Southold): All the trustees understand the importance mentioned about [water quality]. The problem is funding, as usual. You just don’t throw money at a problem.  In many cases, there’s no need to change the [septic] systems we have now. The discussion now is being driven by a company that has a technology that they are pushing. It may or may not work. I’m not advocating a real quick jump on very costly systems. I would take a go-slow approach with something like that.

Challenger Jeri Woodhouse (D-Orient): I agree [stormwater runoff and septic systems] are contributing to what’s happening to our water. There’s a lot of new research that shows there are new kinds of septic systems that can be put in place. The problem is they’re very costly. I believe there’s funding available that can make it possible for people to purchase them. We should see if we can bring some of that money here because it’s vital to our economy to have clean water.

Check back on Election Day for full coverage.

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08/23/12 12:00pm
08/23/2012 12:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | A state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday controversial Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax is unconstitutional.

Local lawmakers are celebrating this morning following a state Supreme Court decision Wednesday calling the controversial Metropolitan Transit Authority payroll tax unconstitutional.

Many legislators have challenged the fairness of the tax since its inception, claiming that eastern Long Island receives paltry service from the MTA. Approved in 2009, the tax imposed a .34 percent levy on payroll for all employers, including schools and governments, in New York City and the seven surrounding suburban counties.

In June 2011, the state Senate, which has a narrow Republican majority, passed a bill to repeal the MTA payroll tax, but the legislation didn’t pass in the Democratically dominated Assembly.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who sponsored a bill to have Suffolk join Nassau County’s lawsuit, described the recent decision as “wonderful.”

“This is an illegal tax never that should never have been imposed,” Mr. Romaine said Thursday morning on his way to Mineola for a press conference about the court’s ruling.

Mr. Romaine called the MTA payroll tax “wrong, morally and legally” because East End service was cut after the tax was imposed. Since that time, Mr. Romaine said the tax has cost Suffolk County $10 million and $150 million for small businesses in the county

Mr. Romaine said although he’s pleased with the court’s recent decision, he believes the fight isn’t over because the next step would be local municipalities and business owners getting reimbursed from paying the tax over the past few years.

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in a statement the MTA will “vigorously appeal” the decision.

“We believe this opinion will be overturned, since four prior challenges to the constitutionality of the law making the same argument have been dismissed,” he said.

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said Thursday he’s “thrilled” about the decision and believes it will be upheld upon appeal.

“Myself and my colleagues have been fighting this egregious tax and I think [the decision] is certainly a step toward its complete removal,” Mr. Losquadro said.

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08/20/12 8:00am
08/20/2012 8:00 AM

JOHN GRIFFIN FILE PHOTO | Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko delivers his State of the Town address in 2010. Mr. Lesko’s resignation in Brookhaven could spell change locally.

Whenever an elected town official resigns mid-term it has the potential to drastically shake up the political landscape in that town. It’s rare, however, that such a resignation can impact several towns.

That’s certainly the case though with last week’s announcement that Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko is stepping down next month.

What will make the resulting special election even more interesting is that it comes in a non-local year, giving every elected official in Brookhaven Town outside of Ken LaValle, Dan Losquadro and Dean Murray the opportunity to pursue the seat with no risk of losing their current post. [Both Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Murray might seek the seat anyway.]

Considering that Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine of Center Moriches is already the reported GOP favorite, according to Newsday, the election could have an impact on residents of Riverhead and Southold towns.

The North Fork Legislator seems a logical choice for Republicans. He’s a savvy pol with old-school charm and he’s been incredibly popular in recent elections for County Legislature. He’s also served countywide as a County Clerk.

The position might also interest Mr. Romaine as he nears the county term limit, and has spent each of his terms in the political minority on the Legislature.

Hurting Mr. Romaine’s chances might be the losses he suffered in the two largest elections of his political career, a bid for County Executive and Congress. A good portion of his voting base is outside of Brookhaven, too.

The GOP has a fairly deep pool of candidates to choose from with two Republican State Assemblyman living in Brookhaven, Dan Losquadro of Shoreham and Dean Murray of Patchogue; the leading contender off the Brookhaven Town Board, Councilman Dan Panico of Shirley; and another County Legislator in Thomas Muratore of Ronkonkoma.

That’s a decent pool of proven candidates in a year where the Suffolk GOP is already excited about its chances to grab a seat in the House of Representatives with St. James businessman Randy Altschuler back on the ballot after being narrowly defeated in 2010.

In fact, Mr. Lesko’s timing couldn’t have been worse for Suffolk Democrats, who were already looking to spend big to keep Congressman Tim Bishop in office.

Now they’ll have to raise even more money to keep control of the largest town in the county, where Mr. Lesko’s seat currently gives them a one-vote majority.

Newsday reports that Former Assemblyman Marc Alessi of Shoreham and Mr. Lesko’s top aide, Brian Beedenbender, are among the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. Considering Mr. Alessi and Mr. Beedenbender lost their most recent elections — to Mr. Losquadro and Mr. Muratore, respectively — that’s not a great sign for the Democrats. Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri is also in the mix, but he comes with his own set of political baggage.

On the flip side, the other two townwide elected leaders in Brookhaven, John Rouse and Patricia Eddington, have both won on the Democratic line. But would they really want to move away from those two cozy posts?

Perhaps the Democrats’ best opportunity comes with having President Barrack Obama and Congressman Tim Bishop on the ballot, enabling their candidate to receive trickle-down votes from incumbents at the top of the ticket.

The fact that this special election comes in a presidential year, where voters are twice as likely to visit the polls, makes just about anything possible.

And should it be Mr. Romaine who earns the GOP nomination and ultimately the supervisorship, that could mean more than just a change in our local leadership on the County Legislature if local officials pursue his seat.

Just think about all the posts that could change hands at the town level if, say, one of the North Fork town supervisors pursued Mr. Romaine’s seat.

No matter how things shake out, the situation in Brookhaven is certainly worth keeping an eye on from out here.

Grant Parpan is the executive editor for Times/Review Newsgroup. He covered Brookhaven Town politics from 2006 to 2011 as a reporter and editor of the former North Shore Sun newspaper.

08/06/12 1:00pm
08/06/2012 1:00 PM

Have you received a text asking you to respond “no” or “stop” or you’ll be charged for a service?

Most people would probably ignore such nonsense, but ignoring the text is a signal to a third party that you want to be charged for its “services.”

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) fell victim to this rock-or-a-hard-place scam, called “cramming,” and he’s urging his constituents to contact their cell phone carriers to add what’s called a purchase block to their accounts.

A purchase block bars third parties from tagging services fees to phone bills, he said.

“I was recently a victim of wireless phone bill cramming and would have been charged more than ten dollars a month for a service that I did not explicitly authorize had I not caught this,” Mr. Losquadro said. “I encourage everyone who has a mobile phone to contact their service provider and place a purchase block on their account immediately.”

Once the purchase block is in place, customers are issued a PIN number that must be entered to allow third parties to charge an account.

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission are investigating thousands of complaints and are predicting the problem will grow as more people grow accustomed to purchasing services through their phones.

“Although this appears to be entirely a federal issue, I am examining possible solutions with the New York State Department of State Division of Consumer Protection and will work with the FCC and FTC towards making purchase blocks a mandatory default feature for all wireless plans,” Mr. Losquadro said. “While many families are currently struggling to pay their bills, the last thing they need to worry about is paying additional money for charges they did not permit or even know they are paying for.”

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07/26/12 6:00am
07/26/2012 6:00 AM

Asked why he failed to support marriage equality when the bill failed in the state Senate three years ago, North Fork Senator Ken LaValle told a Times/Review reporter that his decision was a reflection of what his constituents wanted.

“What I have heard from a lot of people is that we are just not ready for it,” the Republican from Port Jefferson said. “It could happen someday in the future, but just not right now.”

The future began a year ago this week, as gay and lesbian couples were finally allowed to marry in New York State. Citing reasons similar to those he gave in 2009, Mr. LaValle voted against last year’s bill, too. Local Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) also voted no on marriage equality.

Now a full year has passed and we ask Mr. LaValle, Mr. Losquadro and anyone else opposed to gay marriage just how their lives have been negatively affected by the 49 same-sex couples who have applied for marriage licenses on the North Fork in these past 12 months.

We suspect their lives haven’t changed much at all.

Here’s what has changed:

At least 98 of their neighbors (many more could have applied for licenses elsewhere) have been able to exercise a right so many of us take for granted. These same-sex couples have finally been given the same basic rights the state affords any of us.

They’ve been able to share in the joys and benefits of marriage. The pains, too.

Equality. Finally.

But there’s still work to be done.

One year later, 30 states still ban all forms of marriage not involving one man and one woman, and just five other states have comprehensive laws providing marriage equality like New York’s.

The Defense of Marriage Act still stands in the way of marriage equality for all Americans, despite many current active attempts to repeal the federal law.

Marriage equality in New York is a bright, shining example of how government can enact change for the good of its people. We hope the rest of America is watching. We hope they’re ready for it.

06/14/12 2:25pm
06/14/2012 2:25 PM

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Assembly candidate Nicholas Deegan chats with Southold Councilman Al Krupski during an April 2011 town Democratic Committee meeting.

Two years ago, state Senator Ken LaValle didn’t know the name of his election opponent until late August.

This year he’ll have to wait a month longer than that.

Meeting last week, the Suffolk Democrats did not select either of the women seeking to take on the veteran Republican, now in his 36th year. Instead, the party cleared the way for the two, Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Rocky Point attorney Jennifer Maertz, to fight it out in a Sept. 13 primary.

The Democrats also chose Mattituck resident Nicholas Deegan, a local parks district commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Southold Town Board last fall, to oppose GOP Assemblyman Dan Losquadro of Shoreham.

The party would have preferred to avoid the Senate primary, but neither candidate would withdraw, said Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Shaffer.

“I said to both of them can they try to figure it out,” Mr. Shaffer said. “They won’t have a lot of time to take on someone who’s been around forever, but neither one wanted to back out. Since they’ve both been important parts of our committee we’ll let Democratic voters make the decision.”

The First Senatorial District covers most of Brookhaven and all five East End towns.

Each candidate must obtain 1,000 petition signatures from registered Democrats by July 12 to secure a spot in the primary.

The race in 2010 appeared to be between Mr. LaValle, who was first elected in 1976, and New Suffolk attorney Regina Calcaterra.

But Ms. Calcaterra was thrown off the ballot after two state courts said she didn’t meet the state’s residence requirement. Ms. Maertz, who served as her campaign chief of staff, ran in her place but lost to Mr. LaValle.

Ms. Calcaterra now serves as chief deputy to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Ms. Fleming gained a Southampton Town Board seat by winning a special election in 2010. She ran again last fall and won a full four-year term.

In the First Assembly District contest, Mr. Deegan will attempt to deny the GOP incumbent a second term.

Mr. Losquadro won his first term by beating Democrat Marc Alessi in a very close race. On Election Night 2010, Mr. Losquadro, then a county legislator, had a lead of just 40 votes over the three-term incumbent. The race ended three weeks later, when after a recount the Republican’s lead stretched to over 800 votes.

Mr. Deegan, a carpenter, currently serves as one of three Mattituck Parks District commissioners.

He’s been active on the Southold Town parks and recreation committee and has coached soccer and baseball for 14 years. During last year’s election he described himself as a fiscal conservative, the result of owning a small business for 25 years.

Mr. Deegan “has a tough row to hoe,” Mr. Shaffer said. “But he’s obviously concerned with the community. He’s a trouper and a true believer that we need to have competition in these races.”

With most of the Assembly district within Brookhaven Town and with the GOP holding a considerable edge in voter enrollment, Mr. Deegan said he’s under no illusion that his will be anything but an uphill campaign.

“I’d like to represent the North Fork as part of the majority in Albany,” he said. “I’d be able to bring more resources back to the neighborhood and be part of Governor Cuomo’s effort to bring more efficiency in government.”

Southold Democratic leader Art Tillman said Mr. Deegan has distinguished himself as a reformer during his tenure as a parks commissioner, including ending the years-running abuse of gasoline cards by commissioners.

“When Nick Deegan is elected he will bring to Albany the same work and reformist ethic he has demonstrated here in Mattituck,” said Mr. Tillman.

The selection of congressional candidates had also taken place in the spring, but given the state’s decision to set a separate, much earlier congressional primary date — this year on June 26 rather than September — both parties made their selections two months earlier in March.

As expected, Democrats renominated incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop, who is seeking his sixth term. With GOP candidate George Demos dropping out at the last minute, there will be no GOP primary. The nomination went to businessman Randy Altschuler, who lost to Mr. Bishop in 2010 in one of nation’s closest congressional contests.

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03/12/12 1:04pm
03/12/2012 1:04 PM

COURTESY MAP | This map shows the new First district, which will include the southeastern Brookhaven, the South Fork and Shelter Island. Riverhead, Southold and northeastern Brookhaven would be represented in the Second Assembly District, according to this latest proposal.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly District maps puts Southold back in the same district as Riverhead and places Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly District.

An earlier proposal released by the state last month would have placed both Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district represented by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

Southold and Riverhead political leaders, and eventually Mr. Thiele as well, said the North Fork’s voice should not be divided in the state legislature.

The new proposal would rename Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s (R-Shoreham) district, which currently includes Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, from the First to the Second Assembly District. Mr. Thiele’s district, currently the Second Assembly District, would be renamed the First Assembly District.

“I look forward to representing the new First Assembly District. 98% of the district includes areas I already represent,” said Mr. Thiele in a release issued Monday. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980’s. I have continued to work with Shelter Island on many regional issues and look forward to representing them again. Further, I am pleased that the redistricting task force listened to public opinion and kept Southold in the current district with northeast Brookhaven and Riverhead, as I had requested.”

Mr. Losquadro was not immediately available for comment.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to reflect population statistics gathered during the U.S. Census.

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02/10/12 2:08pm
02/10/2012 2:08 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | New York State’s Secretary of State Cesar Perales presenting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget Thursday afternoon at the Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center in Riverhead.

Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to piggyback on last year’s success in closing a $10 billion budget deficit while holding the line on taxes by reducing estimated spending increases to state agencies and local municipalities, state officials said on Thursday.

New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales presented Mr. Cuomo’s proposed budget Thursday afternoon at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center in Riverhead. The proposed $132.5 billion spending plan, called the “New NY Transformation Plan,” includes plans to close a $2 billion state budget deficit.

Mr. Perales said this will be accomplished by eliminating “automatic inflators,” spending increases the state has granted to state agencies and local municipalities over the past few years.

While state agencies have been receiving a 13 percent increase in spending, Mr. Perales said their budget will remain flat this year in order to create a savings of $1.3 billion. In addition, the usual 3.9 percent spending increase given to localities will be reduced to 2.6 percent next year. The two moves will combine to close the $2 billion budget gap, Mr. Perales said.

“We can’t spend any more money,” he said. “We have to learn to live within our budget.”

But, in some cases, the governor is proposing to spend more money in certain areas this year in order to help improve the state’s economy.

One piece to Mr. Cuomo’s spending plan is to invest $723 million on infrastructure projects. The state will be eligible for a $1.7 billion matching grant from the federal government and Mr. Cuomo also anticipates the state could receive $3 billion from private investors. Some of the infrastructure projects include improving over 100 bridges and 2,000 miles of roads.

“When we do this, we are creating jobs,” Mr. Perales said. “Think about when people in the construction business have more money in their pocket and spend it in our economy.”

A new tax revenue generating project the governor is proposing is the construction of a convention center and gambling casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. While the state won’t fund the project, Mr. Cuomo is looking to secure $2 billion from private investors to build it. Since casino gambling is currently illegal in the state, Mr. Cuomo is also drafting legislation that would allow the state to control and manage casino gambling.

“Right now, people are gambling everywhere and we don’t get very much money from it,” Mr. Perales said. “This will generate tax revenue for the people of our state.”

Another element in the proposed spending plan includes helping local municipalities deal with rising Medicaid costs.

“We want to limit the growth so local governments won’t have to pay any more money than they do now,” he said. “The governor has proposed taking up all of the increase in Medicaid, so, if local government is paying $10 million, then they know it’s going to stay at $10 million every year and the state will pick up the increase.”

Mr. Cuomo also plans to revamp the state pension system by establishing a new and “less generous” pension package called Tier VI, which would only affect new state employees.

This pension system, which resembles 401k retirement plans, involves workers contributing to their pensions and the government matching them.

In addition to restructuring the state pension system, Mr. Perales said the governor plans to reorganize the way state aid is given to schools.

“We are number one in spending per student in the country,” he said. “We’re 38th in the graduation rate … It’s not just money that determines if we’re going to have an effective school system.”

In order for the state to receive a $700 million federal “Race to the Top” grant it won in 2010, a teacher evaluation program must be implemented. Mr. Perales said if there is no evaluation system fully implement by school districts before Jan. 17, 2013, then the state won’t give those school districts aid.

First District Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, who attended the budget presentation, said he believes the governor has done a good job in crafting a spending plan that’s fair in tough fiscal times. Mr. Losquadro said he appreciated the budget planning process, which he said involved the legislative and executive branches of state government working together.

“Having been in Albany for just over a year now, I know first hand how much we’ve been able to accomplish as a Legislative body in partner with the governor,” he said. “This administration has truly accepted the reality of the economic situation the state faces. That is not an easy thing to do and these aren’t easy choices to make.”

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