HERKIMER — Creating opportunities for economic growth while improving the state’s affordability are the fundamental priorities state Sen. James Seward will focus on during the 2018 legislative session.
"Our state lost population in 2016 and experienced only minor gains last year. The best way to grow here in the Empire State is through policies focusing on two key fundamentals — creating new job opportunities and emphasizing affordability for families and businesses," said Seward, R-Oneonta, as he detailed his legislative priorities at the Herkimer County Office Building on Wednesday.
The senator said the best way to attack the financial challenges New York state faces is through economic growth, adding lowering taxes that stifle business growth will help create jobs.
It is also vital that the state moves ahead with comprehensive mandate relief, he said, adding burdensome regulations that do nothing but waste an employer’s time and drive up the cost of doing business in New York need to be eliminated.
"Along with creating opportunities, we need a more affordable New York. I have worked to keep property taxes in check and will continue to support measures that will allow hardworking New Yorkers to keep more of their money," said Seward. "The middle class income tax cut is a strong start, and I will push to accelerate the phase in so people will be able to keep more of their hard-earned money sooner. Several tax cuts aimed at helping senior citizens stay in their homes are also priorities."
The senator said he will also will continue to support a two-percent state spending cap to make sure Albany doesn’t go on a spending spree, and called to make the property tax levy cap permanent.
He also said additional steps are needed to further help schools in low wealth areas of the state. Programs to ensure students are properly trained for tech jobs and assistance to help families and students afford a college education are among his priorities.
"Ensuring our schools have the resources they need to help students succeed and meet new challenges has always been one of my leading priorities. Not only does the funding help with classroom needs, it is also imperative to keeping local property taxes in check.," said Seward. "We also need to prepare students for the real world — and the new jobs that are available. I am a strong proponent of a college education, and am supportive of measures to help more families pay their tuition bill, but we also need to focus more resources on other job-training programs. It is important that we partner with business leaders and employers to make sure students are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. We can also take steps to re-educate older adults who want to make a career change."
Seward said Wednesday he is co-sponsoring newly introduced legislation to create specific protocol to notify individuals of their diagnoses related to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. The Senate bill would require the commissioner of health to work with health care providers to develop a standard protocol and patient notification for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and tick-borne diseases.
As a member of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction since its inception in 2014, Seward said the heroin crisis is destroying individuals, families and communities.
"Going forward, we must take additional steps to target drug kingpins who profit and prey on the addiction of others. One piece of legislation that would help would establish the crime of homicide by sale of an opioid controlled substance. The bill would allow law enforcement officials to charge a dealer with homicide if heroin or an opiate-controlled substance they sell causes an overdose death. The Senate has passed the bill in each of the last three years, but the Assembly has failed to consider the measure," the senator said.
Seward said his fundamental priorities provide a strong starting point, but there are other high-level concerns that he will take up in 2018 — help for farmers, improvements to roads and bridges, protecting Second Amendment rights and tougher laws to combat sexual harassment. He also said he will be keeping close watch on Washington, D.C., and working to make sure any policies enacted in the nation’s capital won’t have a negative impact on New York.
"Every year begins with new found optimism and 2018 is no different. We will be confronting some challenging issues in Albany, but we have a strong foundation to build on and I look forward to a productive legislative session that will lead to a more vital New York," Seward said.