It is always invigorating to begin a new year of addressing New York’s many challenges. The Legislature opened the 2017 session on Wednesday and it was refreshing to see the hope and optimism of my colleagues, especially the seven new members we welcomed to the Assembly Minority Conference.
The Legislature is an essential component of New York’s government, made up of thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate members. As I expressed to my Assembly colleagues this week, we have a responsibility to provide a check against the concentrated power of the executive branch, which seems to regularly disregard the balance of our three-branch system.
We can have disagreements on policy, but the Legislature’s place in state government is inarguable. We are the individuals who live in the districts, who have raised families in our districts, and who are in constant contact with friends, neighbors and families in our home communities. Our role matters. Our voice matters.
TACKLING NEW WORK AND SETTING THE AGENDA
While there is plenty of new work in front of us, there are old habits that must be broken. It is finally time to end the outdated, unjust practice of ‘three-men-in-a-room’ negotiating and truly empower the people’s representatives. Secretive budget negotiations result in millions of New Yorkers and rank-and-file legislators being kept in the dark and out of the process.
I will also be fighting hard for solutions to both New York’s systemic problems as well as those that have surfaced more recently:
- We must ensure direct care givers, who provide life-saving services to people with disabilities and the elderly, are adequately funded. The entire industry faces staffing challenges and fiscal pressures brought on by a $15/hour minimum wage policy that put fast-food workers higher on the pay scale. It’s an injustice that must be corrected.
- Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, widely praised for their convenience and lauded by law enforcement as an important measure to combat drunk driving, should be available everywhere in New York. New York City and 37 other states have these services up and running.
- Albany needs to lower the costs it forces on municipalities through unfunded mandates. When a city, town or village spends money to implement a state-driven program, the costs are passed on in the form of property taxes. New Yorkers face the nation’s highest state and local tax burden. It’s time to finally address the problem.
- The potentially life-saving Brittany’s Law, which combats domestic violence by creating a registry of violent felony offenders, has inexplicably been held up by the Assembly Majority, and deserves a full vote on the floor of the Assembly.
Further, our Conference has always been a steadfast advocate for small businesses, education reform and ethics reform. We have championed tax and regulation relief for all New Yorkers. It is critical New York reverse course on its tax-and-harass strategy and stop hampering its economic drivers.
As always, we will fight on behalf of everyday New Yorkers to protect their hard-earned tax dollars. The governor and Assembly Majority have already referenced 2017 proposals that will come with a hefty price tag. Several state-administered economic-development programs have squandered public money and need to be held in check. As thousands of New Yorkers leave for less expensive states, we need a sharp focus and commitment to making the Empire State more affordable for everyone.
The Assembly Minority Conference will never be outworked. We are dedicated to finding fair, effective and efficient solutions to the issues facing New Yorkers. I look forward to working with my colleagues to improve the quality of life for all the residents of our great state as we begin the 2017 Legislative Session.
What do you think? I want to hear from you. Send me your feedback, suggestions and ideas regarding this or any other issue facing New York State. You can always contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, find me by searching for Assemblyman Brian Kolb on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.