The race for the 126th Assembly District pits a Cayuga County legislator who supports universal health care and sees the wine and beer industry as economic drivers of the region against a nine-term incumbent focused on revising economic programs and battling drugs.
Gary Finch, a Springport Republican, is trying to secure his tenth term, while Democrat Keith Batman of Scipio is seeking his first state legislative seat following terms as Scipio town supervisor and a Cayuga County legislator, including two years as chairman.
Finch is assistant minority leader and serves on the agriculture, correction, energy, environmental conservation, insurance and rules committees.
The 126th district covers parts of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland and Onondaga counties. Here are their thoughts.
Job creation and retention
Batman: “First, review and evaluate existing rules, red tape and processes that may inhibit job creation and retention,” he said. Second, be the convener to pull the parties together in an atmosphere of common purpose. Third, provide funding to support the efforts of collaboration and implementation.”
Community colleges could coordinate the effort, he said.
Finch: “Job creation and retention is all about reducing our tax burden, particularly property taxes,” he said. “I support a plan to provide billions in property tax relief by requiring the state to assume the local share of Medicaid costs.”
Finch: “The best thing that state can do is reverse course on job-killing wage mandates and regulations. We need to expand tax credits for hardworking farm families, and we need to continue to aggressively seek new ways to find new markets for New York products.”
Batman: The state is doing a number of things to help in the form of support for niche crops, farm-to-table efforts, diversification. These efforts need more attention and more funding.”
Batman would also ask those directly involved what the role of the state and local government should be.
On declining milk prices, Batman says the state must look at issues of supply and diversification.
“What we cannot do is cut environmental corners, however, in our search for solutions.”
Batman: “Drug use and dependence often grows out of despair and a sense that the future holds nothing better than the present or past. This means that we must focus on jobs and economic development to ensure that everyone can see a path to a better future.”
Batman added that because of his work on the Cayuga County Community Services Board, he has found the best approaches to combating addiction are through community-based programs.
“These approaches need to be supported and funded.”
Finch: “Whether the drug is heroin, amphetamines or synthetic drugs, our approach should be four-pronged. The state needs to continue to increase our investment in prevention, treatment, education and enforcement.”
Finch said he sponsored legislation requiring insurance companies to cover detox and rehab and helped deliver $220 million in state funds to combat opioid abuse.
Finch: “One of the reasons some public-private partnerships like START-Up New York have failed is because the administration didnít include claw-back provisions that would enforce real consequences when companies failed to create jobs or live up to their agreements with the state. What would make sense is targeted investments in our universities and hospitals that solve real problems and promote the public interest.”
Batman: SUNY Cortland and Cortland Regional Medical Center are critical to Cortland County’s economic growth, Batman said. “SUNY Cortland similarly provides jobs and social and cultural opportunity that simply would not exist without the college. These are the things that add to and are critical parts of the foundation of economic development and opportunity in any community.”