Press-Republican

April 16, 2014

GOP gubernatorial candidate swings through North Country

By DENISE A. RAYMO and JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

---- — NORTH BANGOR — Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said he’d repeal the SAFE Act, entice businesses from neighboring states and encourage natural-gas fracking.

The Westchester County executive also said he would lower property taxes, build a collaborative relationship on land-claim issues with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and give counties more control over Medicaid if he is elected.

Astorino made a swing through upstate this week with planned stops in Syracuse, Watertown, Potsdam, Massena, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Malone and Plattsburgh.

He met for an hour with about 20 people at the Bangor Fire Station in North Bangor on Tuesday and said he needs their help to win since the North Country’s political leaning is predominantly Democrat.

Astorino encouraged them to follow him on Twitter and Facebook and to donate to his campaign against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“We’re not going to give him a run for his money, we’re going to run him out of town,” the candidate said, adding the state is losing among many economic and social indicators.

‘CULTURE OF CORRUPTION’

“We have the highest taxes, 40 percent more than the national average and an outflow of people,” Astorino said. “The Democratic Assembly has a disgusting culture of corruption, and the U.S. Attorney is starting to investigate the governor’s role in all of this.

“We are the laughingstock in many ways,” he continued. “We’re blessed with natural-gas shales, but the governor, for purely political reasons, has not allowed the state to safely explore natural gas. It would add billions to New York state and add jobs like it did in Pennsylvania.”

He called the Start-Up NY campaign “a gimmick” and said it is too restrictive to do any real good for businesses.

‘A LEAST A YELLOW LIGHT’

Keith Wells of Saranac Lake said the North Country needs to attract businesses that will bring high-paying jobs to boost the entire economy and wanted to know how Astorino would bring that about.

“Let’s compete against our neighbors,” the candidate said, describing a two-prong strategy that includes vying with states adjacent to New York. 

“You have a workforce that wants to work and a great educational system and private colleges, but we’re doing everything to be a stop sign (for business). 

“At least, let’s be a yellow light, he said. “Businesses would love to be here in New York and a part of its business.” 

The next step, Astorino said, is to compete “with Florida and the Carolinas and even Michigan, which has understood it needs to change to compete.”

SAFE ACT OPPONENT

Astorino said that, if elected, he would repeal the Safe Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act), which he said Cuomo pushed through the State Legislature.

“It turned law-abiding citizens into law-breakers,” he said of the legislation.

He said that if he didn’t get cooperation from the Democratic-led Assembly in overturning it, he would use his veto power to block bills that metropolitan lawmakers want passed until they come to his side of the issue “or de-fund it in the budget process.”

The county executive said he lowered taxes more than 5 percent since he took the job in Westchester County and that the same can be done across the state to save money for property owners.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Franklin County, St. Lawrence County, Erie County or Westchester, we’re dealing with people who are voting with their feet and moving to a different state where the opportunities are.

“When (Cuomo) came in, he had good intentions, and I was rooting for him,” Astorino said. “But we can’t turn the state around with gimmicks.”

‘WEED OUT WASTE’

He said he’d let counties decide how much to pay in to the Medicaid system since it is one of nine state-mandated programs that a majority of a county’s tax levy is used to fund.

“We need to weed out waste of money that could go to education,” Astorino said. “We have to make hard choices. Let the counties set their own limits.”

He said he has “no problem with casinos, but we’re over-saturated in the Northeast, and they’re all struggling. They will add jobs, but there are other problems they create.”

Astorino said his experiences working with a diverse population in Westchester County can also be applied when dealing with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe on land-claims issues.

“One of the things we’re able to do is work on collaborations face-to-face, and I’d welcome that with the Indian nations.”