By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Incumbent Assemblywoman Janet Duprey believes the state is finally turning in the right direction, and she wants to continue to be a part of it.
“I think we have begun to turn things around in the state and in the North Country, and it has been very productive,” Duprey said.
“We have a lot of positive things going on, some great projects, and I work very hard at this, and I enjoy doing this job.”
As proof of that, Duprey pointed to two recent major indicators — the state closing a $13 billion budget deficit and the North Country receiving $103 million in Regional Economic Development funds.
From those gains, the North Country will see many rewards, such as a natural-gas line in St. Lawrence and Franklin counties, funds for a major expansion at Bombardier in Plattsburgh and the construction of Adirondack Club and Resort in Tupper Lake, she said.
“Also, the New York Works program (Department of Transportation road and bridge repair plan) has put in millions for roads and bridges, and that has helped put contractors and employees back to work,” Duprey said.
‘BENEFIT TO LONGEVITY’
Duprey was elected to the Assembly in 2006 after serving for 31 years in Clinton County government, 25 as treasurer. She said her time in government has helped her make numerous connections across the state, which is helpful in her day-to-day dealings.
“It is so much easier when you can pick up the phone and ask to speak to Ted or Tracy rather than try to get through the system,” she said.
“Politics is the only profession you get criticized for having longevity, but I think there is a real benefit to longevity.”
Revamping Medicaid has been a big issue in the state, and Duprey agrees that reform is needed. She sponsored a bill that would require palm-printing on Medicaid cards to determine proof that the holder is a valid Medicaid recipient.
The bill is stuck in committee, but she hopes it can go forward.
“It could save us about $1 billion a year in fraud,” she said.
Duprey also said that some of the benefits in the Medicaid system need to be examined.
“It truly is the Cadillac of the system,” she said. “But there are 65 members of the Assembly from the New York City area who have many constituents who are on Medicaid.”
She said health insurance in the state needs reform as well, but it could be difficult.
“You have to remember that for every mandate there is a lobby who supports it,” she said.
Duprey said she was glad that Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered state departments to look for duplication of services, redundancy and regulations that just don’t make sense as a means of saving money.
Cuomo also is pushing to make gambling legal in the state. The idea must be approved by a constitutional amendment and must be passed by two consecutive but different sessions of the legislature.
Duprey, who voted in favor putting the idea up for an amendment vote, said the public should have clear information on the issue and the right to voice their opinion.
“To pretend that it isn’t happening here already is silly,” she said.
“It is a revenue-generator and the voters should have the right to say and good information because we all know that there is a dark side to gambling.”
A recent $48 million land purchase in the Adirondacks has stirred a controversy in the district among those who support it and those who don’t think the state should be spending money on more land.
Duprey is not in favor of buying more land but said the recent purchase will at least allow for public access. She also said that she believes many gains have been made involving the Adirondack Park Agency and issues concerning property owners.
“I think there is much better cooperation now, and I am impressed with Chairman (Leilani) Ulrich,” she said.
Duprey also said she supports bringing more broadband to the district.
“You can’t start a business without it,” she said. “We wouldn’t have the telephone or electricity if government was not involved.”
‘NO CHOICE ON TEACHER EVAL’
The assemblywoman said she hopes the $103 million in Regional Development funds can help spur more growth in the region.
“That money goes directly into our communities, and it is much better than having somebody in Albany or New York City deciding what is best for Malone or any other of our communities.”
The new public-school teacher evaluation system has also been controversial, with many educators feeling that it is way too cumbersome.
Duprey said she agrees, but the legislature had no choice, since the alternative was an evaluation system that would have been made public to anybody.
“It was not a perfect situation, but I don’t think evaluations should have been public,” she said.
Duprey has been criticized by some in her party for her social stances in supporting gay marriage and abortion. She has also come under fire for collecting state-retirement benefits along with her Assembly salary in what has become known as double-dipping.
“I consider myself a social moderate, but I’ve always been a fiscal conservative,” she said.
She noted that Unshackle Upstate, a bipartisan organization of business and trade outfits, recently gave her a grade of 93 for her legislative record in supporting a pro-growth and pro-job agenda.
“As far as double-dipping goes, I worked for 31 years in county government, and I earned that,” she said.
“The law allows it, and I am going to protect my family.”
Email Joe LoTemplio: email@example.com