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January 19, 2013

 

Seward outlines agenda

Senator calls for Medicaid and education aid reform, job growth

SewardBob Ellis/staff photographer
State Sen. Jim Seward speaks Friday morning at the Cortland County Office Building, laying out his legislative goals for the upcoming year.

By CATHERINE WILDE
Staff Reporter
cwilde@cortlandstandard.net

State Sen. Jim Seward (R-Milford) laid out his legislative priorities for 2013 at the County Office Building Friday, saying he wants to see a state takeover of Medicaid expenses and funds dedicated to school safety, among other goals for this Legislative term.
Seward is touring his 51st District and Cortland was the second stop on the second day of his two-day tour.
Seward highlighted three vital areas he wants to take action on in 2013: mandate relief, education aid reform, and economic development and job creation.
Seward said he will push for an eight-year takeover of Medicaid costs, with the state ultimately taking on the entire cost of the program, a move that would save substantial local tax dollars.
In 2012, of the $32.8 million Cortland County tax levy, over $10 million of those local tax dollars went to cover Medicaid costs.
An eight-year phase-in of Medicaid costs would be palatable to the state, Seward said.
Seward also wants to see education aid reformed, with the neediest districts getting the bulk of funding and he wants funds dedicated to school safety measures like capital projects to heighten safety or the hiring of retired police officers for security.
Seward said money should go to the neediest districts that have grappled with how to provide the most basic education amid cuts, rather than affluent districts whose choices might be to cut a fifth language or a ballet course.
Although Seward opposed the new gun control legislation because he thought it diminishes the rights of law-abiding citizens, he praised some aspects of it such as stronger background checks and increased penalties for offenses. He wants the 10 percent bump in building aid included in the legislation for school security to go to capital improvement programs or security hires.
“Now that it is law, I will do anything that will help make it more workable,” said Seward.
With regards to economic development, Seward wants to enact tax breaks for manufacturers, among other measures to promote business upstate.
He said manufacturing offers some of the best jobs for the area so he wants to create a climate that rewards manufacturers and makes it easier for them to make new hires.
Seward also wants to see local businesses, like the planned Byrne Dairy yogurt plant in Cortlandville and local craft beer breweries, using local products such as milk and hops.
He said he will speak with the U.S. Farm Bureau and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to see what can be done to encourage hops to be grown locally since he heard that the brewers were importing hops from out of state.
Seward also wants to increase broadband and cellphone coverage in the area, saying that will aid economic development greatly. He wants to offer incentives to cellphone carriers to help them increase their coverage in the area.
“The way people live today you’ve got to have broadband enhanced communication capability,” Seward said.
Seward called Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent state of the state message the “most ambitious agenda” he has ever heard. Seward said he wants to work with Cuomo on a number of areas outlined in the plan.
For example, he wants to see the Cortland County area be included in one of the 10 “hot spots” that will be created across the state for technology business development linked to colleges. He said it is a prime area to be considered because of the innovations coming from nearby universities and the natural beauty of the area.
He also wants Cuomo’s idea of partnering with local colleges to enhance work force training to be implemented at SUNY Cortland and Tompkins Cortland Community College. He said that will help develop the economy upstate.
Amy Simrell, executive director of the YWCA, asked Seward where he stood on raising the minimum wage. She said that is a conflicted topic for places like the YWCA which cannot afford to pay higher wages but also supports working class families.
Seward said he does not think the initiative decreases the cost of business or creates more jobs so he does not support it. Instead, Seward thinks efforts should focus on developing a healthy enough economic climate that minimum-wage workers can progress to higher paying jobs.
Seward also fielded questions from local working mothers who want to see funds reinstated for low-income child care subsidies. Seventy cases have been cut in the county in recent months because of the cuts.
Antonella Dintino, a single mother who works more than 50 hours a week, wants funds to be gradually added and wants to see a fairer allocation of caseloads going toward working families.
Seward said he would consider the issue, although the way cases are cut is a local decision.

 

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