BRASHER FALLS - Republican voters will pick a candidate to run for a new Assembly district that encompasses Clinton County, Franklin County and four St. Lawrence County towns: Brasher, Lawrence, Hopkinton and Piercefield.
They will pick either the incumbent, Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru; Karen M. Bisso, a Clinton County educator; or David J. Kimmel, a Clinton County business owner.
Ms. Duprey has the Independence Party line, and Mrs. Bisso has the Conservative Party line, so no matter what happens on Sept. 13, they will be on the Nov. 6 general-election ballot. Timothy Carpenter, a Plattsburgh city councilman, has the Democratic line.
Ms. Duprey faces opposition from some conservatives in the state for her support of legalizing gay marriage, which she voted to approve in 2011.
The DCO asked each candidate for their positions and opinions on several issues. Here are excerpts from their responses:
n Would you have supported, or, in the case of Ms. Duprey, why did you support, changes to the state pension system that reduced retirement benefits and increased the retirement age for future hires?
Ms. Duprey, who supported the new pension tier, called Tier VI: The local government had been looking for relief. Im sure its clear to you, it should be clear to everyone, it does not affect anyone who is working for the state when it passed. The one thing that many of the employees had been concerned about is a 401(K). That was taken out of the final bill.
Mr. Kimmel: Yes, I would have supported it. It wasnt a perfect plan for instance, it would be nice to realize the savings a little sooner than 15 years down the road. But in the end, we have to do something to rein in the cost of government so that we can continue essential services.
Mrs. Bisso: I am the only candidate that has come out against Tier VI since it was announced. Why? We analyzed the numbers and came out with a report that Tier VI would not create any benefits for a minimum of 15 years.
n Would you have supported, or, in the case of Ms. Duprey, why did you support, an annual cap on hikes to property taxes? The change passed in 2011.
Ms. Duprey, who supported, with caveats, the property tax cap: About 85 percent of my constituents were in favor of it. I did it with some apprehension, because as someone with years of experience in county government, I knew what the impact of the tax cap can be, particularly on the school districts. The governor assured us there would be immediate mandate relief. There has not been.
Mr. Kimmel: I would have. I think politically, it would have been near-suicide not to. Weve got a pretty big problem with the property tax cap that is affecting all of us. Its really hurting St. Lawrence County. We had no mandate relief. My plan is twofold: On one hand, I want to amend the constitution, which is at least a two-year process so that we outlaw future unfunded mandates. I also want to enact legislation to begin handing back unfunded mandates to the state.
Mrs. Bisso said she would not have supported the property tax cap, saying it would allow local governments to raise their levies every year.
An alternative to a cap would be a combination of mandate relief and Medicaid reform, Mrs. Bisso said.
n Would you support a raise in the minimum wage, currently at $7.25 per hour?
Ms. Duprey said she is undecided. I think its going to be an issue well face for special session in November or December.
Mr. Kimmel: No. Minimum wage, since its inception, has never shown to lift anybody out of poverty, he said.
Mrs. Bisso: No. What we really need to look at is what is making New York unattractive to employers which offer good paying jobs.
n Officials in St. Lawrence County have requested that the state allow them to raise the sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. So far, the state Senate has refused to move legislation to allow the county to do so. Would you support such legislation?
Ms. Duprey: Yes. Theres no good tax, but one of the most fair taxes out there, I think it is the most fair tax. People who purchase more pay more. It certainly is the greatest savings possible for the property taxpayer.
Mr. Kimmel: Yes. Im not a fan of any tax, really, at all, Mr. Kimmel said. If the Legislature said weve got to do this, I believe I would need to support them.
Mrs. Bisso: No. A member of my staff has followed the St. Lawrence County Legislature for over a dozen years. While they say they need to increase sales tax, I would rather examine what they did with the $26 million fund balance that they had six years ago.
n The Legislature approved a plan that gerrymandered St. Lawrence County into four different Assembly districts. (Ms. Duprey voted to approve the redistricting lines.) How would you adequately represent the interests of such a small segment of the population?
Ms. Duprey: A lot will be listening, getting to know people better. We dont care about the borders. We dont draw these arbitrary lines. I think what happened to St. Lawrence County is just terrible, because its hard to have to say, Which assembly person do I need to reach out to? The good news is, all of us can work well together.
Mr. Kimmel: I want to open an office in St. Lawrence County. I absolutely think thats essential. There has to be more than talk to show people that youre accessible and that youre aware of the problem and that youre going to address any issues that are perhaps unique to them.
Mrs. Bisso: I consider St. Lawrence County my district and therefore, if there is an issue that involves St. Lawrence County, then I will be involved in it so that the entire county can receive stronger representation.