MALONE - A debate Tuesday night between two of the three candidates for the 115th New York Assembly seat covered a range of topics and had much participation from the crowd.
Around a dozen people showed up to see Democratic Candidate Tim Carpenter and Conservative ticket candidate Karen Bisso go head-to-head on regional and national issues at the debate, which was held in the ground floor cafeteria of the Franklin County Courthouse.
Absent was incumbent and Republican nominee Janet Duprey. A chair was provided with a sign bearing her name. Duprey has said she was unavailable for Tuesdays debate, which was organized last week by the Bisso campaign, due to a previously scheduled speaking engagement at the American Management Association.
WAMC Northeast Public Radios Pat Bradley was moderator and supplied many of the questions as well as helped to direct the debate.
After a coin toss, Bisso was selected to offer her opening statements first.
I want to know how many of you believe things are better in the state of New York today than they were just four or five years ago? she asked the audience, to which no one present raised a hand or gave an affirmative answer.
Bisso then asked how many are receiving more money in their paychecks currently over several years ago. Again, no one said they were. Bisso said this was consistent with what she had seen throughout campaigning.
She spoke of how she believes things in New York are currently upside down.
Carpenter said in his opening remarks that he is unhappy with how things are in the state.
I worry that ... a lot of politicians are there for themselves, not for the betterment of the state, he said. I think thats [got to] change. Im going to bring that change.
Carpenter added that he would handle things quite differently than Duprey has.
Many of the issues discussed during the debate were state issues, while some of the questions were geared toward more widespread topics, such as gay marriage and global warming.
Some of the discussion was dedicated to the state-mandated 2 percent budget tax cap and unfunded mandates.
The state in its infinite wisdom decided that it wanted to cap property taxes because property taxes in a lot of municipalities in the city [New York] had grown by crazy amount of numbers, Carpenter said, adding that during his tenure on the Plattsburgh City Council, tax rates have stayed near constant.
Carpenter noted that the state wanted to make sure municipalities were not overtaxing citizens, but is not observing the tax cap rule itself.
If they want to cap us off at 2 percent, they should cap themselves at 2 percent, he said.
Bisso said she sat through many town council meetings and asked town supervisors what needed to change at the state level.
Across the board they said the unfunded mandates need to stop, she said, adding that these included emergency services, health insurance, and pension costs.
Ive contended all along that a 2 percent tax cap is nothing more than a 2 percent tax increase guarantee and theyre seeing that everywhere, Bisso noted.
When asked by Bradley how she would stop these bills coming down to local government, Bisso said she would stand up for the people she represents when in Albany.
You need to stand tall for the North Country, she said. Unfunded mandate relief needs to happen.
However, Carpenter countered that the key is to cut waste and make things leaner.
To stop it is almost nearly impossible, he said of the unfunded mandates. If we bring about development, we bring about more taxation as we build jobs and create more jobs, we bring about more taxation that comes into us without hurting each person because there will be more people with a higher disposable income, there will be more businesses that are making profit that are paying into the whole thing. We need to increase the development thats going on in the state. We need to make the state more friendly to business. We need to bring about more jobs. ... We need to make the state more efficient.
On lowering taxes, Bisso said that while there are a variety of things that need to be looked into, she said she would start with Medicaid, noting that the state should not offer more benefits than required by the federal government.
She added that after looking into Medicaid, other avenues to pursue are waste, fraud, and corruption.
We have a whole lot of that going on in the state of New York, too, especially in Albany, she said.
Carpenter agreed with Bisso that there is not one path to lowering taxes.
We need to bring dollars in from outside the state, he said, adding that this includes industry and tourism.
In the closing statements, Bisso spoke of her path to the election, now less than a week away, on Nov. 6.
I dont consider what Ive been doing as campaigning, she said, adding that she considers it job training. I want to deliver your message to Albany.
Carpenter advised the audience to choose the candidate they perceive as most fit for the job.
Vote for the person who you believe will best represent your area, he said.