Issues and Positions

Economic Opportunity

In Monroe County and around the state, the economy weighs on New Yorkers’ minds.  The Rochester region has seen a steady decline in job opportunities and population.  Our manufacturing base has taken a hit, and times have been tough not just this year but for decades.  We face enormous deficits in state government and tough choices at home.  As a small-business owner, I know our economic difficulties first hand.  But I also know the determination and innovation that define our region. We face significant challenges, but we can surely face them down.
We can meet these challenges by practicing fiscal responsibility, creating economic opportunity, and focusing on job growth.   I support policies that will help us achieve these goals.  One is the Green Jobs initiative, which will create jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure after years of neglect.  We will save money by upgrading to new, efficient technologies that will save energy and spark development.  The homegrown jobs we create will stay in our area.  Not only will we see the economic benefits of cutting-edge infrastructure, but we’ll attract people to our region to work, invest, and study in this high-tech hub.  Our area has tremendous institutions of higher learning and a highly educated population.  We must retain this talent, and the Green Jobs initiative will help us do so.

Tax Relief

Taxes are another challenge for our state.  We know that people are being taxed out of their homes, and that upstate New York’s property tax burden is the highest in the nation.  That’s why I support “circuit-breaker” tax relief that will cap property tax as a percentage of income.  This is a common-sense policy that will ease the burden on working families and stop seniors from being taxed at a rate that pushes them from their homes.

Budget Reform

As I write, New Yorkers are witnessing another year of the broken budget process.  It’s time for reform.  First, budgeting in Albany does not conform to generally accepted accounting practices.  Putting those practices to work is a common-sense place to start.  Until then, how we arrive at our revenue numbers is a matter of debate, not a product of objective reality.  We need to reform the budget process so that we’re looking at data rather than political interests when we determine the numbers we’re starting from.  We can also improve the process by updating the budget calendar.  The budget comes up in April—an awkward time from a revenues standpoint.  By changing the fiscal calendar and shifting to accounting grounded in facts, we can bring New York’s budget process into line with the best practices used around the nation.

When we look at state spending, we see the importance of restoring fiscal responsibility.  Deficit spending is a concern in New York and around the country.  At the same time, when so many people in this economic downturn are depending on the vital services the state provides, we cannot balance the budget on the backs of those who are suffering the most.  In times of fiscal hardship, we must look to shared sacrifice.  That’s why I support measures to make our spending more efficient and to address the revenue side of the budget.  Wall Street brokerages have just taken advantage of the generosity of American taxpayers, and I will ask them to join us in the belt tightening that this tough fiscal time requires.  I support the stock transfer tax, a small transactional fee on each trade that, while nominal for the average investor, has the potential for tremendous increased revenue.  I also support progressive income tax relief.  At one point in our state, the highest income earners were taxed at a rate of about 16%.  Today, that same bracket is taxed at a rate of about 6%.  We’ve relied on working families to balance the budget time and again.  This time, we can burden them no more.  Instead, we must look to shared sacrifice.  That means calling on some of our highest earners, those able to shoulder some of the burden required by these tough fiscal times.

Reforming Albany

I am among those voters frustrated with the broken, bankrupt politics in Albany.  The Brennan Report, which called our legislature “the most dysfunctional in the country” made it clear that our government is no longer working for us.  That’s why I support policies that help working families instead of those that maintain politics as usual.  This means ending the system of political patronage and political favors, where the focus is on bartering for legislation rather than on the effects legislation has on the lives of everyday New Yorkers.  For too long, politics have come before people in our state.  I will work to put our priorities straight.

Environment

Our state’s politics may be ugly, but our state’s environment is beautiful.  We are stewards of some of the largest freshwater preserves on the planet.  Our Finger Lakes, Great Lakes, and rivers are economic and environmental treasures that must be preserved.  The possibility of extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation has led to proposals for hydro-fracking in our region.  I strongly oppose them.  Hydro-fracking poses a threat to our ecological system, and that system is at the heart of our region’s prosperity and future growth.  We know that dependence on fossil fuels is as unsustainable as it is pervasive.  I support wind turbines and other clean forms of energy that are innovative, environmental alternatives.  Greening the economy means growing the economy: creating jobs, spurring technology, and attracting a skilled workforce.

Schools

The future of New York is in our classrooms.  My parents knew that schooling was a gateway to opportunity when they came here from Guyana.  The high-quality education my father earned at the University of Rochester put our family on a firm footing, opening the door for my siblings and me to make our bid for the American Dream.  As a mother, I continue to believe that education is critical, and that’s why I support education reform.  Graduation rates in the City of Rochester are worse than disappointing, and the status quo is unacceptable.  We simply cannot continue to fail our children.  Yet education reform is larger than the issue of school governance alone.  Rochester has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and child poverty in the nation.  We know that addressing performance in school requires addressing these conditions outside of school.  Elements of the proposed mayoral control bill—like the call for increased parental involvement in schools—are right on, but the question of education reform goes beyond mayoral control.  Common-sense policymaking means looking at how policy affects people on the ground.  It means realizing that education reform is a social issue, not just a governance one.

Crime and Safety

We take responsibility for educating our children and for keeping them safe.  That’s why I am a proponent of gun control.  The microstamping bill that was yanked off the senate floor earlier this summer would have made gun crimes far easier to prosecute by requiring firearms in the state to stamp each round with a serial number identifying the gun.  The majority of mayors in urban settings around the nation supported this bill, but our senate couldn’t get it done.  We have to keep firearms off our streets, and I support microstamping as a crucial step in doing that.

Pay Equity

I support the Fair Pay Act, which the senate also blocked.  Many of the economic problems we face stem from the fact that working New Yorkers cannot make a living wage.  I believe that if we give people the opportunity to work for a fair wage, they will see their way out of poverty.  This legislation, which calls for equal pay for equal work for all New Yorkers, is just common-sense.  Working people are struggling in New York, and they need a government that is on their side.

Civil Rights

In December of 2009, the senate voted down legislation to provide equal marriage rights to all New Yorkers.  On a personal level, I am in an interracial marriage, and I know that 40 years ago my marriage to Nicholas would have been considered illegal in many states.

Many of the same criticisms that were leveled against interracial marriage are now being made against equal marriage rights for LGBT citizens.  I believe that equal marriage is one of the biggest civil rights issues facing our country, and it’s shameful that in a state as progressive as New York we do not have equal marriage for all.

Incumbent Accountability

The challenges facing New York are significant, and people have asked me, “Robin, how could you want this job?”  I tell them that I’m running precisely because the challenges at this moment are so huge.  I believe it’s important for people who are well versed on the issues and committed to creating sound policy for New York to step up when we’re in crisis.  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  In New York, we’re sending the same representatives to Albany year after year and expecting different results.  Now is the time to demand a change.  In 2010, change means supporting candidates who have not been in Albany their entire lives.  In 2010, change means sending new senators to the capital to give the people of New York a new senate, one that finally works for them.

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