WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. ? Justin Wagner is the Democratic candidate for the District 40 State Senate seat. He is running against incumbent Republican Greg Ball.
Name: Justin Wagner
Family: My wife Christine and I live in Croton-on-Hudson and have a beautiful daughter, Samantha, who is 15 months old. My parents, Bob and Peggy, are residents of Dutchess County.
How long have you lived in town: 3 years in Croton, a lifetime in the Hudson Valley
Party Affiliation and ballot lines held: Democrat (party); Democratic Party, Working Families Party, Green Party (ballot lines held)
Years in office: 0
Other elected positions held: N/A
Civic organizations: Town of Cortlandt Democratic District Leader, including membership in a variety of good government and political groups that work to ensure better and more transparent government.
1. What are the three biggest issues facing your district or town?
The biggest issue in this race is jobs. The Hudson Valley is not immune to the high unemployment rate affecting New York statewide. Too many people have been out of work for too long, and we can’t wait for the economy to work itself out. We must act now to create new jobs.
Campaign finance reform is the defining issue of this generation. We need to get big money out of politics so that voters, not corporations, are the engines powering our democracy.
In Westchester County, close to 75% of the taxes collected by the county government are used to fulfill mandates from the state. While the recently passed tax cap may be a first step on the path to property tax relief, mandate relief and further relief to homeowners is necessary to address the needs of the Hudson Valley’s homeowners.
2. How would you address those issues?
We can put people back to work by lifting Governor Cuomo’s new Tappan Zee Bridge project off the ground. Projects that focus on rebuilding our infrastructure can create thousands of jobs and allow New York to lay the foundation for future growth.
To combat the problem of big money influencing the outcome of elections, New York needs comprehensive campaign finance reform. We need lower contribution limits, more disclosure and a matching funds system where small donations are matched and multiplied, thereby empowering the voices of individuals.
With the property tax cap in place, it’s time to clear the way for county and local governments to take the next step: actually cutting their costs and cutting property taxes. That means changing the law to reform state mandates, which is a promise on which Senator Ball and his Albany Republican backers have failed to follow through.
3. If you are an incumbent, what were your biggest achievements? If you are a challenger or running for an open seat, what would you do differently than the previous office holder?
Hudson Valley residents need a state senator who holds the same mainstream values as they do. The Conservative Party, in its annual survey that ranks all 62 state senators according to their voting record, ranked Senator Ball the most right wing state senator for the second year in a row. This means that Senator Ball’s entire career as a state senator has been devoted to taking the most extreme votes possible. The Hudson Valley deserves better.
Although Senator Ball has worked hard to paint himself as a moderate Republican, this picture is a gross distortion when compared to his voting record. Governor Cuomo needs a serious senator who will really work with him to help pass important legislation to move New York forward, such as increasing the minimum wage and passing campaign finance reform.
4) Westchester is among the highest-taxed counties in the nation. What would you do to lower the tax burden? Be specific.
Hudson Valley residents pay the highest property taxes in the country. Governor Cuomo’s property tax cap is a first step, but taxes are still too high. Property taxes not only need to be capped; they need to be decreased. Albany can do so by shifting the responsibility of onerous unfunded mandates like Medicaid and pension programs back onto the state.
Counties were never designed to be administrators of complex programs like Medicaid. Instead of having 62 different county systems, the state should consolidate Medicaid into one statewide program. Additionally, when pension fund performance swings downward, costs surge in the state-mandated pension system, in turn, causing local governments to raise local property taxes in order to cover the losses. The state should enact A.8505, a bill that would cap pension cost spikes for local governments at 2% with the state absorbing the overflow.
5) Why should people vote for you?
I am running for office because I believe the people of the Hudson Valley deserve better. Senator Ball likes to talk about his record a lot, but a record that is 100% anti-choice and opposed to women receiving equal pay as men has earned him the distinction of being ranked as New York’s most conservative senator two years running. I’ve lived in the Hudson Valley my entire life and Senator Ball’s extreme, right-wing views do not represent our values. The people of this area deserve a representative who will bring integrity and maturity to the Senate.
People should vote for me because I want to move New York forward. We can address the problems facing Hudson Valley families through pragmatic, common sense solutions. Solutions like raising the minimum wage, repealing the MTA payroll tax and rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge. Send me to Albany and I’ll get the job done.