Justin is committed to ensuring our communities remain some of the best in the country to raise a family, visit and grow a small business. Justin wants this campaign to be about the real issues that impact the lives of those in the Hudson Valley. The problems and opportunities for New York are too great for typical political gamesmanship and silliness.
As such, Justin is committed to running a campaign on the issues and looks forward to a vigorous and robust debate as election day 2014 approaches. Below please find some detailed information on Justin’s stances and approaches to some of the key issues the Hudson Valley faces.
Like many parts of New York, the story of the Hudson Valley relates closely to good paying jobs in tight-knit communities. In 1964, IBM brought its corporate headquarters to the Hudson Valley and, since then, has employed thousands of local residents in the jobs of the future. Indeed, Justin’s father spent his career at IBM as an engineer, and Justin’s grandfather was a security officer for IBM after he retired from the police force. Justin believes that growing our economy and attracting the “next IBM” to the Hudson Valley should be a critical priority for local policymakers to create more jobs. This involves both (1) laying the infrastructure to lure existing employers to the area and (2) creating an economic climate where small businesses can take off and expand.
In his 2012 race, a number of respected voices commented positively on Justin's commitment to creating jobs. In their endorsement, the New York Times wrote that Justin would fight for "tax breaks for smaller businesses and a minimum-wage increase" and the Journal News Editorial Board added that Justin had "forward-thinking ideas for making the region’s economy stronger, by attracting better jobs and making the state work better for middle-class families." President Bill Clinton, a resident of the district, called Justin a "candidate of mainstream values and common sense solutions for the Hudson Valley" and added "Justin will work with people on both sides of the aisle to get our economy moving again and put people back to work."
New York has always been a beacon of opportunity to the rest of the world. However, in recent years our government has failed to make the necessary investments that ensure the State can compete in the 21st century economy. Justin believes that State government should be proactive in building and restoring the infrastructure necessary for an economic resurgence in New York that can create the jobs we need. Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils are a promising start, but New York can and must do more.
In the last several years, the State has rightfully focused on the need to put its fiscal house in order. However, the focus on fiscal austerity should not detract from the need to spur economic growth in the State. These two goals are not mutually exclusive. Justin believes the State of New York should cut where it can, so it can invest where it must. For instance, Justin believes this is the wrong time to be laying off teachers and neglecting the economic infrastructure in New York because the long-term health of the State’s economy requires an educated workforce and good roads and bridges. Justin also supports the ongoing Tappan Zee Bridge project, which will bring jobs to the area and re-build a critical link for our region. This crucial thoroughfare for the region has been neglected for too long.
Justin believes the tax code can be revised to reward businesses that create jobs here in New York and that unnecessary and burdensome regulations that hamstring businesses should be repealed. Justin supports Governor Cuomo’s proposal for a bipartisan tax commission to focus on ways the tax code can be reformed to work for all New Yorkers. At the same time, Justin believes that “shared sacrifice” means exactly that—everyone in New York must be part of the solution, including ensuring that industry and the wealthy do not hide behind lobbyists and tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share. Further, the jobs of tomorrow are not coming to New York unless we make the proper investments in education, infrastructure and job training. Making these investments, in a smart and efficient manner, will be one of Justin’s top priorities as your State Senator.
Dysfunction and corruption in Albany have made New York a national laughing stock and these laughs have real consequences for New York’s families. Albany politicians who chase money from lobbyists are not attending to the needs of our State. Similarly, Albany politicians who improperly use their offices for personal and political gain are not just breaking the law, they are failing the voters. Justin wants to go to Albany and change the status quo where Albany politicians and lobbyists put political interests over the interests of the residents of the Hudson Valley. In the past two years, things have only gotten worse in the legislature, as Albany has been embroiled in scandal after scandal due to inappropriate and unethical conduct by certain elected officials.
The simple truth is that we as a State will never produce the necessary solutions to the challenges our State faces in education, infrastructure and the economy without first reforming the way government in Albany works. The residents of the Hudson Valley want a State Senator who will fight for real reform, and Justin will be that Senator. Justin believes the foundation of a government that works for the people is an election system that is honest, open and holds its elected leaders accountable.
Ethics reform and campaign finance reform are also needed more than ever to eliminate conflicts of interest and to reduce the influence of money in Albany. Furthermore, Justin believes there needs to be greater restrictions on the use of campaign funds by New York’s legislators. One Albany politician was so brazen as to expense a $1,300 swimming pool cover as a “campaign expense”, presumably because the legislator hosted campaign events around his pool. Such abuse of our campaign finance laws must be stopped.
The State also needs to reform the process by which Albany draws the legislative district lines every ten years. Redistricting needs to be removed from politics and conducted by an independent commission as Governor Cuomo has promoted. Many politicians running for the legislature in 2010 pledged to support independent redistricting. However, now, no longer facing an election, some of these Albany politicians have decided to break their pledge. The refusal of some Albany politicians to now support a pledge that they made to the voters in 2010 is proof positive of the broken and tired Albany politics that cries out for real reform. While the lines can’t be redrawn until 2022, reform must be pursued now to make sure that elected officials can’t break their promises to constituents and play fast and loose with the rules on redistricting.
Justin attended public schools in the Hudson Valley and his mother was a special education teacher in Pawling. Justin believes that the current discussion over education has focused too much on placing blame and not enough on how to best provide our children with the education they need to succeed in the new economy and to become outstanding members of our local communities.
Teachers are the backbone of our communities. The Hudson Valley is home to any number of outstanding schools and teachers and Justin believes those professionals should be compensated and treated with the respect they deserve. In the new economy, where education is power, our public school teachers are our first line of attack in propelling our region and State into an economic resurgence. Justin believes that lawmakers should work with, not against, teachers in improving, reforming and re-investing in New York’s schools.
The importance of quality educators to our children’s success cannot be overstated. Because teacher quality is a leading indicator of student success, Justin proposes the use of state-owned land to create a new and elite state-of-the-art teacher’s university in New York. Similar to what New York City is attempting to do in attracting an elite math and science college, the State can offer tax incentives and partner with private universities and private sector actors to share and control costs of the project. The goal would be to create the country’s most elite university for educating teachers and then to keep those teachers here in New York working with our children.
New York also needs to foster and develop its existing higher education system, whether it be supporting local community colleges or improving the SUNY system. For the past 20 years, the average annual SUNY tuition increase has been almost 7%. Justin believes that keeping tuition costs at State Universities under control is of paramount importance because Hudson Valley students and families should not have to plunge themselves into insurmountable debt to receive the education that is necessary to succeed in the 21st century economy.
The Hudson Valley is one of the most pristine and beautiful areas in the nation. Justin grew up swimming in the ponds and streams of Dutchess County and now routinely takes his family and friends to the environmental treasures of Northern Westchester around his home in Croton-on-Hudson. The Hudson Valley’s beautiful surroundings attract visitors and new residents every year. Maintaining our environment is critical not only to our quality of life, but also to building our tax base, and must be a key focus of State lawmakers.
Justin opposes hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the process by which natural gas is extracted by blasting any number of chemicals deep within the earth to rupture shale and release natural gas, in New York State at this time. Based on the track record of fracking in Pennsylvania and other states, Justin believes the potential impacts of fracking on water quality, including contamination, are simply too great. Justin won’t be persuaded by industry lobbyists and won’t support supposed half-measures on fracking; the health of New Yorkers is more important than a risky extraction process that contaminates our drinking water.
Justin supports New York’s continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is an effort by ten states in the Northeast to curb global warming pollution from the region’s fossil fuel-fired power plants and begin transitioning toward a clean energy future. This initiative results in funding for New York’s “Green Jobs-Green New York” program – a program that helps train New Yorkers for the clean technology jobs of tomorrow. The RGGI is bipartisan and serves the dual purpose of protecting our environment and creating new jobs. Justin will fight efforts to defund this and other programs that invest in green jobs. Furthermore, Justin believes that the State must be more aggressive in providing tax incentives and job training for green industries to ensure that the energy jobs of tomorrow are created in New York.
As a homeowner, Justin understands that the Hudson Valley faces some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Indeed, out of control property taxes have the most detrimental impact on working families and on seniors with fixed incomes because these groups must shoulder the ever increasing burden of property taxes regardless of their ability to pay.
Justin strongly supports legislative efforts to bring property tax relief to homeowners. This could be done by expanding the current STAR exemption for taxpayers or implementing a “circuit breaker” approach that would cap the amount of property taxes paid by an individual at a certain percentage of their income. Justin believes slowing the growth of property tax increases is not enough; New York’s homeowners need real reductions in their property tax burden.
Justin also recognizes that the rise in local property taxes is directly related to the rise in unfunded mandates imposed on local governments. For example, 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.
Local property tax rolls are also negatively impacted by the explosion in foreclosures. A foreclosed home not only impacts the family that loses their home; it also negatively impacts the property value of the remaining homeowners in the neighborhood and results in uncollected local taxes. As a lawyer, Justin has represented homeowners facing foreclosure on a pro bono basis and believes in many instances there are “win-win” strategies where banks can be paid under a mortgage modification, homeowners can stay in their home and the surrounding community can avoid foreclosed neighbors. Justin believes state law should be amended to crack down on mortgage scammers, hold banks accountable in foreclosure settlement conferences and provide greater incentives toward mortgage modifications.
A pioneer of her day, Justin’s grandmother worked as a bookkeeper in Dutchess County to help support her seven children, including during the Korean War while Justin’s grandfather was fighting overseas. For Justin, this is a true inspiration. In a world where many women still find themselves being paid less for the same work as their male colleagues, Justin supports a real equal pay act that would ensure all hardworking New Yorkers are paid fairly for their work. This is not just a moral issue – it’s also an economic issue. For the state to rebound economically, we need to empower the talents and dreams of all our citizens.
Justin supports Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, which would protect a woman’s right to chose, end gender discrimination in New York, combat sexual harassment, and provide support for women in housing cases. Justin will fight tirelessly to combat the failure of the State to pass the Women’s Equality Act and to protect these important rights for women.
Justin also supports provisions of federal law that protect women, such as prohibitions on insurance companies from denying women’s health coverage because of preexisting conditions, or prohibitions for exemptions that prevent women from accessing medically prescribed pharmaceuticals that promote women’s health. Justin will also support the ongoing implementation of the state health insurance exchange to give women, and all New Yorkers, more choice and competition when it comes to choosing their health coverage.
Justin understands and deeply respects the sacrifices that our veterans have made for the country. This service must be honored. Among other initiatives, Justin would emphasize ensuring that our veterans—whether young or old—receive the health services and economic opportunities that they deserve.
Growing up in the Hudson Valley, Justin would often visit his Grandfather, a Korean War and World War II veteran, at the Castle Point VA. Justin witnessed first-hand how important the VA system is in our communities and to our veterans. It is in no small part because of this experience that Justin is fully committed to protecting the Montrose VA and will resist any efforts by the Federal Government to privatize parts of the Montrose VA campus or any effort to knock down existing buildings on the VA campus. The state government can play a proactive role in preserving the Montrose VA for future generations of Hudson Valley veterans.
Justin also believes that the State must continue to play an active role in informing our veterans about the health services, including mental health services, that are available to them. PTSD is a real problem among our returning heroes and we must work to raise awareness of the disorder and help our veterans transition and get the services they deserve.
Further, Justin supports the recent proposal by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to provide property tax relief for active duty service members. The Tax Relief for Active Military Service Act would allow those serving in the military or their spouses to apply for a tax exemption on 10% of the assessed value of their homes.
Whether it’s the American Legion, the Order of the Purple Heart or other such organizations, the Hudson Valley has a rich fabric of veteran’s organizations that are working in our communities. Justin believes that supporting and partnering with these organizations should be a priority for any public official in the Hudson Valley.
As the monument for the Korean War Memorial famously reads in Washington DC, “Freedom is Not Free.” The sacrifice and honor of our veterans must be recognized and held up for future generations to emulate.
Justin believes a fundamental role of State government is to ensure that all New Yorkers are treated equally and their rights are respected under the law.
New York took a huge step forward in the march toward full equality in 2011 in passing marriage equality. Justin supports marriage equality because everyone in the State deserves the opportunity to express their commitment and love via marriage. Those legislators who voted against marriage equality found themselves on the wrong side of history. The broad coalition of individuals and organizations that came together to help ensure the passage of marriage equality is a testament to the power individuals can have to make positive change in our political system.
However, Justin knows the fight for LGBT rights is far from over. New York must take further action to reduce bullying in our schools, prevent discrimination in the workforce and protect the rights of transgender New Yorkers.
The 40th State Senate District, including parts of Putnam, Dutchess and Westchester counties, is just miles away from Newtown, CT. The day of the mass shooting, where 26 children and school staff were murdered, Justin and parents throughout the Hudson Valley mourned and felt a true sense of helplessness at the plague of gun violence that has become all too common in our communities.
In the wake of that horrific tragedy, however, came a realization that we are not helpless. Justin joined the Board of Directors of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, an organization committed to reducing gun violence through legislative advocacy and education. The organization sponsors programs in schools to educate youth about gun violence and teaches non-violent conflict resolution strategies to students. Justin has helped organize rallies, helped to raise money and represented the organization at press events—all in an effort to prevent future gun violence.
Justin believes in common sense gun safety measures, such as strengthening background checks for gun purchases and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that too often are used to perpetuate mass violence. That’s why Justin applauds Governor Cuomo and the legislature for passing the NY SAFE Act. While Republicans and Democrats in the State Seante were coming together to support the SAFE Act in a bipartisan manner, the current State Senator from the 40th District voted “no” to strengthening background checks for gun purchases and banning assault weapons—and even worse, he proceeded to go on a publicity tour with extremists like Sean Hannity to tout his opposition to common sense gun safety legislation.
At the same time, Justin believes in, and respects, the protections of the Second Amendment. The rights of hunters, sportsmen and other gun owners must be respected.