March is when we turn the page on winter and embark on spring. It is a time of hope and optimism. It is also when important, community impacting decisions are made in Albany. And this March, there is plenty of hope when it comes to ethics reform, making college more affordable for all and making the best investment in our future – through our children.
New York has become infamous for political corruption and betrayal of the public’s trust. Last year, we saw two of our state’s most powerful politicians convicted for crimes rooted in personal greed. Year after year, I have put forth proposals that would make the Assembly more open, accountable and transparent. Each year, the Assembly Majority chooses to support the status quo and strike these publicly-supported proposals down.
The Public Officers Accountability Act (A.4617) would enact numerous reforms making the actions and inner workings of the legislature more visible to the public. I also fully support term limits for legislative leaders as well as stripping pensions from public officials convicted of crimes in relation to their elected office. Stagnant leadership positions lead to abuses of power and personally motivated policies.
Those who abuse their position of power for personal profit don’t deserve a single dollar more from the public they were elected to serve. The Legislature must eradicate corruption and clean up its toxic environment before it can successfully move forward to serve the people of New York.
With higher education driving our students and young professionals further into debt, it is imperative we improve college affordability and accessibility. As a college professor, I have seen firsthand how higher education can transform a person’s life, and how campuses are a launching pad for innovation and invention. People with the desire and work ethic to pursue a degree should be able to afford that opportunity.
I recently presented my plan for making higher education more affordable. This plan focuses on creating learn-to-work programs where high school students can obtain real world experience while also earning college credits. It also petitions to reform federal law, making the payment and refinancing of student loans more flexible. Affordability is the key to ensuring every student has a fair shot at pursuing a college dream.
Finally, my conference and I are fully focused on completely restoring the education funds withheld from our children. Over the last five years, the state withheld funding from schools in an effort to pay for spending priorities of the Assembly Majority. Last year we were able to recover $600 million of those funds, and this year our mission is to secure the rest.
Securing these funds will mean our schools can retain talented teachers, equip our classrooms with the needed resources, protect art/music/athletic programs, preserve after-school programs, and give localities more control over their school districts. Our children deserve to attend schools that are full and fairly funded.