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Voter Guide: The Race for Fifth Senate District

State Sen. Carl Marcellino and Democratic challenger Larry Silverman speak to Patch about economic recovery, taxes and affordable housing.

The Situation   

State Sen. Carl Marcellino and challenger Larry Silverman face off Nov. 2 to represent the Fifth Senate District, which includes Glen Cove, Huntington, Syosset, and Northport, among other surrounding areas in Nassau and Suffolk County.

Fast Facts:

Marcellino, the incumbent candidate, believes that "Albany needs to be put on a diet." He wants to put a cap on property taxes, repeal the MTA and provide mandate relief.

Silverman, who served as a watchdog for the MTA Board, believes that Albany needs a watchdog as well, this is his second run against Marcellino, who beat him in 2000. 

The Rundown

Candidate           Carl Marcellino                Larry Silverman

Age                              67                                                     59

Residence           Syosset                                          Huntington

Political Party    Republican                                  Democrat

Website                   nysenate.gov                               silvermanforsenate.com

Phone                       516-922-1811                               516-242-1394

E-Mail                   marcelli@senate.state.ny.us   Larry@silvermanforsenate.com

Family                      Married, two children             Married, two children                  

Education:

Marcellino earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees from New York University and a professional diploma in Administration and Supervision from St. John's University.

Silverman  is a graduate of the State University of New York at New Paltz and then went on to New York Law School.

Professional                     

Marcellino has held the 5th Senate District seat since 1995 and served as Chairman of the New York State Senate Environmental Conservation Committee for 13 years. He had a 20 year career as a science teacher and NYS school administrator. Before he was elected to the Senate, he was elected as Oyster Bay Town Clerk.

Silverman is an attorney who was appointed to the LIRR Commuters Council in 1994 and elected as Chair in 1995 by members. One year later, he become Long Island's first commuter watchdog for the MTA Board.

The Exchange

Patch posed the following questions to each candidate. Questions are in bold, and candidate responses are beneath them.

How would you create local jobs in this sluggish economy?

Marcellino: The lesson is clear. The State can't tax its way out of this fiscal calamity. We need jobs and you cannot create jobs when you are perpetually taxing the folks that have the power to create the jobs. The first thing that must be done is to repeal the job-killing MTA tax that I voted against last year. Second, we should provide tax incentives to business that create new jobs. Third, we must roll back the hundreds of new taxes and fees that have been implemented over the last two budget cycles. I voted against these tax and fee hikes because they cripple small businesses ability to expand and close the doors for new companies looking to relocate to our State.

Silverman: If there was an easy answer to the employment problem, it would have been solved long ago.

There is no such thing as creating a job. Jobs are the result of demand for a particular skill, and that demand is a result of business development. Businesses only locate on Long Island if their management finds the climate inviting. 

Long Island's natural resources and beauty make it an ideal place to live. Our excellent schools are an additional reason to move here, And despite the high cost of living, many do.

But high taxes and the lack of affordable housing make industries look to settle elsewhere. Put another way, if it was affordable to live in New York, we would have nearly zero unemployment. So our goal has to be making if affordable to live here. The answers to the questions which follow will address each of the problems that tend to increase the cost of living on Long Island.

How would you get the state budget in line?

Marcellino: I don't think anyone can look at the last two New York State budgets and not walk away frustrated and angry. Current leadership in Albany has created a climate of corruption that has left New Yorkers with billions in increased spending and billions in new taxes and fees.  To me that is dysfunctional and unacceptable.  The strongest way I can voice my displeasure is to continue to vote against these bad ideas. By having the right priorities, we can change Albany and give New Yorkers a government they can trust again.  We need to start by spending less, taxing less and creating jobs on Long Island.

We need to end the dysfunction that has prevented Albany from passing responsible, on-time budgets.  I have pledged to support legislation that will enact meaningful budget reforms that will provide a badly needed make-over of the failed three men in the room, closed door deal making.  We need to stop excluding the rank and file members of the legislature from the negotiations and return to the Conference Committee process that consistently produced on time budgets.  These open and public discussions of New York State's finances give every elected official a voice and a roll in crafting a budget that benefits all New Yorkers.  

Silverman: I was endorsed by Newsday because I have a strong record of holding government accountable. As a commuter watchdog for many years, I oversaw the MTA and the LIRR.

Just as with the MTA, there are thousands of state agencies which operate largely like fiefdoms with little or no meaningful oversight. I will demand that the State Senate engage in meaningful oversight of state agencies to eliminate the obsolete ones, consolidate others and operate those that remain efficiently. Presently, the State Senate conducts virtually no hearings to hold the agencies accountable.  Because Senators, like my opponent, who is a 15-year incumbent, have huge campaign warchests paid for the most part by special interests, virtually guaranteeing them reelection, they have no incentive to be productive. In addition, they do not want to eliminate patronage jobs.

The tax burden on Long Island is driving young adults away. How would you solve this?

Marcellino:  Since 2008, I have consistently called for and supported a property tax cap. As recently as August of this year, I voted for the tax cap. During the budget battle, I also supported an amendment that would have put a tax cap in place. There is no question that the cap would provide long overdue relief to Long Island property taxpayers. Tax caps force governments and school districts to eliminate every penny of wasteful spending, control out of control growth and provide a frame work for crafting a responsible and disciplined financial plan for the taxpayers.

New Yorkers have overwhelmingly said they want a property tax cap. We could not pass it alone. We still need the Assembly to understand taxpayer pain and pass the cap. Doing nothing is not an option. New Yorkers can't afford to wait any longer for tax relief.

I am strong supporter of mandate relief. Mandate relief goes hand in hand with a tax cap. If we are going to ask schools and local governments to tighten their belts, Albany cannot be asking them to pick up a bigger piece of the pie. I have voted for numerous mandate relief bills, including Senate Bill 5523-A just this year. 

Silverman: See above. Plus, if we are speaking of property taxes, one answer is the 2 percent tax cap which Andrew Cuomo has proposed.  But it is not the only answer.  We must better educate those who serve on school boards on how to conduct effective oversight of school districts and hold administrators accountable for not only efficiency, but teach them how to better negotiate contracts.

A project touting affordable housing in Huntington Station was voted down in September. Are these developments needed or is there another solution?

Marcellino: Owning a home is one of the most rewarding experiences we can enjoy throughout our lifetime.  Anyone who has undertaken the challenge of exploring the current real estate market knows how difficult it can be to find the right house at the right price.  One of the main obstacles preventing young people and families from settling on Long Island is the price of housing.  I believe we must improve access to affordable housing, while protecting the current housing stock on Long Island.  I have supported programs that provideLong Island middle class families the opportunity to afford to purchase a home through financial assistance for down payments.  I also support the construction of affordable housing projects in communities where such projects make sense.  These types of projects must be taken on a case by case basis and undertaken with strong involvement from residents of surrounding neighborhoods.  I believe we need to incentivize the process for all interested parties to increase the supply of housing on the Island. Steps must be taken which benefit the builder, the new homeowner and the locality. 

 

Silverman: First, I am told the proposed development was not truly affordable.  Second, the community must be engaged in advance and be made aware of the beneficial aspects of a particular plan and the costs as well.  Then they can be balanced and a consensus arrived at before the NIMBY's (there will always be NIMBY's) dominate the conversation.

Affordable housing is one of many needs in the Huntington Station community.  Better code enforcement to eliminate illegal housing.  Community policing which was successful in New York City should be used here.

In the area of housing, So long as the occupancy of new projects does no place an undue burden on the school districts, they should be encouraged.   

Where do you stand on the growing call for consolidation of school and special districts?

Marcellino: We all like the sound of consolidation. These kinds of very local and personal decisions will have a profound effect on our communities. As always the devil is in the details. We have to be careful not to rush something through because it simply sounds good. We need to look at the practical application of consolidation and make sure we don't create a bigger problem than we currently face in the name of expediency. In 2009, the Attorney General and Legislative Leaders forced through a consolidation bill that contained numerous flaws and to date, still needs to be fixed.

Unlike the AG's consolidation law, I need to see a demonstrated cost savings for taxpayers before we go forward with any consolidation effort no matter if it is school districts, villages or any other local government body. The consolidation of school districts could result in a major change in the community make-up on Long Island and should be looked at very closely before we charge head first into such an endeavor. That all being said, no option is off the table when it comes to saving taxpayer dollars and lowering property taxes.

Silverman: I support consolidation of special districts, such as sewer and water, which can be accomplished fairly easily. Fire districts cannot without jeopardizing communities, although they can purchase cooperatively to save tax dollars. School District consolidation should be explored as it has been done successfully elsewhere. Again, residents need all the facts as to what they would save before they reject the idea. Reliable studies have to be made and released. Then voters can decide for themselves.

In your opinion, what's the biggest issue in your community now?

Marcellino: Property taxes. No matter what part of the district I visit, the resounding issue is that property taxes are too high.  Long Islanders need sustained tax relief now. Taxes are out of control and driving many Long Island residents out of the State. There are steps to take that would provide real relief to the overburdened taxpayer. The first thing we must do is adopt a cap on property taxes. I have voted to do just that, but unfortunately the State Assembly never takes up the bill. Second, we need to stop runaway spending in Albany and enact a permanent State spending cap. Third, I want to reinstatement of the STAR Rebate Check program that was eliminated over my objection in the 2009-10 State budget. By taking these overdue steps and others, we can keep more of the taxpayers' money where it belongs, in their pocket.

Silverman: The biggest issue by far is high property taxes making it increasingly unaffordable to live in the 5th  Senate District. The main cause of high taxes is a state government that has lees available to assist school districts to fund education because of waste, mismanagement and corruption on the state level.

We have many wonderful and diverse communities. But the one thing I hear as I speak to people from all communities is an utter distrust of their state government. They believe that all elected officials care about is getting re-elected. And they are tired of hearing how their state legislature is dysfunctional. To solve it we need new leaders who are willing to stick their necks out and demand a new way of doing business. If we reduce the influence of big money in elections, then the special interests will not control the decision-making process when it comes to spending our tax dollars. So long as the campaign contribution limits are high, and Senators, like my opponent, can legally pay for his private automobile with campaign cash, as he does, the people's interests will not come first.   

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