Region Is Going To Miss Catharine Young

Things will change with the retirement of Cathy Young. It is not often that our region has an elected official who achieved the level of political leadership that she did in Albany. Among Republicans, you may have to go back to when Joe McGinnies of Ripley was Speaker of the Assembly (1925-1934) to find anyone representing Chautauqua County who reached her level in the power structure of Albany.

Aside from that, she is a good person who just plain worked hard on behalf of her constituents. Many local appropriations for everything from parks, funds for the Lake, to health care came to us because Cathy went to work on our behalf.

There was another factor which made her very effective–most often she was in the majority while a member of the State Senate, and for a few years was Chair of its powerful Finance Committee. That has all changed now in Albany. Republicans not only lost the majority in the State Senate in the past election but they lost it big. They went from having a majority of one to now holding only about a third of the seats in the Senate.

Though it was years ago when I was in the state Legislature, one thing hasn’t changed — the majority party in each house essentially frames and decides the state budget. Admittedly, in New York, the governor has overwhelming control of the state budget process. However, if you are in the majority in the Assembly or Senate, you can have an impact on how state spending affects your own district. Being in the majority means a lot in Albany.

Today, the Republicans are as strong as they have ever been in Upstate. Where they are failing is in the suburban counties around New York City. Whatever the cause, they have not been doing well down there. The brand they are selling is not selling well downstate. The chances of their winning control again of the state Senate in the next election are nil. (The Republicans in the Assembly have been in the minority since 1975.)

To many voters, this may all sound like “inside baseball” talk. Who really cares about this kind of stuff? But, when you are trying to get bills passed for your district or to have some input in the state budget — being in the majority in the state Senate or state Assembly makes a big difference. In Albany there is only one kind of ball that is played and that is hard ball. “If you’ve got the votes, call the roll!” former House Speaker, Sam Rayburn, used to say. The opposite is also the case, if you don’t have the votes, you can’t call the roll (or influence much the budget.)

So, we are going to miss Cathy Young. We are also going to miss her being part of the state Senate majority where she was able to accomplish a lot for her constituents.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.