A GOP Brain Drain

The State Senate GOP is suffering from a serious brain drain. The recent announcements that State Senators Joe Robach and Richard Funke will join half a dozen other republicans in retirement are a challenge to the powers of the upstate delegation.

However, new faces that reflect the makeup of the region can fill that gap, providing a balance to a New York City centric legislative agenda.

Anyone who has made the trip to Albany and participated in the legislative process can attest to the fact that experience counts. The legislature introduces some 13,000 bills each session. While many are what the old timers refer to as “old chestnuts” (a bill that gets recycled year after year), crucial issues do come up and upstate needs committed replacements to protect their interests.

As of now, the Republicans have 23 seats in the State Senate, most from upstate. Of that number, seven senators with over 100 years of state legislative experience have announced that they are moving on. While one seat has already been filled, two more Senators are running for former Congressman Chris Collins’ seat. The rumor mill says one or two additional senators may call it quits before the 2020 election goes into full swing.

The question GOP stalwarts may be thinking is who will run and win back these seats? The bigger question should be – how do we replace people who have so much understanding of the legislative process and built a career on crossing party lines to get things done for their constituents?

It’s no surprise that the new Democratic majority in the Senate is younger and still feeling their way around – as evidenced by rushing through laws (e.g., no cash bail) that now need to be amended. Campaigning is easy, but governing requires knowledge, strategy and the ability to work in a bi-partisan way.

There are big issues facing the state in 2020. As reported by this paper, we have a projected $6.1 billion budget deficit. This is largely based on out of control Medicaid spending led by the state forking over billions to healthcare providers to cover their increased payroll due to the new state minimum wage law. Upstate is losing population as the job growth rate is at a third the national rate and half of the region’s economy is contracting even as the administration injected tens of billions in taxpayer subsidies.

New Republican candidates must be BOLD in their ideas to lift up our state in a time of great uncertainty. They MUST come with a hunger to learn and had better do their homework.

Upstate New York has taken more than its fair share of setbacks. From the ban on fracking to minimum wages laws, the region has suffered mightily. Hopefully the replacements selected to run in November 2020 will be equal to the challenge.

But the first step is to run.

Anthony M. Figliola is vice president of Empire Government Strategies, an economic development and public affairs business in New York state. He is the the co-author of Patronage, Waste, and Favoritism – A Dark History of Constitutional Conventions as well as the recent reports: Congestion Pricing – Deal or No Deal and NY Tax Amnesty – Past Successes, Failures and Opportunities.


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