Surviving COVID-19 & reviving our economy

By Michael Lawler

Republican candidate for NYS Assembly District 97

Back in late February, when I announced my candidacy for State Assembly, most people were vaguely aware of the growing COVID-19 pandemic overseas, but few saw it impacting our lives here in New York State in such a dramatic way.

Fast forward a couple months, and I am blessed to have recovered from my own personal bout with the virus and grateful to all the first responders and medical professionals on the front lines who cared for me and the epidemiologists and scientists behind the scenes rushing to find a vaccine. Most of all, my thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of the virus who were not so fortunate. Every life is precious and the burden on families not able to be with their loved ones at the end is truly heartbreaking.

One thing, however, has not changed throughout all of this, and that is my reason for running in the first place.  New York State and Rockland County are increasingly unaffordable for working families, retirees, and young adults just starting out, and sadly, due in part to the outbreak, it’s only getting worse.

State Budget Director Robert Mujica recently announced a preliminary 10 percent spending cut across all state agencies and a reduction of $8.2 billion in state-aid to municipalities. These reductions in state-aid, if implemented, will overburden our already beleaguered municipalities, who have fought hard to stay under the property tax cap and cause them to enact draconian budget cuts and massive property-tax hikes.

Consider this: Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. economy was booming, unemployment was at its lowest level in over half a century, and the stock market was soaring.  Yet, here in New York State we were staring down the proverbial barrel of a $6 billion budget deficit.  Now, due to COVID-19, that deficit could double or even triple without painful corrective action.

If we don’t change course soon, a future of ever-increasing taxes, cuts in essential programs and services, and people continuing to flee to greener (i.e. more affordable) pastures is imminent. But, New Yorkers are resilient and we’ve fought back before. After 9/11; after the collapse of the financial markets in 2008; and after Superstorm Sandy. Each time we came through it, stronger, wiser, and more united.

We can do it again, but we must be willing to make difficult choices to help ease the burden on taxpayers and get our economy moving again. It means prioritizing school aid, transportation and energy infrastructure, health care, and pensions over progressive proposals like free college tuition for undocumented immigrants, taxpayer funded political campaigns, and New York’s version of the “Green New Deal.”

It means reining in an out-of-control Medicaid system and mandating the state fully pay for and run it or allowing the counties to finally have a say in what services are offered above the federal minimum. It means ending the failed “economic development” programs like Start-Up New York and the billions in corporate giveaways to big donors and companies that don’t need it and shoring up our existing small businesses.

It means, putting the needs of taxpayers and those who truly need government assistance ahead of special interests, political interests, and personal interests. It means imposing a state spending cap, prioritizing what is essential versus what is not, and fighting to help municipalities stay under the property tax cap.

Sadly, my opponent, 14-year incumbent Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee has been part of the problem. Just this year she voted to cut school aid to Rockland County while voting to create a $200 million taxpayer funded campaign finance system. It’s outrageous!

The simple fact is that we cannot continue down this path. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need to prepare in good times for the unknown crises of the future.

As a lifelong resident of Rockland County, I am eager to be part of the solution. For too long, Rockland has been overtaxed – we pay the second highest property taxes in the nation – and under-represented. Without a strong voice standing up to the status quo in Albany, not much will change.

While I am a Republican who believes in lower taxes, individual freedom, smaller government, and free markets, most importantly I am a New Yorker who cares about building a brighter future for our state and all of our residents.  I look forward to the challenge ahead and doing all I can to earn your vote.