FBA Interviews New York State Senator Neil D. Breslin

By Kimberly Feliciano; Interview by Ray Feliciano

In early December, FBA members Ray and Kimberly Feliciano met with another of our New York State legislators, Senator Neil Breslin. Our meeting proved to be another positive experience communicating with our government, and is easier than one might think. Upon introduction he asked that we call him by his first name. A fifteen-minute appointment turned into a one-hour meeting. Lighthearted and approachable, Neil Breslin is indeed someone whom the people can talk to about their concerns. It's a good thing because, after all, he represents us!

New York State Senator, Neil Breslin - 26.27 K
New York State Senator, Neil Breslin

The job of the Senate is to work with our NY State Assembly and our NY State Governor to draft, discuss, and approve bills and resolutions which make up the laws we live by. Breslin represents the 46th district, which is the entire county of Albany. He is affiliated with the Democratic party, and is one of 62 senate members in New York State. Breslin is assigned to several committees for which he has a major voice in enacting legislation. He is the “Ranking Minority” on the Finance committee, which means he is the leading voice for the Democratic party, currently the minority party. Similarly, he is the “Ranking Minority” on the Insurance committee. Furthermore, Breslin is a decision maker for several other committees, including Agriculture, Codes, Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business, Judiciary, Labor, Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs.

New York State Senator, Neil Breslin - 231.65 K
Ray and Kimberly Feliciano interviewing NY Senator, Neil Breslin
Taxes?

We’ll start with Breslin’s expertise in Finance. When asked about what information he could provide regarding how our taxes work in New York State, this was his response:

“If you have more revenues than expenditures then you look at some of the areas where you think should get it. I always think healthcare and education, but that’s philosophical. Someone else might think to give $50 million to build a new stadium for the Giants in NYC. I just don’t think so. If expenditures get above the revenues, then I have to look for ways where I get some more revenue-property tax, sales tax, and income tax. As far as reducing services, there is always ‘fat’ that you can reduce. You find out, though, there are things like basic education and Medicaid that represent probably 60% and there is not much you can lope off. When you look at those three ways to tax, philosophy comes in again, ‘What’s the fairest?’ I don’t think sales tax is the fairest. Poor people have to go buy clothes. They don’t disproportionately buy more than wealthy people. With property taxes, you have people on fixed incomes and retirees, and if you raise them you really hurt them. So, where can I be more like a stealth person? Say somebody is making more than $250,000. So our expenditures go down a little bit, more in relation to our revenue. I don’t think that’s a difficult concept. Other people would disagree, ‘You should slash programs, period.’ But we have basic services that we provide, and like I said, those are healthcare and education.”

We asked if income tax is the most fair tax, he responded, “Absolutely. But, it isn’t right now. We have a graduated income tax. In theory, somebody who is making $250,000 is paying, percentage-wise, more than someone who’s making $50,000. The statistics belie that. The fact that the person making $250,000 has so many different tax loopholes, percentage-wise he pays less than the person who is making $50,000. He still pays more because he made more, but I think he should proportionately pay more.”

When asked what he thinks about the Flat Tax, Breslin said “The concept is good. If we don’t make it fair, then maybe that is the solution, but I want the guy making $250,000 to pay proportionately more as well.”

Besides state revenues, which are generated three ways-sales tax, income tax, and property tax-Albany County generates its own revenues through property tax and sales tax.

Breslin is hopeful that as we are seeing the return of the stock market, the economy turning around, and as the local governments are generating more sales tax, we will reap the benefits of coming out of the recession.

Insurance?

“Health insurance is the biggest issue. There are 3 million people in NY State with no health insurance. The poor are covered by Medicaid. That 3 million with no health insurance, well they do have health insurance. It’s the emergency room.” Breslin believes we “ultimately have to” change to a one-payer system. He said, “National studies say if you went to some sort of one-payer system that you will save $40 billion dollars a year in administrative costs.” Imagine what we could do with $40 billion dollars per year!

Besides a one-payer system, one way to help employees is to provide companies tax credits for providing contributions to employee health plans, and those that don’t contribute get a tax penalty.

Breslin went on to compare our system to Canada’s, particularly infant mortality rates, which are much higher in America. Statistics also show that Canada’s treatment of serious illnesses is better as well because, again, their mortality rate is much lower. “You look at the major cities [in USA], and the infant mortality rate is much higher. These people are not insured. They don’t have access to proper health care.”

Is there something we can do at the state level, we asked? “It’s gotta be federal legislation that provides it,” he said. “Although, having said that, Maine just adopted a program that will cover every adult in the state of Maine. We are not even close to that here in New York.”

Like every other Senator and Assemblyman, Breslin is running for re-election in 2004, something they must all do every other year if they wish to keep their jobs. Breslin says the need to constantly campaign wastes time. “It’s absurd.”