FBA Interviews New York NY Assemblyman Pat M. Casale

By Kimberly Feliciano; Interview by Ray Feliciano

In February, FBA members Ray and Kimberly Feliciano met with another of our New York State legislators, NY Assemblyman Pat M. Casale, Republican 108th district.

What a refreshing experience it is to walk into your representative’s office and be greeted with smiles and depart with a sense that you can count on them for their help when you need it. Linda, Assm. Casale’s assistant, gave us just that impression.

As a NYS Assemblyman, Pat Casale is one of the representatives elected into New York’s Congress. Besides the Senate, the Assembly, also called “The People’s House”, is where ideas become law. Casale is in his 12th year with the Assembly, which means he’s been re-elected six times. The counties he represents are Albany, Columbia, Greene, and Rensselaer (see map in bottom right corner).

New York Assemblyman Pat M. Casale - 6.39 K
NY Assemblyman
Pat Casale

We have fun interviewing our legislators, and we left this interview with a load of information that we believe you, the people, will appreciate.

Q: Regarding your Roadmap to Renewal, it proposes the gradual takeover of Medicaid funds by the state. Does the state offset this by increasing local property taxes?

That’s what happened last year with Governor Pataki. He proposed the largest property tax increase in NY, taking the burden off the state and putting it on the school districts and the towns. It makes the state look good, but it buries the homeowners. So that’s why we had disagreements and changed the budget around. He didn’t like the heat of it, and there were 119 veto overrides.

Q: Who is responsible for Medicaid?

One-quarter is paid from property taxes. Sometimes these taxes are necessary. For example, Bethlehem has the problem of population increase. They need better facilities, or more facilities, and they got that passed last year with the $93 million Bond Vote. Your first line of defense is the school board. You have to go to the school board for school issues, not the town board.

Q: Another bill we saw is to freeze the tuition at SUNY Albany for the next four years. What is your position on tuition freeze?

There is one group that comes around who wants you to make a pledge, “No new taxes”. This is kind of hard to do, especially when you’re dealing with school districts because some are in good shape, but some need money. You have expenses like cost of living, and union contracts that say the cost of living goes up, say 3% for the next two years, so you have to realize that it’s going to go up 3% because of the cost of things. Then there’s supplies, books, fuel, which are variables, so it’s hard to get locked in to say “no new taxes” when tax has to be increased a little bit to keep up with inflation.

Q: Are you saying that tuition is like a tax?

No, but sometimes the biggest concern I see with tuition is you don’t want to stop people from getting a higher education because tuition is too high. $2,000 dollars more can be a lot of money for a lot of people. SUNY is here every here every year looking for more money. Besides needing salaries, their toilets and sinks are broke, and their windows are broke. You think, “My God, this is a university and they got all these problems?” They haven’t received the money they should have received on a regular basis, and now they need a lot of money.

Q: As far as campaign financing, you have sponsored a bill to reduce the cap of what a person may contribute to a candidate to $1,000. Is this effective?

You try to come up with legislation so that the average person can run for office. Two years ago I ran for office in a brand new district, and it was the largest and most expensive civic campaign we’ve ever had in this area. It was terrible. My opponent had an enormous amount of money, and then you have to match it for advertising. The average person would say, “I don’t want anything to do with becoming an elected official because I couldn’t afford that kind of money.”

Q:What does advertising entail?

Signs and a lot of things. Friday night you go to five or six dinners. Saturday night, eight dinners. Everything costs money, and you have to show your support, whether it’s a firehouse, rescue squad, or one of the churches. You try to go where you can see the most people because they want to put a face with the name. They want to see you.

Q: It seems that people follow the polls instead of people listening to what the individual candidates stand for. Is this the case at the state level?

Yeah, I really don’t believe in polls. People are not guiding the polls. The polls are guiding the people. I think that each one of the candidates in the Democratic line have said they don’t pay attention to the polls. They do what they have to do, the best they can to get the people to consider them favorable. You got to stay with the people at all times, get the pulse of the people.

Q: One of the recent campaign finance reform bills at the federal level now prohibits groups from running commercials within 90 days of the general election. Is that also apply to the state?

That would be wonderful, but I don’t know if that holds true 100%. The last 90 days is when money is poured into the campaigns, when big expenditures come. Two years ago we were supposed to get TV advertising at the end of the campaign. No TV spots were available. They were all sold out. Also, there is an election law that you can contribute to the housekeeping account of any one of the parties. They don’t have to disclose who gave them the money. It’s a loophole in the law, and I don’t think we’ll ever fix it.

Q: Is this unfair to smaller activists?

Perhaps allowing finance within the last 3 months would allow them to be competitive.

Q: You proposed a bill to make candidates submit to drug tests. What is the purpose?

To have members here on drugs is not right. You are a drug user yourself, dealing with drug dealers, and you’re going to create laws? I think there is an example to be set. You got to have a clear mind when making these decisions.

Q: What about medical marijuana?

That’s another cause. There are two sides to every story, We had one division of the medical opposed to it, and other division for it. So it makes it tough.

Q: We see that you propose renewal of the city and the empire zones?

Yes, not every county has an empire zone. Everybody should be equal, all designated an empire zone, thus tax credits to industries. Mayor Jennings has been working with state leaders to get the funding to make a lot of these things happen. Being the capital of NY, the administration has been very warm to making it something to be very proud of. Jennings is going to get the Governor to mention in his budget address his support of the convention center of Albany. It will be a tremendous shot in the arm here.

Q: What would you like people to know?

The budget change which effects the whole state. The second year I was in office I proposed legislation to move the deadline for passing the budget bill from April 1st to June 1st. Since I’ve been in office (12 years), it’s never passed before July 4th weekend. I applaud Senator Bruno and Speaker Silver for now taking charge on moving the date to May 1st.

[A follow-up question asked of Assemblyman Casale was whether bill he recently sponsored, A.9745, which repeals the authority of conditional release commissions to release prisoners early under certain circumstances was inspired by the Mary Beth Anslow daycare incident. His office has confirmed that it was.]