Eliot Spitzer (Democrat, Independence, Working Families)

By Ray Feliciano

Click to go back to Spitzer, Faso, and McCourt Face Off for New York Governor - 2006

Each candidate was offered a total of 1500 words for all nine questions to be allocated at their discretion. Their contact information was not included towards that total.

1. Rising costs for education, heating, and auto fuel are straining the ability of middle class families to make ends meet, even if both spouses work. As Governor what, if anything, would you do to help working families that are struggling to get by?

The state’s existing tax burden falls most heavily on middle class New Yorkers whose property taxes are rising too fast for their incomes to keep up. Local taxes in our state have risen 60 percent in the last decade, and today they are the highest in the nation — 28 percent above the national average. The state’s existing program for providing property tax relief is unfair because it treats the millionaire the same as a middle class family. I’m proposing a three-year $6 billion property tax relief plan targeted to middle class taxpayers who need help the most.

Eliot Spitzer
Eliot Spitzer

Unless we address the factors that are driving up property taxes, it won’t be long before we find ourselves in another property tax crisis. By making government smarter and more efficient, controlling the growth of Medicaid in particular, and strengthening enforcement of existing tax laws, we can save to cover the cost of this plan and other critical programs. My economic development programs will help revitalize New York's tax base by attracting new businesses and retaining our young people who are leaving the State in droves.

2. Affordable healthcare is of particular concern for many New Yorkers, and many do not have any insurance coverage at all. As Governor, how would you address this issue?

New York State’s health care system faces an affordability crisis. Over the past 10 years, the cost of an insurance policy for a family of four has doubled, and the total cost of our state’s Medicaid program has nearly doubled.

We must commit to cutting the total number of uninsured New Yorkers in half over the next four years. We must guarantee health insurance for the 500,000 uninsured children and remove bureaucratic barriers to getting the nearly one million uninsured adults who are eligible for coverage enrolled in existing programs.

To reduce health care costs and increase the quality of care, we must honestly assess the capacity of New York’s hospital and nursing home system. Second, we must introduce technology to reduce costs while improving quality. Third, we must improve the management of chronic diseases and we must increase use of generic drugs.

Medicaid, the largest and fastest-growing part of the state budget must be part of any health care reform. We must develop a less costly long term care system, which now accounts for over 40 percent of the Medicaid budget.

3. As Governor, would you seek to encourage the ‘Tech Valley’ initiative to make New York a magnet for high-tech jobs, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, environmental sciences, and alternative energies, and if so, what would you do to advance that initiative?

Semiconductors and nanotechnology in the Hudson Valley and Albany are examples of industries that can become more successful if backed by a focused and aggressive strategy.

State government can support these industries by: expanding the research capacity at our colleges and universities; bolstering technology transfer to turn innovation into jobs; increasing access to capital; and improving the state's workforce development programs.

To make sure the innovations borne out of those research dollars translate into commercialization and new jobs, we need to bolster the technology transfer infrastructure of SUNY, CUNY and private universities that receive research funding from the State. We should also create a fund that will provide a dedicated funding stream for research that will lead to innovations with direct commercial application.

As companies mature, they need access to institutional venture funds and growth capital in underserved areas of New York State. New York's next governor should appoint a "Chief Science Advisor," who, like the science advisor to the President of the Unities States, makes sure investment decisions are made based on merit not on politics. The State should also collaborate with and reform regional technology commercialization centers.

4.Do you agree or disagree with President Bush’s approach to education reform with No Child Left Behind, and where, if anywhere would you improve the program and our schools?

The problem with an education policy based entirely on standardized testing, like No Child Left Behind, is the lack of support behind the tests. Standardized testing can be an important tool that permits us to measure achievement. Alone, testing does not increase achievement. To do that, we need to give our schools the resources and the structural reforms necessary.

We can turn our state’s public schools around, we must give schools the resources they need while supporting proven reforms. We must guarantee access to pre-k for all students, reduce class sizes, and increase the supply of skilled teachers. We must work quickly to resolve the CFE lawsuit. And we must give struggling students an opportunity to succeed by partnering with community-based organizations, expanding literacy programs and improving vocational education. Our school districts should be encouraged to enact proven reforms, such making the school day longer; and producing effective principals.

5. What is your position regarding the balance of power between Federal law and State’s rights? For example, when the Federal government trumps the reserved rights of the State on laws such as legalizing medical marijuana, gay marriage, or euthanasia?

The Bush administration has been singularly aggressive in its attempt to prevent the states from filling the regulatory void left by the federal government's withdrawal from aggressive enforcement. To put it bluntly, the administration abandons its devotion to the new federalism as soon as the states step in to enforce the laws that the administration would prefer remain dormant.

Law enforcement isn't the remedy for all of the inequalities that we see in housing, employment and education. But it is an important part of the solution offering vital civil rights protection to some of society's most vulnerable citizens. I believe that standing up for people in this sort of situation should be one of the Federal government's primary roles. But, right now, they are not assuming it and that is too bad. But, if the Federal government won't take action, we at the state level will.

6. What are the challenges facing New York that are perhaps unique to the State, and how would you handle those challenges differently than your opponent?

People are tired of watching their hard-earned, lifestyle fall away as their property taxes rise. They are unhappy when they see their health care costs rise and their schools fail our children and their jobs go. They are impatient and frustrated with a government that spends their tax dollars for without consequence or purpose.

In this election in November, for the first time in a long time, New Yorkers have a choice about what kind of government works for then, and what kind of New York they want to live in. New York has to change the culture of government, not just political parties or policies. My running mate, State Senator David Paterson and I offer leadership based on common sacrifice and pursuit of the common good. We will govern the state by the same simple rule that I lived by as your attorney general: We won't ask if a decision is popular or unpopular. We will not ask if it's hard or easy. We will just ask whether it's right or wrong. In the end, it's not a bad rule.

7. In the name of National Security, is it reasonable for Americans to expect some of their civil liberties and Constitutional protections to be curtailed during this War on Terror? What can New York do to make itself safer?

We must give law enforcement the support and resources they need to do their jobs, and strengthen our intelligence-gathering and intelligence-sharing capabilities.

When it comes to combating the war on terror, the ability to question individuals, when done properly and with reasonable cause, is an effective law enforcement tool that should remain in our arsenal.

The tragic attacks of September 11th reminded us of our vulnerability to terrorism, which was later underscored by the bombings in London and Madrid. Hurricane Katrina reminded us how tragic the consequences can be when government is unprepared to handle catastrophes.

Our state needs an effective homeland security and preparedness strategy that anticipates and prepares for the widest range of possible events. The state should prepare an annual “state of security” report, identifying our vulnerabilities and our top-to-bottom capacity to respond. I recently called upon President Bush to restore the homeland security cuts he recently made and overhaul the way the Department of Homeland Security allocates funding so that money goes to those states, like ours with the highest risk of attack.

8. What do you see as the greatest challenge facing New York, and what would you do about it?

My number one priority is to provide immediate property tax relief to the middle class New Yorkers who need it most and combat the root causes of high taxes so we fix the problem of chronically high taxes in the long term. I offered details of my plan in answer to your first question.

9. Why should the people of New York choose you for Governor over your opponent?

In a Spitzer Administration, change begins as soon as we take office. On day one, David Paterson and I will begin giving New Yorkers a government that's open, accountable and ready to get taxes and spending under control. Day one is the beginning of the end for the property tax rises that push families and businesses away. Day one is when we set out to make health care cheaper and cover every single child in the state, and it's when we begin to fully fund education to make sure that the road to opportunity and success begins in our schools.

And, above all, day one is when we will start to build a twenty first century New York that can be competitive in a new economy. It's when we start working to bring jobs back and make New York the best place to do business in America. It's when we start rebuilding our upstate economy, and improving downtown Syracuse and Buffalo and Albany and Rochester. We deserve a government in this state that gives everyone the same shot at the American Dream.

Eliot Spitzer
(212) 529-2006