FBA Interviews NY State Assemblyman John J. McEneny

By Kimberly Feliciano

Ray and Kimberly Feliciano, the founders of the Fourth Branch of America, interviewed their NY State Assemblyman, John J. McEneny on Monday, November 17th 2003. A warm welcome from his receptionist created a very comfortable atmosphere as we admired the history and exotic art on the walls, reminding me of what an opportunity we had before us.

It was certainly a pleasure to meet "Jack" McEneny. He was very agreeable when we asked if his office would always be open to us contacting him to get his position on certain issues, and he confirmed this with, "You have never seen a no-comment from Jack McEneny." He's been in the public life for many, many years, although he rarely sends out press releases and normally does not have a newsletter. All the while, he has "98% name recognition", and one reason is he relies on the free press. "I never dodge the phone, I love debates, and I speak constantly." Mr. McEneny easily gives 150 speeches every year, as he has a wealth of knowledge to share with people, even outside of politics.

New York Assemblyman Jack McEneny

Besides Mr. McEneny’s engaging disposition, another characteristic that sets him apart is that he “wears two hats”. He is also a former Albany Town Historian, and wrote a history book on Albany. Because of this depth of knowledge and experiences, McEneny has a network that allows him access to places that are not political, like libraries and civic centers. He can talk about anything from ghost stories to ethnicity to architecture and archeology, “and every time I do that, people will come back to me with legislative problems.”

Income Tax Versus Property Tax

According to McEneny, our income tax “falls in the middle of the pack, which for the Empire State I would certainly expect.” He goes on to say, “What has happened is that we cut your federal income tax, we cut your state income tax. Then the there is a command for services.”

A perfect example is McEneny’s meeting with the nursing homes before our interview, for they are extremely frustrated because three nursing homes shut down due to dependency on Medicaid and other state support. “If you are not poor when you get there, you’ll be poor in a matter of months, and that’s all Medicare reimbursement.”

He continues that the state income tax “is the only fair tax we have because it’s based on the ability to pay. When we cut the ‘fair tax’, we leave the people who are on the cutting edge of delivery services with no aid.” The government has to tax somewhere, and we the people get left with paying more in property taxes, county taxes, and sales taxes. “It’s unconstitutional, it’s hypocrisy,” said McEneny.

It’s not our income tax that keep people from moving to New York, it’s the property taxes, as they are not based on the ability to pay.”

Universal Healthcare

“We and South Africa are the only industrialized nations that do not have universal healthcare. It works in other countries. When I first ran for this position in 1992 I had to memorize all the details of the Canadian plan… What happened is when President Clinton was elected, immediately people at the state level believed there would be a national solution. In fact, many people will say ‘national’ in place of ‘universal’ healthcare, as it is a more modern term for it. So, I think that killed a lot of the initiatives in the states, and it complicated interstate relations.”

“It is a national problem. I am very much in favor of it. I don’t think that in this national administration they are paying much attention to it, for whatever reason… I think Clinton blew it. Every president gets a ‘honeymoon’ period, and I think that should have been the number one priority. And I do think that the first lady should have never been put in that position, at least not right away when the administration was brand new because the first lady has always been ‘above’ politics, and it was therefore a very political issue…”

“People have to have ownership and feel that they have helped to develop part of this. I think the idea is to get disinterested parties involved… I think the country was ready at that time, with the change of administration form one party to another. It hit a crescendo, the voice of the people wanted change, and it never happened. Unfortunately, it never happened, for it got caught up in personalities, partisanship, and got into the Newt Gingrich era. It was really a shameful era. In Washington, the problem was that all the states that were trying to do something took an immediate back seat. I ran for office here thinking that would be the number one issue, and immediately the focus went to Washington, and it did not become the number one issue in the state or any of the states.”

McEneny made it clear forums such as TIC are great for the community. He subscribed!