HARRISON, N.Y. – Student loans, mandate relief and public employee pension reform were discussed Monday at a Westchester County forum hosted by New York Assembly member Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge).
“I’m happy with what we’ve got, and now our job is to take it back to Albany and to do something with it, to craft the legislation, to work with our friends across the aisle and get it done,” said Castelli, who represents the 93rd Assembly District, which includes Harrison. “In the end, that’s got to be our mission if we want to save the state.”
Assembly member Jane Corwin (R-Clarence) also attended the Harrison Town Hall event in addition to local business owners and representatives of organizations such as the Harrison League of Women Voters, United Way of Westchester and The Business Council of Westchester.
One of the first issues Castelli focused on was mandate relief for Westchester County.
“Mandate relief must take place if we are to get a rein on the out-of-control spending that we have seen for the last couple of decades,” he said.
George Oros, county executive Rob Astorino’s chief of staff, agreed with Castelli and said that county taxpayers pay $220 million in Medicaid every year. New York pays more in Medicaid than Texas and California combined, he said. Oros added that Westchester County pension costs were $4 million in 2001 and will be $91 million in 2013.
Castelli also focused on college student loan debt by speaking about a law he helped enact called the SUNY 2020 bill.
“Our student debt in loans for education exceeds all the credit card debt in the United States of America, and there’s something that’s wrong about that,” he said. “SUNY 2020 guaranteed that out of all the 60-plus state universities and colleges across the state, tuition costs would not rise more than $300 a year for the next five years.”
Castelli said the state government needs to “take the solutions of business and bring them to the business of government.”
“We can take some lessons from the effective businesses that exist in this area – of course, some of the biggest and most successful businesses exist here – there are six Fortune 500 companies here, including IBM, MasterCard, PepsiCo,” he said. “When you’ve got those available as resources, there’s a lot you can learn from them.”
Castelli said he learned that New York must keep a cap on spending and not push higher taxes off on local government.
“What we’ve seen is a change in the attitude there,” Castelli said, referring to the state Legislature. “It’s a refreshing change. There’s a lot more bipartisanship. We’re getting things done – got our budgets done on time, we’ve closed the $13.5 billion budget deficit with no taxes, no layoffs and no new borrowing, more importantly.”