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Braymer wants to help environment, property taxpayers

Claudia Braymer (Photo provided)

Claudia Braymer, a Democrat from Glens Falls, says she is running to represent New York state’s 114th Assembly District to protect the environment, property taxpayers and working families.

She is an environmental lawyer, a wife and mother, and a former world-class rugby player, and she is looking to take over the seat current Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec is vacating to run for state Senate.

She is running against Evelyn Wood on the Serve America Movement party line, whose Enterprise editorial board interview was published Thursday, as well as Matt Simpson, a Republican whose interview was published Friday.

The district includes Essex and Warren counties, and parts of Washington and Saratoga counties.

Budget

The state is currently in a multi-billion-dollar deficit, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and faces the possibility of large, sweeping budget cuts. In April, when the state Legislature passed the 2020-21 budget, it also gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his state Division of Budget sweeping powers over a “rolling state budget,” with the discretion to make cuts during the budget year if funds fall short.

Braymer, like her opponents, said she would want the Legislature to take back these powers. She does not agree with Cuomo’s hypothetical proposal of 20% cuts across the board. She said school, Medicaid and forest ranger funding are off the table for cuts in her mind.

She said the state should make up its deficit by taxing billionaires more, finding efficiencies in local government and securing more federal funding, not by raising property taxes.

She said Regional Economic Development Council grants are also on the table for her.

She said she wants to make sure billionaires “pay their fair share” by closing tax loopholes.

In March the Legislature also gave Cuomo emergency lawmaking powers to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Braymer said she would like to rescind these and get the Legislature “back to functioning as normal as soon as possible.”

She said the state should keep some of the safety guidelines while loosening others.

“(Businesses and citizens) need to be able to make their own decisions about the risks they want to take going forward in their everyday lives,” Braymer said. “The pandemic is not going to go away with a magic wand.”

DEC

Braymer said despite the budget strain, she believes this is the year for the state Department of Environmental Conservation to add more staff. She said the number of hikers in the High Peaks is higher than ever this year, which means there are more search-and-rescue calls for lost and injured hikers.

“What, are we going to let people try to find their way back alone?” she asked.

She said she is not opposed to some sort of hiking permit system for the High Peaks Wilderness, saying she has hiked in other states where permits are required.

“It’s not excessive,” she said.

Still, she said the land should be available to the public.

She said it is a priority for her to combat climate change and invasive species, including by expanding mandatory boat inspection programs.

Health care

Braymer said she does not support state-run single-payer health care, like the New York Health Act, because she does not see a sustainable way to fund it.

However, she said she believes people should be able to get health care without going bankrupt.

Police

Braymer said she is a “strong supporter of law enforcement,” adding that she believes the North Country’s police are great and should not be dismantled. She touted the endorsement of the state Police Benevolent Association.

However, she said they can always make improvements, adding that they should start taking a harder look at their practices.

She was asked about a bill that aims to prohibit police officers from racial profiling, which passed the Assembly but not the Senate this summer. It would require officers to self-record their on-duty actions, as well as the races of the individuals stopped. Stec voted against this bill, saying it would create an undue amount of paperwork for officers.

She said she would likely support that bill, saying, “They’re already doing paperwork.”

She said the bail reforms passed late last year were important, because the state should not have “two systems of justice, one for people who have money and one for people who don’t,” but she said there were too many levels of crimes which did not require bail.

She said she spoke with local district attorneys and Republicans and advocated for these charges to be added. They were added in the spring, and she believes that is adequate for now.

Broadband

Like her opponents, Braymer said she wants to get rid of a new tax on laying fiber-optic cable along state highways.

Braymer said she mentioned this issue to Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul in Lake Placid recently and said Hochul did not know about the tax and did not realize what a barrier it was.

“We have to have elected representatives who can speak right to the issue and get results for the North Country,” Braymer said. “And I think I’m really good at that.”

Minimum wage

Braymer said every wage should be a living wage, with exceptions for youngest workers.

She said workers under 18 years old should earn a training wage, since they are less experienced and have less financial responsibilities.

She said the upstate minimum wage of $12.50 per hour (which it will reach on Jan. 1, 2021) means someone working 40 hours a week at this rate would earn $26,000 in a year, which she said is not enough if someone has a family.

The $14-15 range sounds better to her.

She said she values hard work and self-improvement, but that the state needs to support its working families.

“There are not a lot of good-paying job opportunities out there, so the jobs at the very bottom might be all that someone can get,” Braymer said. “If that’s the job they have, that should be able to sustain their family.”

She said the alternative is to expand government services to help families.

Change of mind

Braymer said she is proud of changing her mind on an issue she dealt with on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

She said in 2017 a county Democrat was advocating for a-1,000 foot extension of a runway at the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport in Queensbury. She was initially fine with this idea.

But then as she said she did more research she learned the project would cost $10-13 million and would involve destroying a unique wetland zone.

She ended up opposing the expansion, and was in the minority on the vote. But over time, she said more board members became convinced the plan was problematic.

They sent information to the Federal Aviation Administration showing that its numbers about the length of the runway were not accurate. The FAA agreed and determined the extension was not necessary, pulling federal funding.

“We were able to save the taxpayers millions of dollars and protect this critically important natural resource,” Braymer said.

Committees

Braymer said if elected she would like to sit on the Environmental Conservation and Children and Families committees, to focus on climate change and foster care, respectively.

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