Senate candidates Davis, Stec debate
PLATTSBURGH — Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis, D-Plattsburgh, strongly differ on whether the next North Country state senator should be in the Republican minority or Democratic majority.
“It’s not in our interest to have a one-party system,” Stec argued.
“If you do it well, like I think I have, you can be very effective in both getting your own work done, but also making sure that you’re mitigating the damage of other bills.”
“It is incredibly important that I be in the room with a seat at the table which Mr. Stec will not have,” Davis said, “talking to my friends in the New York City and Long Island area (and) in other places around New York who are Democrats to tell them how something that they are proposing is affecting us differently in the North Country.”
On Wednesday, Mountain Lake Journal Host Thom Hallock moderated a debate between the candidates, paneled by Press-Republican Editor-in-Chief Joe LoTemplio and Adirondack Daily Enterprise Staff Writer Aaron Cerbone.
Close budget gap
When it came to which areas he would protect and cut in order to close the state’s budget deficit, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Stec said cuts to education and the state’s disabled population were off the table for him.
He added that taxes should not be raised, including levies on millionaires and billionaires, arguing that a tax on the wealthy could push much-needed job creators out of the state.
“New York state has a spending problem, not a taxing problem,” Stec said.
The assemblyman suggested tightening up Medicaid spending, citing billions annually in fraud, waste and abuse, and getting rid of other things like a $400 million tax credit for Hollywood and $100 million for public campaign finance.
Davis said cuts to any nonessential services needed to be made, and could hopefully be short-term. She added that people were going to need programs such as social services, mental health and addiction support, and offices for the aging even more now.
She would look to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, even just temporarily, and stated the idea that this would drive them out of the state was a scare tactic.
“All I’m asking is that they got rich by using community resources and infrastructure. Now is the time for them to help their fellow New Yorkers by paying a little bit more in tax.”
The candidates disagreed on whether recreational marijuana should be legalized.
Stec said he would oppose such legislation and questioned whether the states that had moved forward with it had truly benefited.
He pointed to how law enforcement and drug counselors view marijuana as a gateway drug.
Davis said she would vote to legalize, pointing to how medical marijuana in the state has helped people with serious conditions.
Citing the National Institute on Drug Abuse, she argued that marijuana was not any more a gateway drug than alcohol or nicotine. And marijuana-related arrests disproportionately affect communities of color, she added.
The two agreed that a single-payer health care system would not be viable in New York state, citing a lack of affordability.
Both also referenced Vermont, which tried but failed to implement such a program due to cost.
Davis said she believed health care is a right and should not be tied to employment, but that needs to be ensured at the federal level.
Stec voiced his opposition to single-payer and said his conference has proposed biometric screening of patients and providers in order to help decrease Medicaid fraud. At the national level, he supports inter-state competition for health insurance at the national level.
The two split again on when exactly Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s additional emergency powers should end, with Davis saying “soon” and Stec arguing they should have already.
The treasurer expressed concern surrounding recent COVID-19 case increases in the region’s counties, as well as an impending second spike.
Stec said it was the right thing to give Cuomo that authority earlier this year at a time when minute-to-minute and hour-to-hour decisions had to be made.
But he felt the urgent portion of the emergency was over, and that the legislature should be re-instituted as a coequal branch.
Though both candidates said they did not support defunding the police, the topic led to a tit-for-tat regarding Davis’ Working Families Party endorsement.
Stec mentioned how the Working Families Party has proposed the measure and argued that the solution was actually to provide more training and resources.
Davis agreed that law enforcement needed to be given the most resources they could for things like mental health services and community outreach.
Stec pushed back, saying that when you take a party line, you are responsible for the baggage and benefits that come with it.
Davis reiterated that she did not support defunding the police.
“I also don’t think Mr. Stec probably believes 100% in everything that the Republican Party does, nor do I with this issue with the Working Families Party.”
On how to address overuse in the High Peaks region, Davis said the state needed to look at a permitting system and educating people from out of the area.
She cited safety issues with both parking and the number of people on the trails, adding that increasing parking would be a huge cost.
Stec argued that the inmate population at Moriah Shock could provide inexpensive manual labor to help put more parking in place.
“I don’t think that cost should be the deciding or controlling factor,” he said. “I think it’s actually a minimal cost.”
Increased parking coupled with technology that allows hikers to see which trails are already crowded would help spread the load, he added.
Stec and Davis both supported the state’s phased-in approach toward increasing minimum wage to $15 an hour upstate, but disagreed on its merits.
The assemblyman took issue with the added cost to small businesses.
“The thing is that a one-size-fits-all approach is very commonplace in Albany to things in New York,” he added, noting differences between upstate and downstate labor markets.
Davis agreed with Stec on passing a lower wage for first-time workers, and that minimum wage was not meant to be a living wage.
“Let’s tell that to the companies that are paying minimum wage to people regardless if they are 20 or if they are 40,” she continued.
“We need to make sure that people have a living wage, that one person, by themselves, can support themselves.”
Watch the debate
The debate between Clinton County Treasurer Kimberly Davis, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, and Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, will air on Mountain Lake PBS at the following times:
¯ 12:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.
¯ 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 25.
¯ 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26.