State Senate candidate Dan Stec says the state Legislature will need to make some difficult budget decisions in the coming year, especially du…
Kimberly Davis says she supports taxing the wealthy to fund the state during the COVID-19 pandemic and introducing “day permits” for hiking in the High Peaks.
Davis is a Democrat from Plattsburgh, the current Clinton County treasurer, and she’s running to replace retiring state Sen. Betty Little’s 45th District seat against Republican Assemblyman Dan Stec, R,C,I-Queensbury.
Broadly, she said she supports a regional approach to state government, saying not every law or budget item is good for the whole state or should be applied evenly.
She said what makes her unique is her goal of gathering as much information as possible and listening to people she disagrees with. She said this is missing from politics.
“Dan is hyper-partisan,” Davis said of Stec in a Zoom interview with the Enterprise last week. “We have to be political to get to these positions, but once you’re there, you’re there to represent everyone.”
She said she does not like the way he speaks on social media.
“He spends a lot of time demonizing the ‘left,’ as he calls us,” Davis said. “That’s not helpful.”
Triaging the budget
The state is currently in a deficit, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and is holding out for federal financial assistance while facing the possibility of large, sweeping budget cuts.
Davis would not answer what she would want to cut or not cut in the budget, saying she did not want to single anything out and that likely every aspect of the budget would be affected.
She said she does not like to see social services cut but that the state budget is in “triage mode.”
“This cannot be fixed on the backs of property taxpayers,” Davis said. “I think the time couldn’t be more pressing to look at the millionaires and billionaires tax.”
She said she’s glad they build successful businesses but said they used public infrastructure to do so. She also said the state needs to look for inefficiencies and fraud, and reclaim funds. She also said the state needs federal dollars, as many states do.
Forest Preserve management
Davis said while she does not want more bureaucracy, she supports the introduction of day permits for hiking and limiting numbers of people on certain, over-hiked trails.
She also said the state Department of Environmental Conservation needs to hire more staff to manage the land.
“It’s naive to think ... that it will just fix itself,” Davis said.
She also said more public education is needed, adding that many visitors “are so unprepared to hike.”
Davis said she looked to other states for solutions. She said some states out west fine hikers for unpreparedness if rangers are called in for an avoidable rescue. She said hikers can buy seasonal insurance cards to waive these fines.
Davis said the New York Health Act, a single-payer health care plan similar to Medicare for All proposed in the state legislature, is not feasible.
She said she believes healthcare is a human right but that universal healthcare should be done federally. She said when Vermont tried to do this it failed because it could not produce enough money on a small scale.
She said New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whom she said is the “most respected public official in the state,” does not think the New York Health Act would work, either.
Davis said she does not support “defunding the police,” at least in the extreme way it is often portrayed. She thinks this misinterpretation of what “defunding” means was deliberate. She said she wants to give police the resources they need by investing in counseling for them and in training and professionals to help them deal with mental health calls.
She said, nationally, one in five police calls are for mental health or addiction issues, which she said are not in the police’s wheelhouse. She said there is often a strawman argument that this would mean “sending mental health professionals to armed robberies.”
She said mental health professionals might ride along with police and that 911 dispatchers would be trained in determining when a call is about a nonviolent noncriminal situation.
She also said police departments should have consulting agencies to help officers with their own mental health, instead of 1-800 numbers, which they rely on now.
“Our police officers see things that no human being should ever see ... and when they get back to the station, there is no one for them to talk to,” Davis said. “They deserve to be able to discuss what happened and process it.”
Policing was one area where she said she was “disappointed” with Stec’s voting record. She mentioned his votes against bills prohibiting officers from racial profiling and requiring that they report weapon discharges to their superiors.
The racial profiling bill passed the Assembly but has not passed the Senate. It would discourage racial profiling by police by introducing forms for officers to fill out, self-recording their actions during routine and investigatory activities stops, as well as the races of the individuals stopped, and would allow the state attorney general to bring a case against law enforcement agencies determined to have engaged in racial profiling.
The weapon discharge bill passed the Assembly and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. It requires officers to verbally report instances of weapon discharges in which a person could be struck by a bullet — while on or off duty — to their superior within six hours of the incident and write a written report within 48 hours of the incident.
Bail reform, COVID-19 prison releases
Davis said she wants to revisit bail reforms passed late last year, saying that she does not believe the reforms included enough safeguards.
She said she disagrees with the bail reform’s elimination of judges’ discretion over whether an individual charged with a crime is held in custody with the opportunity to post bail, or released following an arrest.
She said there should not be two different justice systems for the rich and poor, but that if someone is arrested multiple times or poses a violent threat, they should be held in custody.
Davis said she does not support “general mass releases” of inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she wants correctional facilities to be safe but that “people have to fulfill their sentence.”
She said maybe inmates incarcerated for nonviolent crimes could be released for house arrest or let out early if they are already within 90 days of release.
Davis said though providing broadband service to the “last mile” is the most expensive part for telecommunications companies, she does not believe that is an excuse not to finish the work.
“They don’t want to invest,” Davis said of the companies. “We should hold telecommunications companies feet to the fire.”
She also said the state should make it easier to fill in the coverage gaps. She said she would support waiving line-laying taxes for companies working in rural counties.
Davis said in the meantime she would support introducing public Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces as a Band-Aid to the problem.
She also said the federal government helped with electrification of rural areas in the 20th century, and she would welcome its assistance again.
Currently the state minimum wage is $15 an hour in New York City, $13 in Westchester County and Long Island, and $11.80 everywhere else. On Dec. 31, it will rise to $14 in Westchester and Long Island, and $12.50 other places.
Davis said the federal minimum needs to be raised, saying she finds the current $7.25 per hour minimum “baffling.”
“If someone is working 40 hours a week, whatever the minimum wage is, is that enough to afford an apartment? A vehicle?” Davis asked.
She gave anecdotes of people she knows not being able to afford day care for their kids while they work or staying in relationships because they can’t afford apartments of their own.
“People should be able to afford the basic necessities of life without relying on social services,” Davis said. “Wages have not kept up over the last 40 years.”
She said she draws an exception for raising the minimum wage for younger workers, such as teenagers, who she said have less experience and fewer expenses.
Kimberly Davis and Dan Stec will debate at Mountain Lake PBS Wednesday, Oct. 21, and the debate will be aired Friday, Oct. 23.