Friday, September 21, 2018



41st District Senate candidates debate

POUGHKEEPSIE – The two candidates for the State Senate seat representing the 41st District squared off at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Thursday.  Incumbent Senator Sue Serino, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Karen Smythe of Poughkeepsie.

In her opening remarks to the room full of community and business leaders, Smythe said she is “the best prepared to represent the community." Serino countered by citing her four years in the state senate and claimed that she has “secured unprecedented funds for the district." 

The forum was moderated by the chamber President Frank Castella Jr. who read questions provided to him by the audience and the legislative committee of the Chamber.  According to the rules of the forum, the candidate's answers were based on their own views and not about the other candidate's record or position and were required to be directed to the audience and not their opponent.

The room listened intently when the candidates were asked about the bill currently in a senate committee, S2975A, which would close certain loopholes that currently exist with prevailing wage.  The bipartisan bill seeks to require all public works projects that receive state funding to pay the prevailing wage to the workers on the project. 

Smythe, who grew up in a family that owned C.B. Strain, a mechanical construction company in Poughkeepsie that had union employees, a company she would later run, said she would likely support the bill because "a prevailing wage is a living wage." She said that workers who make money tend to help local economies by spending more. 

Serino countered by saying that companies that are required to pay prevailing wage are leaving New York because of the high costs.  "The legislation would have a negative impact on the non-profit community that needs to make capital improvements partially subsidized by state money.  Prevailing wage is driving companies out of New York!"

Employee wages were also addressed when the candidates were asked if they support Governor Cuomo's "Wage Tip Credit" legislation.  According to Cuomo, the tip credit allows restaurant owners to take advantage of a federal minimum-wage provision that allows them to pay workers as little as $2.13 per hour as long as their tips bring their take-home pay back up to federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. 

 In supporting Cuomo's efforts to force restaurants to pay the minimum wage, Smythe said that "we should be ensuring that all employees make a minimum wage because certain employees in the hospitality industry don't make minimum wage." Serino, who worked as a waitress years ago to pay her mortgage and raise her son said, "I can't imagine the burden that this will have on restaurateurs.  Prices will go up and they may be forced to lay off employees".  Serino continued against the plan by saying that "we should not be putting the burden on the backs of small business owners."

On taxes that the business community faces, Smythe called for the elimination of the burdensome MTA payroll tax while Serino called for tax breaks to encourage businesses to stay in New York. 

Healthcare was also touched upon with Smythe backing a "single-payer plan" which would allow for all New York residents to have health coverage regardless of their employment status.  Serino claimed that the constant "mayhem" that is prevalent in Albany is proof that the government is incapable of running a large-scale healthcare program.


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