Addie Jenne talks health care, economic opportunity and infrastructure
Watertown Daily Times (NY)
Oct. 16--WATERTOWN -- Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne, D-Theresa, said that as she has been knocking on doors around the district this year she's heard a lot about national politics and personal problems, more than state issues.
"There's a lot of talk about national politics," she said during an editorial board meeting Monday at the Watertown Daily Times office. "(Or residents are) usually talking more particularly about personal things that are going on in their life."
It is at the state level, however, that she plans to address these issues, from health care shortages to economic opportunity to infrastructure.
One thing Ms. Jenne worries about is the aging population in New York and the ability to provide care.
"We are not prepared for the demand in our nursing homes," she said.
Ms. Jenne thinks that New York State needs to move to a single payer health care system, a proposal that is projected to save money overall on health care. According to a RAND study of the proposal, state taxes would increase significantly, but the lack of insurance premiums for businesses and residents would create a slight statewide savings.
"You would be shifting the cost from household budgets and small business budgets to the state budget," Ms. Jenne said. "Places with a smaller payroll like in the north country could see a reduction" in health care costs.
Ms. Jenne thinks that it would also address a common complaint of local governments -- the county share of Medicaid costs.
"That is an issue you can't separate from single payer," she said. "We should do it all in one fell swoop."
Ms. Jenne is pragmatic about the prospects for the proposal -- even if the State Senate flips to Democratic control, the proposal might not pass, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may not support the proposal.
"He doesn't want a failure going into 2020," Ms. Jenne said of the governor's reluctance to back single payer.
But Ms. Jenne thinks that a wholesale reform of health care will be best for the state in the long run.
"I think doing it in pieces would be far more problematic," she said.
Ms. Jenne also continues to be a vocal critic of Gov. Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils, saying that while they increased communication on local needs, the project-specific focus is no longer useful.
Ms. Jenne proposes moving that funding into a program to provide a price floor for milk produced in the state that meets European Union quality standards. There would be checks to prevent farmers from expanding production to take advantage of the subsidies in the price floor, and farmers who were unable to meet the higher standards would not receive any assistance.
"My proposal doesn't create such a beneficial system that bad farmers can stay in business," she said.
Asked if Europe would actually accept New York milk, Ms. Jenne said the quality standards was a necessary first step.
"I think it gives us the ability to play in those markets," she said.
Ending the Regional Economic Development Councils would also, according to Ms. Jenne, decrease corruption -- many of the key Albany scandals of the past few years have revolved around project-based economic development funding. She also supports giving the comptroller the ability to oversee SUNY contracts.
Ms. Jenne does support "member items," specific grants to local government entities such as schools.
"I think it's important for members of the Legislature to partner with local government," she said. "Me being able to bring in a couple of million dollars extra to help our school system, to address long standing, systematic problems, is extremely important."
Ms. Jenne also thinks the north country could benefit from legalized marijuana, especially if there is a focus on craft products for hemp and marijuana. She is critical of the big agriculture business approach that has come in with medical marijuana.
"Should we be giving recreational (marijuana) more of a small, craft perspective, or at least give them a five- or 10-year head start?"
Ms. Jenne remains critical of wind development around Fort Drum, and her Republican colleagues in the Senate for what she says is not backing her fully on a bill to ban development near the fort. Over the summer, State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said she would support the bill if it passed the Assembly and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said he wanted a statewide bill, not a local one.
Ms. Jenne also remains critical of the Article 10 process, which renewable energy projects have to go through to get approval in the state.
"I think national security should trump Article 10," she said.
Ms. Jenne thinks that for economic development to continue, however, there needs to be more investment in infrastructure. The Ogdensburg Bridge, with massive maintenance expenses, is a particularly tricky issue to tackle.
"That's going to take serious funding streams at the federal and state level," she said. "It's going to be a variety of approaches that are taken."
To get the state funding, Ms. Jenne said she needs a "united delegation" in Albany.
"It's been difficult to get the local delegation to understand the seriousness of this issue," she said.
She also thinks a Route 11 bypass around Canton and Potsdam is important.
In January, the State Department of Transportation released the results of a study on the bypass. In a cost-benefit analysis of a number of different options only a four-lane bypass around Potsdam showed a slight net economic benefit. Both the connecting two- and four-lane bypasses around both villages showed a long-term gain of a little more than 400 jobs.
Ms. Jenne said that the economic potential of the corridor continues to grow, and the bypass is important to implement now to recognize and facilitate that growth.
"Since that time (of the study) we have seen an enormous amount of development between Canton and Potsdam," she said. "Usually those kinds of things continue to build off themselves."
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