Sen. John DeFrancisco answers your state budget questions
Hi, folks. Sen . DeFrancisco is here and we will start in a few minutes but you can submit questions now.
Friday January 31, 2014 12:58
John DeFrancisco: 
Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us this afternoon. I am happy to take your questions about the state budget and other state issues.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:03 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Senator, what do you think are the top three problems facing New York, and how do you propose fixing them?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:04 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
The number one problem is the sluggish economy. The best way to remedy that is to cut taxes so that businesses can be profitable, hire more people who will in turn pay taxes. Second on my list is healthcare, the new affordable healthcare law. The implementation is cumbersome, to be kind. As long as the law is not repealed, we have to make it work. Thirdly, we must continue efforts to keep government open and transparent so that the residents of the State of New York know not only what government is doing but how and why it is doing it. To fix these problems, we have to cut taxes in this year's budget, have sufficient personnel to work through the implementation of the affordable healthcare act, and we must enforce existing laws and punish violators.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:08 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From ArtArt: ] 
The Governor claims we have a 2-billion dollar surplus. Do you think this is election year talk, that it is true, or that it's too soon to know?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:09 Art
John DeFrancisco: 
I believe the $2 billion surplus is accurate, so long as the governor's assumptions about the out-year spending plan actually occur. What I mean by that, is that the governor is assuming the state will keep state spending under 2 percent each year.

We've been able to do that over the last three years and there's no reason we cannot continue to do so. In fact, when the governor came into office, there was a $10 billion deficit, which has been closed by the bipartisan work of the legislature and the governor.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:11 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From DaveDave: ] 
Would you consider running against Dan Maffei to be our next Congressman?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:11 Dave
John DeFrancisco: 
That's simple. No.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:11 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Michelle BreidenbachMichelle Breidenbach: ] 
Duke or Syracuse?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:12 Michelle Breidenbach
John DeFrancisco: 
I went to Syracuse University undergrad and I'm a Duke law school graduate.But this is an easy one. Go Orange!
Friday January 31, 2014 1:13 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From short stop 3short stop 3: ] 
Senator, what are your thoughts on the new development project in Geddes announced this week with Gov Cuomo and CE Mahoney? Also, any attempts to repeal parts of the SAFE Act in the budget?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:13 short stop 3
John DeFrancisco: 
I support the Geddes project. It compliments the many years of lake cleanup that the taxpayers have contributed to by creating an entertainment venue that can be enjoyed by all.

This venue can also help make some of the concerts at the fair more enjoyable.

The facts on the rest of the economic development goals are a bit sketchy at this point. So long as the money is used for true economic development, it will certainly help not only the village of Solvay and the town of Geddes, but also the county of Onondaga.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:15 John DeFrancisco
John DeFrancisco: 
On the Safe Act, the governor's budget does not include language to repeal the Safe Act, nor would I expect it to since it was his initiative. It is unlikely that the Safe Act will be repealed since the Assembly was looking for even more restrictions on gun owners. The current composition of the Assembly would never support repealing any parts of the Safe Act. And if they did, the governor would certainly veto it.

So if there's going to be any relief from the Safe Act, it would have to come from the courts.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:17 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Mary KatherineMary Katherine: ] 
Hello Senator. Thank you for your service to Central New York. If the Governor gave you $30 million to spend in CNY, what would you recommend spending it on?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:17 Mary Katherine
John DeFrancisco: 
On the infrastructure of the county that is currently falling apart. Just yesterday, there was yet another break in the water lines in the city of Syracuse, which caused substantial inconvenience for may residents.

The roads and bridges throughout the county need substantial work. If we're going to try to get people to live and work in our county, our infrastructure has to work.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:18 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From JosephJoseph: ] 
In 2010, the State committed $28 million to build a nanotech R&D center in Salina that was supposed to create 200 jobs and attract nanotech companies to Syracuse. According to published reports, the Salina project has experienced significant delays due to environment remediation. In the years since the that project was announced (and subsequently delayed/cancelled), the State has committed more than $1 billion dollars to fund nanotech and life sciences initiatives in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, and the North Country that promise to create thousands of good paying jobs in those areas. In late October, The Post-Standard reported the State issued an RFP to local developers as part of a proposed nanotech research and manufacturing center in Syracuse. More than 3 months later there has been no information as to the status of the RFP response which was coordinated by Fort Schuyler Management in Marcy and the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering in Albany. What is the status of the nanotech RFP issued to Syracuse area developers? Has this project been cancelled?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:19 Joseph
John DeFrancisco: 
I have no idea whether an RFP has been issued because I don't remember any specific commitment for such a project. As you know, sometimes in government, people jump the gun and announce projects before they have really been approved.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:20 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From SyracuseGirl249SyracuseGirl249: ] 
What do you think about the proposed bond act for school technology? Is that the best thing to borrow for? I'm thinking of the six water main breaks the city had yesterday--technology in schools will be useless if they are underwater.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:21 SyracuseGirl249
John DeFrancisco: 
I agree with you that bonds are supposed to be issued for projects with a substantial number of years of usefulness. As we all know, with technology, as soon as you buy it, you need to replace it. If that bond act was for infrastructure, the long-term benefits would far outweigh a bond for school technology.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:22 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Michelle BreidenbachMichelle Breidenbach: ] 
What are your thoughts about the proposed new stadium?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:23 Michelle Breidenbach
John DeFrancisco: 
What new stadium?

This was an example of a project that was announced before it was fully vetted. More people who would be involved in the decision-making process knew nothing about it than those that did.

I do not support spending taxpayers' money for a project to be named later. I'm happy the mayor appointed me to her task force to study this issue. As specifics are provided, I would be in a better position to answer whether it was a good idea or a bad idea. However, I have never seen a project for a new stadium that would have less seats than the existing stadium. from what I read about the new stadium proposal, it would have 44,000 seats for football and the Carrier Dome already has 49,000.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:25 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Many would argue the $30 million in state money to revitalize the western edge of Onondaga Lake is important but will not result in the creation of the kind of good paying, high quality jobs needed to keep young professionals and families in the Syracuse area. In this latest budget, Gov. Cuomo has proposed giving another $180 million to expand a nanotech initiative in the Utica area that is expected to create thousands of good paying jobs for the Mohawk Valley. Why hasn’t the state committed to funding a similar program in the Syracuse area?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:26 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
There are several locations in the state that have received funding for nanotech. Central New York has received funding for the biotech center and the indoor air quality facility. The concept was to have clusters of different industries in different sections of the state.

I have proposed and working hard at having the proposal be approved, to have a homeland security college in Syracuse. My proposal calls for a joint Syracuse University/SUNY college that will confer degrees, including both bachelor and masters degrees in homeland security.

The Syracuse University School of Law has a current certificate program that is nationally known and can serve as the foundation for such a college.

This college would bring in many people to our area as well as spur economic development.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:30 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Jim D.Jim D.: ] 
Thank you for taking the time to speak with your constituents, Senator. In regards to the proposed Solvay entertainment complex, my criticism is that it seems that these large sums of development money is only available for glamour projects like this or the recently-discussed arena projcet. Why couldn't that $30 million be spent on a project that would provide better-paying full-time jobs than retail or entertainment?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:31 Jim D.
John DeFrancisco: 
These projects are not mutually exclusive from dollars put in to economic development. The governor has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars for economic development projects that will likely provide jobs. Projects are reviewed each year by a regional economic development council whose members are local leaders in seven regions of the state.

The members review the projects and recommend which ones should be funded.

I have been on that council for the last couple of years and many good projects have been funded.

Of course no one can say for certain that they are going to bring the projected amount of jobs. But the review process enhances the chances that the state will create jobs with those funds.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:34 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Govt. entertainment venues are known losers. Why would you want to support what is sure to be a financial dud?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:34 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
I disagree. Part of having a vibrant community, which draws people to that community is a commitment to the arts. People work, raise their families and do what they have to do to survive. But there's more to life than that. I think the arts are the heart and soul of a community and another venue will help promote quality of life.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:37 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Regarding vetting... What vetting has been done for the Amphitheater? Will the construction estimate include removing solvay waste? Why not keep the $2.5 million gaming share for proven sound investments?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:37 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
The project isn't going to be built on the top of waste beds. It's going to be built in conjunction with the lake cleanup. I believe that the funding will be used wisely.

As to using the $2.5 million gaming share for proven, sound investments, do you have any suggestions?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:38 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
It was reported by this news organization that it was your idea for a new SUNY school specializing in emergency preparedness and cyber security. Syracuse is already home to many colleges but the vast majority of graduates leave the area due to a lack of opportunities and very few dynamic companies. If the college were to locate in Syracuse- as you have proposed, would there be an emphasis on attracting financial services firms to Syracuse that specialize in cyber security.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:39 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
Friday January 31, 2014 1:39 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Teri WeaverTeri Weaver: ] 
How would you characterize the relationship between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Stephanie Miner?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:39 Teri Weaver
John DeFrancisco: 

Mayor Miner rightly says what's on her mind and advocates for the citizens of the state of New York. She has the obligation to do that and she is doing it. I don't believe anyone should be offended by that.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:40 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From HughHugh: ] 
Hi Senator... When do you think the Gov will get over his pique at the Mayor for asking him to focus on crisis in Upstate cities? Have you seen signs that their bad relationship is hurting CNY directly?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:41 Hugh
John DeFrancisco: 
I have no idea when the relationship will improve, but I do know the mayor is getting her message across of the need for assistance in cities throughout the state.

I think her efforts are going to be successful.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:42 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Michelle BreidenbachMichelle Breidenbach: ] 
What did you learn yesterday from the transportation commissioner about I-81?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:42 Michelle Breidenbach
John DeFrancisco: 
I learned that the decision as to the future of I-81 will not be made for approximately 18 months and that around March, the DOT will be unveiling some of their findings about the various options.

I truly believe the DOT is very open on this issue and definitely wants a consensus to develop among all interested parties before a final decision is made.

I believe that whatever the design, that an interstate cannot be broken off in the city of Syracuse and that the most appealing solution to me would be a depressed highway much as we have on the 81 on the North side of the city with various connecting bridges between the university area and the center of the city. It seems to me, we would then be able to have the interstate highway for the substantial traffic that comes from the North and South of us and also have the connection between the university and the rest of the city without an artificial barrier.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:46 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From MikeMike: ] 
Senator DeFrancisco, pensions are choking this state. Why won't any representative step forward and offer a plan that will put public employees in a 401k plan like the rest of us. I know that it will take a constitutional amendment to do this but I believe that would have widespread public support.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:47 Mike
John DeFrancisco: 
The Constitution of the state of New York provides that no one's pension plan can be impaired by future changes in the law. The only way pensions can change for existing employees would be through collective bargaining. You're incorrect insofar as the legislature not taking this issue on, since over the last four to five years, two new pension tiers have been established, which will provide for lesser benefits than present pension benefits.

Over time, the pressure of paying pensions will subside. The 401K concept was proposed by several members of the Senate, but it was not approved in either house.

On the other hand, you should know that at the budget hearings this past Monday, it was stated by Mayor Miner and others that 2015 will be the peak of the pension problem and the amount of funds that cities throughout the state will have to contribute to the pension will begin going down.

Friday January 31, 2014 1:51 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From GuestGuest: ] 
Senator, do think the City of Syracuse will become the next Detroit because of its financial problems? What do you think can truly turn things around for the City?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:52 Guest
John DeFrancisco: 
No. We fortunately have a very fiscally prudent mayor at the present time. The city has been cutting positions, has been consolidating services and has rejected quick financial fixes, unlike Detroit.

The future of the city depends upon improving our city's infrastructure, improving the city's schools and providing more business opportunities. The state is doing its part by reducing taxes and keeping spending at the same 2 percent limit to which the governor is holding municipalities and schools.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:54 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From Teri WeaverTeri Weaver: ] 
Have you been contacted about the financial woes at the Everson? Is there a plan underway to save the museum?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:54 Teri Weaver
John DeFrancisco: 
I was given a heads up by Gary Grossman, the president of the Everson, a few days before it became public. He told me that they have a plan, but I'm not aware of the specifics.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:55 John DeFrancisco
Sorry folks, we're almost out of time and have to turn off the question feed...
Friday January 31, 2014 1:56
[Comment From short stop 3short stop 3: ] 
This is an important election year not only in CNY but state wide. SIX candidates have announced their intention to run vs. Rep. Maffei, 4 candidates have lined up to replace out-going Sheriff Walsh. The State Senate is always closely contested, however, Republicans continue to have an up-hill battle against the press and especially younger voters. How do you see elections in CNY and the State Senate shaking out this year, and what does the GOP need to do to be successful again in NY? The entire Syracuse City Hall is Democrat, and it will be very difficult for a Republican to take a state-wide office anytime soon. What do you think needs to happen?
Friday January 31, 2014 1:56 short stop 3
John DeFrancisco: 
Having been around as long as I have, I've seen the pendulum swing back and forth several times. I believe the pendulum is beginning to swing back so that we will be back to a two-party government relatively soon. The Republicans have not helped themselves on the national level recently, but some of the concerns, for example, that Congress had about Obamacare, are proving to be real.

The manner in which the Republicans carried their message hurt Republican candidates, but I think the message will be carried in a better way in the future. As far as the local races, I believe that whatever Republican is the candidate for both sheriff and Congress will win this year.
Friday January 31, 2014 1:58 John DeFrancisco
[Comment From BobBob: ] 
In July 2012, you along with many of Syracuse's elected officials announced what at the time was billed as a collaborative plan to address the mounds of trash and tall grass that was accumulating on interstates throughout Onondaga County. Nothing has been done and the state decided last year to not mow any of the grass on the shoulders and medians of local highways. If you really want Syracuse to attract jobs and have a decent economy, major steps need to be made to improve the appearance of the city. Does the budget include funding for highway cleanups that include cutting grass and litter removal?
Friday January 31, 2014 2:00 Bob
John DeFrancisco: 
Ironically, I met with the mayor this morning on several issues and this was one of them. The state DOT has to do a better job and I will continue to do my best to make them do so. However, when you have people driving on our highways that are totally irresponsible and have no concern for anyone or anything but themselves, it is very difficult to make things better. It has become almost impossible to identify and arrest those violators, but if they can be identified, they should be severely punished. In fact, I put in a bill to substantially increase penalties for littering. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass the state Legislature.

If I could legislate a civic conscience, I would.
Friday January 31, 2014 2:03 John DeFrancisco
That's all we have time for, folks. Thank you for joining us, Sen. DeFrancisco, and thank you, readers, for asking great questions.
Friday January 31, 2014 2:03
John DeFrancisco: 
Thank you for participating. And thank you for choosing me to serve.
Friday January 31, 2014 2:04 John DeFrancisco
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