Voters who are content with the “status quo” in New York — high taxes, a high cost of living and fleeing businesses — should vote for Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, said his Republican opponent Dr. David Sussman, who said it’s time for a change.
“What you’ve heard is that you can’t change Albany. For 23 years, my opponent has gone to the assembly, our taxes have gone up, jobs have gone down,” Sussman told a crowd on Wednesday at a candidates’ forum at the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library. “If you think the life that we have here is sustainable, then vote for the status quo.”
With about three weeks to go in the election, the League of Women Voters-hosted forum presented the audience a chance to see the differences between the Assembly District 20 candidates.
Weisenberg presented himself as an experienced legislator who leads the Long Island delegation and has been responsible for many recent public safety and environmental bills, along with getting state money for local organizations and school districts. He also boasted of his good working relationship with senate Republicans and their leader, Sen. Dean Skelos.
“I have the reliability of my leadership position to advocate,” he said. “You need the ability for me to be able to advocate for Long Island. You have the best voice you’ll ever have.”
While Weisenberg and Sussman disagreed on several issues, including the 2 percent tax cap — Weisenberg voted against it — and same-sex marriage — Sussman said he would have wanted a public referendum on the issue — their biggest disagreement was over the way New York handles public education.
Sussman, who has been on the Lawrence School Board for 17 years, said he wants to go to Albany to fight a system that takes money from Long Island school districts and distributes funds to the New York City system and schools upstate. He also railed on unfunded mandates, a tenure system that grants tenure after three years on the job and the “last in, first out” policy when it comes to laying off teachers.
“When people ask for their fair share and are willing to fight an entrenched system, they get it,” Sussman said. “We do not get out fair share on Long Island.”
Weisenberg said that other legislators would not be willing to give up their share of the pie. He reminded the audience that three people — the governor, the senate majority leader and the assembly speaker — make most of the decisions in the state, and he has a good relationship with them. But, he said, when he’s in the assembly, he’s speaking for Long Island.
“Anyone who comes in there, it takes them three years to know where they are and what they’re doing,” Weisenberg said. “You’re lucky for what you have up there, because we’re doing the best we can with what we have and we’re moving forward. The answer is, the power is there, and you work within that power to have success.”