Two weeks ago, the Bronx News Network asked candidates in 33rd District senate race to answer, in writing, a number of questions which we hope will shed light on where they stand politically, their position on key issues in the community, and what they would do if elected.
In the coming days we're going to post their unedited answers on this blog, a few at a time. Part 1 was published Tuesday. We published Part 2 yesterday. For Part 3, we asked them how they would balance the state budget as well as their position on sin taxes. Tomorrow, we will publish their answers to questions about addressing crime problems and housing policy.
There are four candidates in the race - Pedro Espada, Jr. (the incumbent), Daniel Padernacht, Gustavo Rivera, and Fernando Tirado - which is turning into one of the most watched in the city. Padernacht, Rivera, and Tirado got back to us with answers, but Espada didn't. In an e-mail, a staffer of his wrote: "Thank you for the survey, however we will not be participating at this time. The Senator's positions will be made available via other media, including his website and Facebook, at a later date."
RIVERA: The solution to this budget crisis isn’t individual. We have to work together to find creative solutions, so that we don’t have to cut services that are a lifeline to the neediest members of the community. We need to look into alternate sources of revenue, including options like progressive taxation and a commuter’s tax, before we think about cutting critical programs.
This year, the budget has become a political issue. Political squabbling aside, the people of the Bronx need a meaningful budget. While Pedro Espada’s stalling tactics might make for good headlines, the truth is they’ve been hurting the city. Refusing to pass a budget is the cruelest budget cut of all. We’ve had enough of politicians more focused on making the headlines than on their constituents. We need leadership who will be willing to work together to solve the crisis.
- Reduce government agency inefficiencies and eliminate mandates that are not cost effective, sustainable, or in the best interest of the taxpayer.
- Rewrite pension regulations to be based on the base salary only, or include provisions that only a fraction of overtime is included in the pension formula.
- Support the closing of underutilized prisons and model half-way houses for low-level offenders based on the federal system.
- Force the MTA to sell-off underutilized and abandoned properties for private redevelopment as a way to reduce costs on current capital expenditures.
- Freeze state employee salaries and additional hiring for 1 year.
- Independent “integrity” panels that will designate criteria, review and monitor all state contracts based on obtaining maximum efficiency and sustainability and serving the best interest of the taxpayers, especially for “No-bid” contracts.
- Reduce Medicare waste and fraud by bolstering enforcement
- Support state spending and property tax caps.
- Support “luxury” sales taxes that are more aligned with the needs of the people. For example, instead of a general tax on clothing, we should only tax clothing that is valued at $25 or more and footwear at $35 or more.
QUESTION: Do you support sin taxes, such as the so-called "soda tax"? Why or why not?
PADERNACHT: I do not believe in the so-called soda tax because it is not truly preventive and it hurts residents that are already struggling financially. Whether or not I would support another type of sin tax depends on the sin.
RIVERA: In principle I tend to oppose any measure that disproportionately hurts the poorest members of our community. That said, I would have supported the soda tax if I were a Senator.
This tax may be regressive, but the negative health impacts of sugary beverages regressively affect people in poorer communities. All of the evidence I’ve seen suggests that these types of taxes help create healthier communities. For me, this tax is more about promoting healthy neighborhoods than about raising revenue. . My district has some of the highest rates of diabetes and obesity in New York City. These rates have skyrocketed as both children and adults have consumed more sugary beverages in the last 15 years. We have to get a handle on this epidemic– it is literally draining our health care system. Taxes like this one can help decrease consumption, while helping to finance some of the health problems these beverages create.
We need to ensure that adults and children have access to healthy foods – fresh fruits, vegetables and green markets. But this is also an issue of personal responsibility. Children and their parents have to take control of their diets and make healthy decisions.
TIRADO: No, I do not generally support regressive taxation. Taxes such as these disproportionally impact lower income individuals without guaranteeing funding those programs that are used as the basis for the tax (i.e. health). I would rather support doubling the bottle and can recycling refund in the state as an alternative to this tax.
Also see: Part 1 and Part 2