In the race to represent the constituents of New York’s 14th assembly district, longtime Assemblyman David McDonough, a Republican from North Merrick, faces not one but two challengers for his established seat in Albany. Kevin Gorman, a Democrat from Wantagh who ran for the 10th A.D. in 2010, and Jake Gutowitz, a Libertarian from Wantagh, are vying for the post, as well.
The Herald spoke with all three candidates about the issues facing residents today to ensure residents make an informed decision before heading to the polls.
Editor’s note: Some of these answers have been shortened for brevity.
Herald: The coronavirus pandemic has devastated our local economy, shutting down businesses and causing steep losses in revenue. What can you do to help the economy recover and get the funding to the people who need it the most?
Assemblyman McDonough: I am supporting the “Small Business Emergency Recovery Act,” which would immediately direct the state’s $890 million settlement reserve fund to small businesses, move tax deadlines for remittance and repurpose available tax credits to help existing businesses. Since March, I have advocated for small businesses and was among the first to call for regional reopenings, along with being a part of “Jump Start New York” to aid residents and businesses and provide economic recovery.
Kevin Gorman: Reforming our tax rates is the best way to for New York to recover and provide a boost to struggling small businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus. If the very well-off contribute their fair share of tax revenue, we can give relief to middle-class working families, small businesses and individuals who so desperately need the state government to step up in this time of need.
Jake Gutowitz: I would propose a five-year suspension of the New York state sales tax for all small businesses to provide relief and incentivize shopping. Over the course of the five years, businesses would be able to recover lost income and pay back the PPP loans they were forced to take to make sure their employees got paid. People would also, slowly, be trained to shop at small businesses, which would reinvigorate the economy on Long Island, where owning a small business gets harder each year. I would also propose a suspension of the state income tax for those with a salary less than the top 90 percent of New York salaries, effective immediately. This will provide necessary relief to working class Americans and also extra income for people to spend at their tax-incentivized small businesses.
Herald: Housing affordability is one of the most pressing issues for residents, particularly millennials and seniors. What can you do to help bring economic relief to those struggling to afford to live on Long Island?
McDonough: We need to stop the high out-migration that is hurting our economy and diminishing the tax base. We also need to provide incentives to encourage students to stay in New York after graduation. I co-sponsored legislation called the “New York State Diplomas to Home Ownership Program,” which encourages home ownership for young professionals by providing financial assistance with student loan debt equal to 10 percent of the purchase price of a property up to $15,000. To assist our senior citizens, I have co-sponsored legislation that establishes a phased-in real property tax exemption for persons 80 or older. I have also co-sponsored legislation to create a 25 percent increase on the real property tax relief credit for 2020 and generate permanent credit for both basic and enhanced STAR recipients.
Gorman: Home ownership is a crucial component of building and maintaining our middle class, so affordable home loans and increased inventory of affordable housing for both renters and buyers is needed. Property tax relief for seniors and middle-class homeowners is extremely important. When I am elected to the New York state assembly, I will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help Long Islanders obtain affordable living spaces and ease the heavy burden of housing costs in our region.
Gutowitz: I would propose legislation that would eliminate the ability of local governments to raise property taxes. Property tax relief would allow seniors to keep their homes, young people to buy new homes and landlords to lower rent, making housing affordable all around. I would also conduct a massive audit to identify wasteful spending in the budgets of local governments and provide official suggestions on how to decrease their spending. I would also propose legislation to break up the utility monopolies. Many other places in the country allow people to choose their utility provider — that choice generates competition and drives down the cost of utilities. After PSEG Long Island’s debacle during our most recent hurricane, it’s clear that there needs to be some competition in this area.
Herald: If elected or re-elected, what are some of the issues you will address in the subsequent term?
McDonough: I will continue to address issues related to protecting our communities, supporting small businesses, job creation and retention, tax relief, improving our transportation infrastructure and government reform to ensure efficiency and transparency.
Gorman: My first duty as an assemblyman is to represent and advocate for my constituents. The things that matter to them, such as the toxic Bethpage plume, are my first priority. It is vital that we clean it up as quickly as possible for our environment and hold those who caused the contamination accountable. Additionally, we need tax reform to help those affected by the pandemic and to properly fund our schools.
Gutowitz: New York needs an advisory council made up of full-time teachers to shape education policy. This will ensure that the people who know best about teaching our children are involved in the government’s efforts to create a better education system. I would also introduce legislation that would create a ranked voting system for New York state elections. Ranked voting provides more choices to the voters and allows more, less-heard communities to gain representation in government. Finally, I would like to introduce term limits to New York state, which would ensure that people with fresh ideas are constantly rotated into office. I also want to pass legislation that would eliminate the ability of elected officials to collect pensions from other political offices while collecting a salary as a politician. This would de-incentivize career politicians from “retiring” to a smaller public office and allow those who want to work for the common good in public office to do so.