State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat from Great Neck, is facing challenger Dave Franklin, a Republican from Port Washington, in her bid for re-election this year. Kaplan has served as the senator for the Seventh New York Senate District — which includes large portions of Elmont and Franklin Square — since she defeated former incumbent Elaine Phillips in 2018.
Recently, the Herald asked Kaplan and Franklin questions focusing on issues of importance to local residents. Their answers have been edited for style and clarity.
Herald: New York is facing a $14 billion deficit, and the governor has threatened to cut aid to schools, local governments and hospitals if the state does not receive more federal aid. How would you seek to address this deficit?
Kaplan: It’s frankly unacceptable for the federal government to be holding aid hostage, especially at a time when New Yorkers need it most. I will continue fighting for New Yorkers and working with our state’s federal representatives to ensure we are not penalized because our government is playing partisan politics.
Above all, I will fight for our schools, local governments, and hospitals, as I’ve done throughout my first term as state senator. I will also look into implementing realistic revenue builders in our state, like mobile sports betting, which I passed during my first year in the State Senate. We need to continue looking for ways to increase revenue in our state without putting the burden on Long Island families.
Franklin: We have to check spending and prioritize. We were already $8 billion in debt prior to Covid, and we’re losing an average of 270 New Yorkers per day to more tax-friendly and business-friendly states. That means the tax burden falls harder on the remaining residents, who are mostly middle class. We have to create jobs to reverse that tide and find different ways to generate revenue other than endless taxes.
Herald: Businesses have been shut down across New York State for several months under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York on Pause order, and some have had to close permanently. What would you propose to revitalize the economy?
Kaplan: As the Chair of the Commerce, Economic Development, and Small Business Committee, I have worked tirelessly to support local businesses, not only throughout the pandemic, but throughout my first term in the State Senate. Through my work, I’ve continued to see the necessity in ensuring our business owners are informed of opportunities and re-opening procedures. I hosted four webinars to advise local businesses on assistance programs and reopening strategies, helping businesses in navigating this new economy.
I’ve also had numerous discussions with advocates to hear how our state can best provide support during this time. I chaired the first virtual hearing of the NYS Legislature on the federal response to the economic impact of the coronavirus on New York’s small business community, hosted a roundtable on the impact of coronavirus on minority- and women-owned businesses, have visited businesses throughout my district to speak directly with owners, and will be chairing a hearing on access to capital for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help our economy bounce back, it’s necessary that we also implement state policies that reduce the tax burden on local businesses. That’s why I introduced legislation to reduce the tax rate on manufacturers and create a sales tax exemption for employees to purchase PPE.
Franklin: We have been under a 1 percent infecton rate for close to two months now. It is past the time to fully open businesses, with safety precautions in place so they can try to regain their losses and return their employees to salaried positions.
It bothers me that the big box stores — like Costco, Target and Walmart — are open but the local mom-and-pop stores suffer. These owners will probably be more meticulous about keeping their places clean and safe because it’s their name on the store. Restaurants in New York City should be allowed to provide indoor dining, and Cuomo needs to relinquish his “emergency powers” that the Democrat-controlled legislature granted to him.
Herald: Protests against systemic racism have sprung up across the country following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers, including right here in Elmont and Franklin Square. What do you think could be done to address these issues?
Kaplan: Now more than ever, we need to take meaningful steps to develop a durable relationship of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The only way we are going to do that is by being open and honest with each other, listening to the needs and concerns of Black communities, and bringing our community together to find solutions to the problems that have impacted our neighborhoods for far too long.
This year, I heard from thousands of local residents about the need to pass reforms to provide additional transparency and accountability as a starting point in building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and I supported a package of legislation to do just that.
I am also supportive of Governor Cuomo’s initiative to engage the entire community in a process to reinvent community policing and craft new policies that keep our community safe while supporting residents in every neighborhood.
Lastly, it’s so important that we show our support and solidarity with Black communities by showing up for Black lives and attending peaceful rallies and protests. Over these past few months, I was proud to stand with members of our community during several moving, peaceful demonstrations to send a message that systemic racism will not be tolerated in our neighborhoods.
Franklin: What happened to George Floyd and others at the hands of a few police officers is criminal and unacceptable, and the widespread use of phone cameras has brought this to light. But bear in mind that these incidents are anomalies, and that 99 percent of all police officers are good and decent public servants who look to protect honorably and professionally. Nobody hates a bad cop more than a good cop.
I do believe that ongoing training is essential. In my tenure as police commissioner, we took a proactive approach to the job, offering diversity training, de-escalation training, and in 2019 we were named the safest town in New York State. That is due to the hard work of some of the finest men and women I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. As senator, I will look to ensure proper training for all uniformed officers and administration.
Herald: Elmont residents continue to suffer from higher cancer rates than their neighbors in other communities, and not much has been done to determine the cause of this discrepancy. What would you do to help address these health concerns?
Kaplan: While we need to continue studying the data to figure out the cause of these trends, one of the most concrete ways to combat cancer is through preventative care. I’ve hosted free prostate cancer screening and free breast cancer screening events in my community to help improve early detection.
We also need to expand health care affordability and accessibility, so more New Yorkers can afford care. I expanded access to telehealth for Medicaid so more New Yorkers can continue to access their health providers safely during this pandemic. Amid budget deficit concerns, I also restored $102 million in Medicaid funding to hospitals, as well as $200 million for other Medicaid programs.
Finally, I will continue standing alongside Elmont residents and push for further research into this issue.
Franklin: Environmental and occupational studies must be done in Elmont to determine the cause. The health and safety of our residents is vital, and I’ll work to make sure the situation is investigated.