The Onondaga County Republican Committee's annual clambake last week had several special guests, including New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
Flanagan, R-East Northport, made the trip to central New York — his first upstate swing since being elected majority leader — and after arriving at the clambake, he spoke with reporters about a range of issues, including end-of-session priorities.
Here is The Citizen's interview with Flanagan:
The Citizen: Why is it important for you to come out for the clambake?
Flanagan: I want to let people know who we are as a conference, who I am — that I have their interests at heart and working with my colleagues all around this area. Senator DeFrancisco, Senator Nozzolio, Senator Seward, Senator Ritchie. I've spent a lot of time with them, not only in Albany, but in many of their home communities. This is a team and we are involved in important work. I know what my responsibilities are and I know what I want to do because I want to make people who live in this area, whether it's Auburn or Syracuse or whatever part of the state it may be, that we, as a conference, are representing their interests.
The Citizen: Looking at the end of session, there's a lot of discussion in terms of education, specifically the education investment tax credit. Where do you see that ending up? Are you hopeful you'll get a deal before the end of session?
Flanagan: I'm hopeful and that's been a number one priority of ours. We passed it early in January. We included it in our one-house budget resolution. There's no deviation from that. That is a top priority. We think it's a great investment in education in a lot of different ways. We pushed that pretty hard. I think we are relatively consistent in terms of how we approach things. We've been talking about the property tax cap for years. We got it done working with the governor. We've been advocating that it be permanent. We just passed a bill to do that. So, the tax credit is a very significant issue.
The Citizen: Speaking of the tax cap, any signs of where that's heading before the end of session?
Flanagan: I'm confident that it will be extended. Do I know whether it will be permanent? Not at this juncture. But we've been very clear about our position on this and the beauty of this is if you look — and these are independent reviews — this has saved $7.6 billion since 2011-12. One of the things that nobody really pays attention to, but which I truly appreciate is for years, New York state... we don't have a state spending cap. The Senate has passed that time and time again. But at least since the property tax cap came into being, we have had a self-imposed state spending cap. So, we're being consistent. If you have to stay to the 2 percent, we're going to stay to the 2 percent. That helps send the right message.
The Citizen: What's your impression of new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia? (Note: Flanagan was the Senate Education Committee chairman before becoming majority leader.)
Flanagan: I had a chance to meet her briefly. She's got a very diverse background and I saw, as you pay attention obviously, all kinds of comments about her, her background, her priorities. I think it's important to recognize that this is a selection of the Board of Regents. People can look at it however they want in that light. But I wish her well. It's an immensely important job. She came from a school district that was (one of the largest school districts in the country). Western New York, I was reading some of that stuff. But she said she's been down in Tampa for 30 years, 10 years as a superintendent. I don't care what community it is, 10 years as a superintendent is a pretty good run. I want her to do really well. It's important for everybody.