Senator Jack Martins discussed education, business and drug use among other topics in a an exclusive interview with this newspaper and FiOS 1 News. He’s currently seeking re-election in November, being challenged by Democrat Adam Haber. Pointing to what he called “key legislation,” particularly the tax cap legislation passed in 2011 and prescription drug bill he helped shepherd to enactment, Martins feels New York State is on track to continue fiscal responsibility.
“In these last four years, we’ve had four balanced budgets, we’ve cut taxes working together, we have paid off debt, streamlined government, kept spending below 2 percent each one of those years,” Martins said.
The tax cap limits the increase in property taxes each year for school districts and local municipalities to 2 percent, or the rate of inflation. If a community chooses to pierce the cap, a 60 percent vote in a school budget or by a local legislative body can override it. A local municipality would need to enact it each year to have the ability to exercise it.
The tax cap is up for renewal in 2015, according to Martins. He says between 2003 and 2011, school taxes doubled.
“If they went up 100 percent, something had to happen,” Martins said. “People couldn’t continue to pay 8 or 9 percent increases per year. The tax cap is a blunt instrument but it has worked and if anything we’ve seen that our school districts are providing the same quality education although there have been concerns about layoffs. But I agree that we need to provide stability for taxpayers.”
Concerning jobs, the former Mineola mayor thinks state programs that incentivize businesses to relocate or open in New York State will create jobs for students graduating high school and college.
“We have to maximize the things that we have,” he said. “Great education, great research facilities and be able to translate those into new, high-tech, high paying jobs.”
Calling it “the scourge of our existence” when questioned about the heroin epidemic plaguing Long Island, Martins said the state legislature needs to “educate the new generation about this addiction.” The drug killed 121 people in Nassau and Suffolk in 2012 and at least 120 last year, according to the Long Island Coalition on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
“Our challenge is to cut off the supply. We worked on that a few years ago by passing I-STOP. We made the prescription drug issue much less certain. It’s up to us that we educate a new generation on this addiction.”
The I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing) legislation created a real-time database that gives physicians information on a patient’s prescription history before prescribing drugs, requires pharmacists to provide information for that purpose and reclassify pills to reflect the risk of abuse that comes with their use. The bill also establishes a safe drug disposal program for expired or unused medication.
“Heroin epidemic is affecting Long Island in ways it does not affect anyone else,” he said. “We have kids dying every day, but we don’t hear much about.”
Verizon’s FiOS1 News Long Island program, “My Long Island TV,” produced by Waldo Cabrera, airs at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily. The full interview is available at www.LongIslandWeekly.com