Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series from The Post-Journal debate between Republican incumbent Andy Goodell and Democratic challenger Dr. Rudy Mueller for the 150th New York State Assembly seat. The candidates answered the following questions: What are your proposals to create a more business-friendly environment? Is government capable of fostering private sector job growth?
By DENNIS PHILLIP
Special to the OBSERVER
Dr. Rudy Mueller
The challenger attacking the incumbent is how the The Post-Journal's assembly debate started.
The candidates were asked a question about job growth, with Dr. Rudy Mueller, D-Lakewood, as the challenger first to respond. Mueller did say jobs and the economy are important. From there, Mueller started to criticize Goodell for allegedly bad mouthing the county.
"I think Mr. (Andy) Goodell by saying 'We are the welfare capital of the world,' really hurt this county," Mueller said. "I understand we have a welfare problem, but saying we are the welfare capital of the world is just not factual. It is not true and I really think it hurts our chances. What new business will want to come to this county when one of the leaders of the county says that."
Mueller throughout the debate continued to make this comment about Goodell, R-Chautauqua County. The incumbent, later on, said this was not the quote he made. He referenced the April 6 article in The Post-Journal about welfare cash benefits increasing 10 percent. Goodell said because this motion passed, "New York will become the 'Welfare capital of the nation.'"
Mueller continued his answer by saying the county needs a positive voice in Albany to promote the county. He discussed the marketing term "The World's Learning Center" as a more positive way to promote the county, with its quality learning facilities like the State University of Fredonia and Jamestown Community College. The challenger briefly discussed the Chautauqua Institution and Chautauqua Lake as ways of also promoting the county positively.
"I believe this is a great county. This is a great place to raise a family," he said. "I want to make it an even better place for business. I think being a positive voice for the county here or in the state is important."
When it was Goodell's turn to answer the question, he focused more on the topic.
"I think New York state can foster private sector job growth by creating a much more competitive business-friendly environment that makes it easier for private companies to locate and expand in New York," he said. "My priority in Albany has been to support legislation that makes it easier for companies to be located in New York to create middle class jobs and to oppose legislation that would destroy our companies and cost us jobs, whether on statewide bases or in Chautauqua County."
Goodell said he has helped local businesses face issues with the state when it comes to product delivery or licensing issues. The assemblyman said he has also been successful in co-sponsoring legislation that promotes a more business-friendly environment. The bills were to reduce health care costs, reduce taxes, reform unemployment and to give economic development incentives. Goodell said Forbes Magazine has ranked the state 46th in the nation for having the worst business costs and the Tax Foundation has ranked the state 49th for having the highest overall tax burden.
"Clearly we need to bring our tax cost structure in line with other states if we are going to be competitive," he said. "Along these lines, I have introduced or supported a reduction in the corporate tax rate, a targeted investment tax credit, a reduction in sales tax on diesel and motor fuels, and a tax credit to help businesses upgrade their staff by sending them to colleges like JCC or SUNY."
LEGISLATION - WHICH CANDIDATE CAN GET BILLS PASSED
The debate turned into a conversation on who can get more done as a legislator. The incumbent, who is part of the Assembly's Republican minority, or the challenger, who would become part of the governing body's current Democratic majority?
Mueller, who is a former county legislator, said an assemblyman who is part of the majority is four times more likely to get legislation through.
"That is a huge reason I'm running, to be in the majority. I think I can move the assembly to the middle and get legislation through that really impacts the people of Chautauqua County," he said. "You've (Goodell) gotten seven bills through and four of them are naming bridges. It sounds good, you talk a good game, but you're not going to get legislation through."
Goodell, who is in his first two-year term, said he had three times more bills than the average Democratic freshman and 1 more than the average assemblyman passed. The incumbent continued that the number of bills you pass, which was 12 for Goodell in two years, is only one measure of success. He said he pushed a bill to amend Medicaid costs for counties to bring the cap down. He said the legislation had 60 co-sponsors, with more than a dozen Democrats included. Even though it didn't pass, Gov. Andrew Cuomo put the legislation in his budget.
"You won't see a footnote that says 'Thanks Andy.' You can follow the dots because my legislation, with 60 co-sponsors, is part of the record. His budget that included it is part of the record," he said. "I work hard on building bipartisan bridges. It is all about reaching across the aisle."
REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOLS
Mueller said it is important we have an education system so those who live here will be able to find 21st century jobs. He said one way of doing this is to have regional high schools, which has been proposed in the state Legislature.
"It is important to do, not only to save money, but to make the high school education system better. There would be more chances for students if we actually consolidated some high schools. I think it can save money in administration costs and facility costs," he said. "Classes are getting smaller and smaller and can't offer as many AP (courses), and there are less language programs. We need a really good, sound education system. We can do better."
Mueller added he is more likely to get the bill for regional schools through if he is in the Assembly as a member of the majority.
Goodell said he agreed with Mueller that regional schools would improve opportunities for children, especially those in smaller districts. He said the bill, which failed to get passed because of New York City lawmakers, will be discussed again this year around budget time.
"We're going to overcome it next year to get it in the governor's budget. We're going to line up political support to put it in a format that will get passed," he said. "When the bill gets through it won't have my name on it, but my fingerprints are all over it. My mission is not to have my name on every bill. My mission is to get it passed to help people in Chautauqua County."