Marc Molinaro: New Yorkers deserve better

Marc Molinaro
Marc Molinaro speaking at the Association for a Better New York power breakfast on October 30th. Image: ABNY.

Marc Molinaro, Republican candidate for Governor of New York, spoke Tuesday morning in Manhattan at an event hosted by the Association for a Better New York. His speech is reprinted here with his campaign’s permission.

Good morning. Thank you all for being here. And thank you for having me. I appreciate your giving me this platform to say it. In a sense, with just a week before election day, this is my closing argument – and i believe the message is more resonant and more important than when this campaign started.

I also want to extend my gratitude to the hardworking members of the news media who are with us this morning and every day. We sometimes forget to say that, and we shouldn’t. Not in times like these. Your work is difficult; you’re underpaid and underappreciated, and without you, democracy cannot survive.

That’s Molinaro: M-O-L-I-N-A-R-O.

Kidding aside, thank you for writing the first drafts of history each day. I may not like the version of every story, but I always respect the dignity and importance of your profession. More importantly, I respect our constitution, which specifically guarantees freedom of the press. the press is not the enemy of the people, that is a dangerous concept – it’s not the enemy because the press, at its best, is of the people..

Let me also take a moment to speak about the dangerous political environment that’s threatening our nation right now. That’s roiling our nation.

The anger and hatred and 24/7 infighting has to stop, and people of goodwill must be the ones to stop it. We have such extraordinary blessings as Americans, and we are putting them at greater and greater risk by the day. Anger is consuming us a nation. And it has to stop.

The mail bombs last week, and the sickening synagogue attack in Pittsburgh on Saturday make us weep as Americans. As human beings.

Men and women in their 90s, who witnessed the Holocaust and the Nazi defeat in 1945, end up dying in a hail of bullets in America???

As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Jews were killed in a synagogue. They were killed because they are Jews. The location was chosen because it is a synagogue.”

Antisemitism is on the rise – hate and division of all kinds, on the rise.

This is not who we are. This is not who were are. This is not who we are, and yet it’s happening. It has to stop.

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant,” Bobby Kennedy once said. “The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

Yes, yes, and yes.

What Bobby Kennedy said was right on, just as his call was for love and not hate in Indianapolis following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King 50 years ago.

The hatred has to stop. Love has to prevail. And it needs to begin with each of us. Each of us — especially those of us in public office — we must police our own words. Apparently we must police our own tweets. That goes from the President Trump on down to Governor Cuomo and even to the city council member. We’re all responsible for what we say. We set the tone.

Which is why yesterday in the wake of the bomb scares and the massacre in Pittsburgh I challenged Governor Cuomo to join me in an effort to set an example of civility. Sadly our governor believes the answer to incivility is just more incivility.

Like he proved at our debate.

I said then and I say now, you deserve better, New Yorkers deserve better – they deserve a better tone, they deserve a better culture, they deserve better outcomes and they deserve our better angels.

But we must also speak out when we see wrong. Senator Kennedy reminded us as well: “Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted, when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice,” he said.

That’s right, too.

I hope that’s what I have done as a candidate for governor in your eyes, because that’s what I intended to do, forcefully but respectfully. I’ve spoken out against rampant, unacceptable corruption in New York, and against those in my own party when they’ve crossed the line.

Part of the anger that is out there ladies and gentlemen is because the average working New Yorker believes the system is rigged.

As they wait on a failing subway system;

As they ride on crumbling roads;

As they pay sky high property taxes;

As they see our core services and infrastructure crumble while gilded monuments to our governor are erected around the state.

They are right- it’s rigged.

You know it -many of you are part of it.

Every interest group, association, civic organization and media outlet that has bent to the governors cajoling, bullying and giveaways – is part of it.

You are not alone, trust me – but own it – with the knowledge that while the rewards are there today – in the long run, your customers, your employees – young people, retirees, – the people who do most of the real work in this state are being left behind. It is going to catch up with us.

This is not about whether I win or lose this election – it’s about whether New Yorkers will continue down a path of callous incompetence and corruption.

I hope that at least some of you have you have heard my message of reform. What we haven’t been able to do with New York City paid media, we’ve made up for with shoe leather. We’ve left bits of it in every corner of this state.

Which brings me here today…

They say in politics, know your audience. And while I don’t know each of you personally, I do know how to read a campaign finance report — so I come here with the most marvelous news!

If I’m elected governor on November 6th, I’ll save you and ABNY’s membership millions of dollars right off the bat.

I can say that because, as governor, I’m going to make it illegal for New York politicians to shake you down. That’s the best pitch I’ve got for you today, and if you take away anything from this breakfast, please take away that.

If you have business before New York State, or if you’re pitching business, you’ll be unable to donate, and state officeholders will be banned, prohibited, forbidden from taking your money when I’m governor. It’s an obvious, overdue reform, and I’m going to pass it.

You see? I should have been here two months ago. I’m already saving you money.

I know many of you, but not all of you, so let me tell you a little bit about who I am as a person and what informs me for starters.

The truth is I’m no one special. If I weren’t in public office, you might brush past me on a crowded #6 Train and not even notice. And yet I stand before you this morning as a major party candidate for Governor of New York. The most extraordinary thing about this nation might be that stories like mine aren’t even uncommon. Only in America.

I don’t come from wealth or fame. There are no buildings or theaters named after my family. I’m just an everyday New Yorker with a calling and some know-how.

My roots inform me; they give me insight and empathy and humility in my decisions as a county executive, and, hopefully, as a governor.

I learned about humility, especially, as a boy. It’s hard not to feel it when the cereal you shove in your mouth before school is paid for with food stamps. When you listen to your single mom, in her early 30’s, whispering into the phone, begging the electric company to keep the lights on, in hopes that her sons in the next room won’t hear.

You learn humility when God hands your family gifts others may consider challenges. You’re thankful for your blessings, and march forward gratefully, faithfully each day.

The family I come from is like so many others in New York. Ethnic. Working class. Unremarkable to outsiders. First in Yonkers — on Willow Street with grandparents downstairs — and later in Dutchess, or the “country” as they called it.

Life growing up was real. There was divorce and abandonment — patches on the Wrangler jeans — but there was mostly faith and love, and it prevailed. We believed in ourselves and in one another. We believed in our neighbors. And most importantly, we believed in tomorrow, and still do.

I tell you my early background not for effect, but because it’s who I am. I suspect many of you share similar stories, or your parents or grandparents did. And yet we’re all here.

I also say it because I want New Yorkers to realize that this candidate for governor knows what it means to struggle. That I know what it’s like to need a helping hand — and that it infuriates me — like it does them rightly so — to see precious resources squandered, as they are being today. Squandered and sold.

I remember standing in line with my mom one morning at the social services offices. I was seven or eight. Maybe the woman behind the counter had a bad day — whatever it was — I’ll never forget the stinging humiliation I felt watching her berate my mom in front of a room full of people, and my mother not being able to do anything about it. There was my mom — she is everything to me; a proud and beautiful woman — there she was hat in hand, enduring because she had to feed her sons. And I had to stand there and watch as her dignity was challenged because we had no choice. I’ve never forgotten that.

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in genuine need go through that everyday, and their sons and daughters, too. I know how they feel. Small. Insignificant. Shamed.

I got into government because I wanted to do something about that. I knew there was good in government, but there was also indignity and waste.

Making government work better was a gift I was given, and I use it proudly and unapologetically. I can’t rebuild a transmission, but I can manage a government. It’s what I do.

God knows I got an early start. In 1995, the outgoing mayor of my town asked me to run for mayor after I had served a term on the town council. So, I ran home and asked my mom would it be okay I run for mayor, and she said ‘yes.’

I was elected mayor of Tivoli, NY, population 1300, at age 19. It made me the youngest mayor in America.

Trust me, I wasn’t elected because of my good looks or political affiliation (we ran without party labels). I was elected because I was Marc, the kid at the deli people trusted.

My neighbors knew I was in it for the right reasons. They knew I actually cared about Tivoli and the people who live there. They knew I’d be a straight-shooter, that I’d say it the way I see it, regardless of political affiliation.

Since day one, I’ve kept that clear and simple governing philosophy: do what works best; fix what’s broken; when you make a mistake, admit it. Make it right. My neighbors seemed to appreciate that, sending me to the state Assembly and making me their two-time county executive.

I’m not pursuing the governorship to pontificate. Nor, do I have any interest in shoving my opinions down other people’s throats.

My job as governor will be delivering affordable and accountable government. It’s results I’m after.

For the past several months I have been rolling out detailed plans to make New York State a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

I’ve issued specific prescriptions to smash Albany corruption, revitalize the MTA, cut the property tax load 30% statewide, help small businesses become larger businesses, and end bigotry against physically and developmentally disabled New Yorkers, among other things.

Today, I’ll be rolling out a statewide opportunity agenda to address the terrible economic disparity we’re seeing between downstate and upstate. And make no mistake about it: it’s real. A report by the respected Empire Center for Public Policy just revealed how badly upstate New York is falling behind the rest of America. Twenty-two upstate counties still haven’t recovered from the 2008 recession. More than a million upstaters have fled New York over the past eight years alone. It’s real real.

The property tax relief we’ll deliver is going to be revolutionary. It will bring us more in line with other states that are growing the good jobs, enticing the innovators and welcoming the New York families we’re losing. We’re talking about an approximate $30 billion savings for New York families and small businesses going forward. And you know what? It’s going to blow the doors off this state — off the economy, off the real estate market, off the jobs market. Off. The. Charts.

New Yorkers will keep significantly more money in their paychecks, money they now hand over to a bloated, burdensome state government.

Who do you think will spend that money better? The family next door or some bureaucracy in Albany that hasn’t been audited in 80 years? Ask my friend Wai Wah Chin who’s here with me today. He’ll tell you.

Sales tax revenue will grow as families have money to finally repaint that home, and as new homes are built and businesses move in. All those upstate college students – they’ll be able to stay in New York and put down roots. It’s been too long since that’s happened. Today they get an education and flee south or west – and with them their innovation, talent and potential.

New York just passed a budget in excess of $168 billion. The savings are there. We will find them. You have my word. We will lead real – local centered – shared services as I have done in Dutchess. We will modernize an outmoded state government to achieve efficiencies and we will eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse that is stealing from our taxpayers. It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be easier than landing a job in Upstate New York these days, finding an affordable one bedroom in Brooklyn, or being a single working mom.

And what’s out?

The multi-billion-dollar pay-for-play-giveaways. Gone. Yesterday.

Corporate welfare. Gone. Yesterday. We’re going to make New York attractive for ALL businesses.

Wasteful, duplicative, redundant overlapping agencies. Gone. Yesterday.

Budget-busting Medicaid payments from counties. Gone. Yesterday.

New York will finally take responsibility – improve how we help those in need and achieve efficiencies. That alone will save us around $3 billion a year;

Medicaid fraud. Gone. Yesterday. Unless you want to lose your medical license and go to jail.

Backdoor borrowing and garbage accounting that hides our true debt. Gone. Yesterday. It’s dishonest and dangerous.

One of my first jobs was mucking horse stalls. Well, we are going to do a little mucking in Albany.

To accomplish this, we’re going to empower New Yorkers, advocates and stakeholders, embrace every good idea and welcome anyone honestly and earnestly willing to make the change we need. We will recruit the best and brightest from our colleges and businesses to audit this state government, reform this state government and revitalize New York. What we have now is outdated, outmoded and antiquated — 20th-Century government at its worst.

We will move New York government into the 21st-Century – zero-based budgeting from day one, no agency gets a dime until it can show we are getting what we pay for.

If an agency is just pushing around papers, it’s a former agency.

If a commission hasn’t met and merely occupies space. I’m shutting it down.

If it’s an agency that’s working well, task force meeting its goals or program achieving its outcomes, it will be emulated.

We’re going to tap into the ingenuity of state workers and the genius of Silicon Alley and our upstate tech communities to streamline service delivery for those in need, making services less expensive and more effective. We’re going to do it systematically and in every department of state government.

I’m here today to announce that yesterday is over. Tomorrow is approaching. It’s coming because it has to. We’ve reached our breaking point. We’ve got to get smart. We have to be compassionate. We must put New Yorkers paying the bills first.

To break the constant consumption of power and end the lack of accountability, I will demand a vote for term limits. Our government is stale and our people deserve new energy and new ideas. We need to bring passion back to government and revitalize democracy in New York.

To combat corruption and end the pay-to-play schemes infecting our government I will immediately empanel a real Moreland Commission to follow the corruption, uncover the crimes and bring offenders to justice. And, yes, I’ll ask Professor Zephyr Teachout and Preet Bharara to play a role.

We will establish a truly independent ethics commission, adopt a universal ethics code and empower an open government, public information watchdog. We will seek to expand the freedom of information law to include all branches, all divisions and all agencies of state government. And, we will end no-bid contracts, empower independent oversight of state agency procurement and fully implement a database of deals so the press and public knows how their money is being spent and who is awarded contracts.

As governor, I’m also going to do away with the Death Tax. It’s a killer on family-owned businesses. It’s double taxation, and it’s wrong.

How many small businesses and family farms has the Death Tax already shuttered in this state? How many jobs has it cost us?

I’ll also work to re-empower communities wherever possible — returning power from Albany to our towns, villages, and cities.

These are some of things I have been talking about since I entered this race in April. And I have provided specific plans to back it up. Take a look at my MTA plan if you get a chance. It’s on my website, and I think it will interest you.

The point is that New York can do better. We don’t have to take this anymore. We don’t have to have the highest taxes in America or the third worst business climate or the highest regulatory burden among states. New York doesn’t HAVE to be the worst place to retire in America or the least free among the 50 states. Our energy costs don’t need to be ridiculous, and our subway construction doesn’t have to cost seven times the international average. We can do better if we demand better, and that’s what my campaign’s been about.

Demanding better. Expecting better. And believing in state government again. Thank you for having me. God bless each of you. I’ll be happy to take any questions you might have.

Thank you.

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