Democratic State Senate Candidates Discuss Upstate/Downstate Power Balance

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TOMPKINS COUNTY, NY (WSKG) – Three Democratic candidates for New York State Senate held an online forum on Tuesday night to discuss how upstate communities can gain more influence in the state legislature.

Leslie Danks Burke, Jim Barber and Jim Mannion are each running to represent parts of the Southern Tier and Central New York.

Over the course of an hour, the three agreed that the power imbalance is a significant problem. Danks Burke described one way that upstate residents feel the division.

Screen capture, Celia Clarke/WSKG Public Radio

Democratic State Senate candidates: Jim Mannion (top, right); Leslie Danks Burke (bottom, right); Jim Barber (bottom, left). Moderator Liz Benjamin (top, left). (Celia Clarke/WSKG)

“Right now, in New York, the middle class is subsidizing the top. Most of the top lives in New York City,” Danks Burke said. “That’s the upstate/downstate divide.”

Danks Burke is running against incumbent Tom O’Mara in the 58th state senate district, which includes Elmira and Ithaca.

Jim Barber said one place where change should be made with taxes. Barber is running against Peter Oberacker in the 51st state senate district, which includes Oneonta and Cortland. The incumbent Republican, James Seward, is retiring after this year.

“When the state pushes the cost of Medicaid down onto the counties where the main sources of revenue is property taxes that have no relation to income, then you have a very unfair tax system,” Barber said.

Barber thinks a more fair taxation system for the entire state would be one in which people pay what they can afford. He said that would include taxing financial transactions that provide a large portion of wealth for New Yorkers in the financial sector.

Other topics discussed include more equitable funding for the poorest school districts, the quality of drinking water and the agricultural economy.