Kemp Hannon has been around forever — 40 years as a state legislator, 28 of those in the Senate. To his critics, his longevity is a liability. To his supporters, it’s a strength. Based on his record, we agree with his supporters.
Hannon, 70, a Republican from Garden City, remains what he always has been — smart, hardworking, diligent. As chairman of the health committee, his knowledge of complex and sometimes abstruse topics — Medicaid, health care, hospitals, nursing homes, insurance — is impressive, and his ability to explain them to colleagues is invaluable. Nowhere was that more obvious than in his work on helping the state get an $8 billion Medicaid waiver which it can use to fund health care reforms.
Hannon has been the Senate’s leader on the opioid crisis, and he was instrumental in passing a good package of bills that increases enforcement and penalties and attempts to decrease demand via treatment and education. But Hannon says rightly there is more to be done, for example, on evaluating the efficacy of drug courts and teaching the public that addiction is a disease and that treatment often fails.
Hannon also got passed a bill to ensure that caregivers of patients released from hospitals receive training in how to do that, to improve home care and reduce readmissions, and he co-sponsored a new law to make breast cancer screenings more accessible and more affordable.
On ethics, Hannon has softened his opposition to a ban on outside income for state lawmakers. That’s good. But instead of saying he could vote for a pay raise and a 15 percent cap on outside pay, he should reflect on the cesspool Albany has been during his time there and strongly advocate for that deal. We also like Hannon’s call for an overdue examination of the state government’s procurement process, and his suggestion to increase salaries for heads of big agencies to help recruit and retain good people. But his stance against the Long Island Rail Road’s third-track project is disappointing given its transformational potential.
Democrat Ryan Cronin, 35, a Garden City attorney, ran against Hannon four years ago. He is in many ways the antithesis of Hannon — less patient, more strident in expression, and lacking a deep and thorough understanding of issues ranging from education to taxes.
Cronin says the state faces a dire financial future, and the time is right for “historic” tax relief, but his proposals fall short. He wants to increase incentives for special districts to merge and reduce costs, but doesn’t know what those incentives would be and isn’t directing his pitch at school districts, where the biggest savings would accrue. Cronin would make the tax cap permanent and give bigger tax refunds to residents whose municipalities stay within it. That’s fine. However, his proposal on how to pay for that, by effectively eliminating the federal carried-interest loophole by significantly raising taxes mostly on hedge-fund high earners, is not practical and would blow up if the federal government acts on that.
Cronin has a vigorous slate of ethics reforms beyond the outside-income ban — term limits of eight years, lower limits on campaign contributions and a ban on contributions to committee members from anyone with business before the committee. But it’s not enough to tip the balance.
Newsday endorses Hannon.