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Long Island 9 not delivering for working LIers

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos is sworn in

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos is sworn in as his wife Gail holds a Bible and Judge Thomas Adams administers the oath during a ceremony at the State Capitol in Albany on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. Judge Thomas Adams, left, administers the oath. Skelos' father, Basil Skelos, is second from left and his son, Adam Skelos, is at right. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

Every two years, Long Island's state senators -- currently all Republicans -- argue that we should re-elect them because they are effective in getting our fair share of the resources from Albany. While Long Island sends more than $8 billion to Albany every year, the argument goes, only these nine men -- they are all men -- know how to get Long Islanders their fair share.

The problem is that the Long Island Nine are not delivering the results they promise to working families.

I've lived and paid taxes on Long Island since the late 1990s. Hardworking Long Island families like mine just want our fair share. Next year, my husband, daughter and I will become citizens, and we're excited to be able to vote in the 2016 State Senate elections. This year's budget process underscores that the senators -- including Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre -- either don't have the political clout or the interest in getting our region all of the resources it truly deserves.

This year's largest budget item was a windfall $5 billion from recent bank settlements. While Long Island has roughly 3 million residents (nearly one-sixth of the state population), Long Islanders will share less than 10 percent of the bank settlement money with New York City and other non-upstate regions. It's hard to feel like sharing one-tenth of the pie are the results that our senators should be delivering.

It's the same story on other Long Island funding priorities.

In Nassau, for instance, County Executive Mangano sought $700 million in the state budget to fix the Bay Park sewage treatment plant. Were the senate Republicans able to deliver for their Republican friend? No.

The needs of working-class and low-income Long Islanders have received particularly short shrift from our senators. The cost of living is soaring, and, while corporate profits have surged, wages have stagnated. Scores of Long Islanders would benefit from a minimum-wage increase to help hardworking people make ends meet and stimulate local spending.

While Assembly members like Phil Ramos, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and Michaelle Solages pushed hard for a minimum-wage increase, the Long Island Nine fought to exclude a minimum-wage increase from the final budget.

Finally, on school funding: Long Island senators did come together with our Assembly members to ensure that the state budget provided more new school aid than the governor proposed. But our senators have not pushed for the type of funding that would most benefit communities like mine. Instead of focusing on Foundation Aid funding, which prioritizes the districts that need funding most, they have pushed most for funding through a different formula (the Gap Elimination Adjustment), which helps high-needs districts less.

As a grandmother who wants a more just and fair Long Island for my grandchildren, it's important that we have elected leaders who will stand up for issues like the minimum wage and helping the schools that need it most. When I look at these issues together, my conclusion is clear: The Long Island Republican delegation is not listening to the voices of working families.

Norma Barrientos is a member of the Make the Road Action Fund, an immigrant advocacy organization.


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