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STATE REFORM IS ON MINDS OF CANDIDATES FOR ASSEMBLY

Ideas for reforming state government, particularly the budget system, dominated the conversation Tuesday night among the three candidates for the 146th District Assembly seat.

About 100 people turned out for a candidates night in Union-Pleasant Elementary School in Hamburg sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Those hoping to see sparks fly were in for a disappointment as the candidates for the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Richard Smith, D-Hamburg, all concentrated on their own accomplishments and goals and didn't take any significant verbal shots at their opponents.

They took plenty of shots at Albany, however, and agreed reform of the Legislature and budget process is mandatory.

Francis J. Pordum, who captured the Democratic nomination in the primary, spoke of the reform legislation he was involved during his 14 years in the Assembly, before running for Congress.

He said he understands the system and will be ready to go to work on Jan. 1 without on-the-job training.

He said he has seen some improvement in the budget process and the creation of an independent Budget Office "will save two months" as all sides will have the same numbers.

Republican Jack Quinn said legislators should be required to stay in Albany until a budget is adopted and not consider any other legislation in the meantime.

Patrick H. Hoak, Hamburg supervisor who has the Conservative and Independence lines, said towns are required by law to have a budget in place or the supervisor's budget automatically goes into effect and the state should have to live by the same laws it imposes on others.

A question from the audience asked if they would vote to keep Sheldon Silver as speaker of the Assembly.

Quinn said he won't be voting for him and Pordum told him the Republican Conference "would kill you if you did."

Hoak would not commit himself and said that as an independent "I think I can be open to both sides of the aisle."

Pordum said Silver has been a strong supporter of public education and the struggle to reach agreement on education issues is part of the reason the budget has been late.

But, he said "If the speaker doesn't want change (in the budget process) then it's time for a new speaker."

All three said they oppose increasing the sales tax to solve the county's budget problems and called for Medicare reform.

Again Pordum was able to claim some success in that area while in the Assembly.

Quinn said he supports a five-year plan for a state takeover of what he referred to as "the Cadillac of Medicare systems."

Hoak said there has been a lack of vision in dealing with the problem and asked, "What happened to the $250 million in tobacco money" the county received?

Others who spoke included congressional candidate Nancy Naples (but not Democratic opponent Brian M. Higgins); State Sen. William T. Stachowski (but not Republican opponent Julieanne Mazurkiewicz); Family Court candidates Deborah A. Haendiges and Marge Olszewski Szczur; and State Supreme Court candidates Paula Feroleto and Frank Caruso.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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