Emily Martz has spent months on the road campaigning for the 45th Senate District.
Again and again, health care, broadband and workforce development have emerged as the dominant concerns facing local residents, she said.
Martz, a Democrat, is running against state. Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), who is seeking a ninth term.
“The overall message is that it’s time for a fresh voice,” Martz told The Sun’s Editorial Board.
Martz, a former Democratic candidate for New York’s 21st Congressional District, said ever-rising health insurance premiums are crippling families, seniors, small businesses and local government, about of one-third of whose annual budgets are consumed by health care costs.
The un- and underinsured continue to use emergency rooms as a primary care source.
And oftentimes working class parents with young children must grapple with the difficult decision to either stay unemployed in order to stay on Medicaid, or go back to work and have subpar health insurance programs with high deductibles.
“We absolutely must reform the system,” said Martz, who supports the New York Health Act. “I do think that universal health care should be taken care at the national level, but it won’t be, and so I think it’s the responsibility of state leaders to figure out how to get everyone access to affordable, quality health care.”
The New York Health Act calls for $139 billion in new state tax revenue by 2022 generated by payroll and income taxes, according to a non-partisan report by the RAND Corporation, and would join premiums, employer contributions and out-of-pocket costs.
The report says the program would save the system $15 billion, or about 3.1 percent, by 2031.
The system would ultimately help control costs, Martz said, and improve health outcomes.
“It would use the same monies that are being used now, only we would pay in differently,” said Martz, citing the RAND report.
Martz acknowledged the word “taxes” scares people away from single-payer health care.
“Workers would have the money come out of their paycheck and then when they get sick and need to go to the doctor, they just go to the doctor,” Martz said. “There are no other additional costs.”
Martz said costs for residents receiving care across state lines would be covered by the legislation, but the exact fees for services would have to be negotiated by stakeholders.
“That should not be passed quickly. That should be deliberated and worked on carefully,” Martz said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing the state legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would protect abortion rights in the event Roe v. Wade is overturned by codifying the landmark case into state law.
If elected, Martz said she would support the legislation.
“It’s becoming more likely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned at the federal level,” said Martz, who said rollbacks would portend women again becoming second-class citizens.
The 45th District comprises all of Clinton, Essex, Franklin and Warren counties and parts of St. Lawrence and Washington.
Broadband is critical to attracting new people and businesses to the area, said Martz, a former economic development expert with the Adirondack North Country Association.
The state’s universal broadband program has had some “great success,” said the candidate.
But she expressed concerns that the satellite service awarded through the final round of grants is inadequate and “last-mile” areas may be left unserved at the end of the program, which was originally scheduled to conclude by the end of 2018. (Providers who received funding as part of the third and final round of grant packages can apply for one-year waivers to complete their projects.)
If elected, Martz she would research what funding opportunities are available at the federal level — if any, she said, citing what she said was a lack of a comprehensive infrastructure program — as well what opportunities exist for collaboration with private companies.
A renewed data-collection process by local officials will help define specifically which areas may be left uncovered, said Martz, and she’ll zero in on the exact amount of funding needed.
All of this should be done in tandem with improving cellular coverage, she said.
Martz said she believed she could find the sweet spot between higher cell towers and concerns voiced by environmentalists over their visibility.
“There has to be a way to both,” Martz said. “I’m a firm believer that it’s not a, ‘We can’t do it, but how do we do it?’”
Martz said the pending shortage of skilled tradesmen is problematic.
Small family-owned businesses are concerned over what will happen once they retire in the absence of successors or willing buyers, she said.
“There’s no one coming up the pipeline to become the next plumber in town,” Martz said.
Martz hailed the region’s vocational programs, but called for apprentice-type programs that would also connect students with small business owners.
“There has to be a way to figure it out,” Martz said.
And when it comes to education, Martz also would support a “clean bill” that will permanently decouple the relationship between student test scores and teacher evaluations.
One-third of the state’s teachers will retire in the next seven to eight years, said Martz, and reducing the reliance on evaluations would likely encourage more educators to go into the field.
As Albany continues to be mired in corruption scandals, Martz said she supports broader ethics reforms.
“Outside income should be either eliminated or severely restricted,” Martz said. “While it’s not a silver bullet, term limits could also go a long way to minimizing corruption.”
More oversight of state agencies is also needed, she said.
The state’s regional economic development program has pumped approximately $550 million in investment to the North Country since 2011 — including $10 million each to Glens Falls, Plattsburgh and the Village of Saranac Lake as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).
“Any true investment in an area is always a good thing,” said Martz, who has been involved in the Saranac Lake’s DRI grant application process.
Democrats are gunning for a full takeover of the Republican-controlled state Senate on Nov. 6.
Martz is feeling optimistic.
“It is with great certainty that the Democrats will be in the majority in the state Senate,” she said.
Despite the rancor at the national level, the divide in Albany isn’t so much a blue vs. red split, said Martz, but rather one of majority vs. minority politics — which is why it’s so important she flips the seat next week.
Cuomo appears to be on track for a third term, leading GOP opponent Marc Molinaro by double digits, according to the latest Siena College poll.
Martz fears upstate will lose clout in a Democratic-controlled state government.
As a member of the majority, she said she can work to safeguard those interests, as well as put a check on New York City-centric policies that may put upstate at a disadvantage.
“If you’re a majority, then you have a voice at the table,” Martz said.
She, too, is frustrated, at the polarized political climate.
But rather than arguing, she said civil discourse between people who disagree is possible, and stressed the need for honest discussions designed to find out how to find common ground.
Martz said she’s not naive and that navigating Albany is different than having heartfelt discussions with her neighbors, an anecdote she has frequently shared on the campaign trail.
“It won’t be easy to work across party lines,” Martz said. “But it is something that I’m absolutely committed to doing because our state won’t move forward in a good way, and our nation won’t move forward in a good way, if we don’t have lawmakers who are unwilling to invite people who think differently to the table and work out, and to figure out, how to find common ground.”