September 27, 2006

Bailey Hall Hosts Faso Debating Spitzer

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All eyes were on Ithaca last night as the two leading candidates for governor of New York fielded questions from a media panel during a spirited debate aired on live TV across the state.
Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer and former State Assemblyman John J. Faso spelled out what they felt was wrong with New York and the directions they planned to take the state as governor.
Spitzer, who recently defeated Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi in the Democratic Party primary to claim his party’s nomination, leads Faso by more than 50 percent, according to a recent Siena Research Institute poll.
In last night’s debate he focused his message on reforming and revitalizing the state government.
“The status quo is not behind me; it’s in front of me, and I’ve got dead aim at it,” Spitzer said.
In response to one of the most biting questions of the evening, which came in the extra time at the end of the debate, Faso criticized Spitzer for endorsing the re-election of State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, one of Spitzer’s Democratic allies. Recent revelations show that Hevesi illegally let his wife use a state worker as a chauffeur for more than three years; Hevesi offered this week to pay the state more than $82,000 for the services.
“[Hevesi is] an honest, stupendous public servant … What Alan did was wrong; he has apologized; he has paid back,” Spitzer said. “If anybody on my watch did that, trust me, there would be very serious consequences.”
“Alan Hevesi stole $82,000 from the people of the State … [he] should resign his office because he’s abused his public trust,” Faso retorted.
Spitzer mentioned improving economic development — hiring the most qualified people, leveraging intellectual capital and cutting property taxes — focusing on the middle class, and making sure all children have health insurance as some of his top priorities.
Faso also said that young people are leaving New York to take jobs elsewhere. His platform is centered on tax cuts, decreased spending and drawing more businesses to the state.
“We’re losing the future,” Faso said.
Tax cuts, gay marriage, the death penalty and healthcare were the major topics of the debate.
“We need the death penalty re-instated in New York State for all crimes,” Faso said in response to a question posed by Dominic Carter of NY1 News.
He argued that, with DNA evidence now widely available, capital punishment makes sense. Spitzer, on the other hand, argued that the death penalty is appropriate for convicted terrorists and cop killers but there are other approaches for street crime.
“We should concentrate our efforts on drugs, guns and gangs,” Spitzer said.
Jim Aroune, R News anchor, asked whether each candidate would sign a bill legalizing gay marriage.
“I would veto it,” Faso said to hisses from the audience, while Spitzer said that he would sign such a bill in favor of gay marriage, but when pressed as to how high of a priority the issue is, he said that his top priority is improving the economy in New York State.
Faso, who stressed tax cuts as a key solution to bolstering the state’s economy, accused Spitzer of planning to raise taxes to pay for government services.
“There will be no tax increase in a Spitzer administration,” Spitzer said.
When asked how he would pay for universal healthcare, Spitzer mentioned some approaches would include targeting chronic diseases, providing preventive care, infusing information technology into healthcare, buying generic drugs and closing hospitals.
When questioned by Erica Fink ’07, panelist and editor-in-chief of The Sun, about making safe abortions available to all women, Faso said that though he is pro-life, he would uphold the court rulings legalizing abortion, though he would support required parental notification.
“You called Roe v. Wade a black mark on the Constitution,” Spitzer said, arguing that abortion should be an action of last resort but that it should be the woman’s choice.
In terms of education, when Spitzer advocated more funding for K-12 education as well as state universities, Faso said that such a move would result in a tax increase.
Responding to a question on the importance of protecting the environment, Faso said, “We need to have a balance between protecting the environment and promoting economic development.”
Spitzer accused Faso of being extreme and out of the main stream of his own party by opposing a bill to clean up the Hudson River that was supported by incumbent Gov. George Pataki (R) as well as the Bush administration.
Spitzer asked Faso to account for being called “out of touch and an embarrassment by your own party” and for voting against bills to not force rape victims to take a lie detector test and giving women equal pay for equal work. Faso replied that the bill would provide equal pay for different work and that he did prevail despite not being supported by his party initially.
“It was clear that Spitzer took the day,” said Mike Walsh grad after the debate.
Wearing a “Faso” T-shirt, Travis Desentis, Syracuse resident, said, “I think John Faso did very well.”
In reference to the environmental questions, Ronnie Solomon ’09 said, “I feel like they could’ve gotten a little more specific; they went on a tangent about bottled water taxes instead of talking about global warming.”
“It was very clear that Eliot Spitzer is a man of principle and action and when he talks about changing New York fundamentally, he means it,” said Tompkins County Legislator Nathan Shinagawa ’05 (D-4th).