October 29, 2008

Sen. Seward Visits Cornell, Stresses Higher Education

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Yesterday, State Sen. James L. Seward’s (R-District 51) campaign stopped at Cornell to enjoy coffee and talk politics with members of the University staff. With Don Barber (D-Caroline) running as Seward’s first opponent in eight years, Seward emphasized his belief in and support for higher education to the group amidst trying economic times.
“No question, we are facing a tough time at the state capital with the problems on Wall Street,” he explained, “Over twenty percent of state revenues come from lower Manhattan … but ultimately, we must rebuild and diversify our economy, and higher education is a key component in doing that.”
He pointed to Cornell as a prime example of a higher education institution that stimulates the economy. Cornell hires a skilled and educated workforce from in and outside of Upstate New York, produces goods for consumers through research and purchases products and services from the local area. These components can translate to more money and jobs in the local economy.
In addition to Cornell, Seward’s district includes several state universities and community colleges. He highlighted the restorations to the Tuition Assistance Program, which gives need-based grants to students, and the establishment of the New York Center for Rural Schools at Cornell, which serves rural schools and communities across New York State, as evidence of a priority shift in favor of higher education.
Yet Seward still has doubts about whether higher education will be a strong component of the legislature’s agenda.
“The governor has been treating the SUNY schools as just another budget cut. After a 2-percent budget cut, he was looking for another six,” Seward stated. “The governor does not recognize the unfairness of mid-year cuts during an academic year, and may not fully understand the positive impact that higher education has on our economy.”
Apart from higher education, the senator touched on several other issues within NYS. In order to provide incentives to work in Upstate N.Y., the legislature introduced “Upstate Now.” The comprehensive program aims to cut taxes and invest in economic development initiatives to create new jobs and help stimulate the economy. Seward also spoke about the need for broadband and wireless access in all areas in Upstate New York to attract businessman.
He discussed the need for commitment to agriculture and farmers within the district. He mentioned the Senate for Dairy Excellence and the Viability Institute as two key organizations that help farmers and must continue to receive state funding.
Finally, Seward pledged his support to help Cornell win a $500 million construction project from the National Science Foundation to help research the next generation light source.
Reactions to the discussion were mostly positive. Linda McCandless, director of communications in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, “I was happy to hear his support for higher education.”
Similarly, Stephen Philip Johnson, vice president of government and community relations, believed that it was “a very successful presentation.”
Others, however, wished that more could have been addressed.
Ari Epstein, the assistant director of the Office of Assemblies, explained, “I would have liked to have heard more about what the Senator would do about healthcare, especially because healthcare has been steadily rising for Cornell employees. Although I understand that we were under time constraints.”