April 17 marks one year since I began serving our region in the New York State Assembly. This past year has been extraordinary on many fronts: Being sworn in that day to the Assembly, working with my diverse colleagues from both sides of the aisle and across the state to pass our recent on time budget, and traversing our beautiful but disparate district — from the southern tip of the Town of Poughkeepsie to the northern end of the Town of Ghent — to meet with constituents through our Diner Stop Tour.
I am proud to say I have kept the promises I made by being a full-time legislator; keeping an open door policy for all my constituents whether we agree or disagree on the issues; refusing to take per diems and travel expenses; and continuing to fight every day to revitalize our economy, create local jobs and bring tax relief to our middle-class families, small businesses and farmers. Since day one I have been committed to assuring that Mid-Hudson Valley families have a voice in Albany.
Building on the success of our Diner Stop Mobile District Office — meeting one-on-one with scores of constituents at more than a dozen diners and coffee houses across the district –this year we launched the Where the Jobs Are Tour. In just the last two months I have visited nine local businesses – with many more scheduled — to talk face to face with employers about issues facing their companies or institutions. Through these conversations, as well as my participation on the two Regional Economic Development Councils that overlap the district, my office is engaged in finding the best ways to help local businesses grow and make New York State more business-friendly.
As a member of the committees on Agriculture and Economic Development I have made it a priority to shine a spotlight on the critical role our family farms and food related businesses play in New York State. Even in this challenging economic climate, agriculture has been one of the great success stories in the Hudson Valley where young farmers are literally putting down roots, farm breweries, wineries and distilleries are on the rise and artisan cheeses and yogurt are giving new hope to dairy farmers. The craft brewery legislation of our last session has led to a renewed interest in growing hops, a crop once prevalent in the Hudson Valley when it was the breadbasket of our young nation.
I fought hard in this year’s budget process to restore funding for local apple growers, dairy farmers, maple syrup producers, and the Farm Viability Institute, which supports the business of farming for small and mid-sized farms. Also in the budget is the new Market-NY initiative, which will help promote locally produced goods, bolster regional tourism and expand agricultural options.
I fought successfully, as well, for increased funding to our struggling Hudson Valley school districts. We owe it to our children and to our communities to provide the best possible education for the next generation of leaders. By the same token, we cannot expect to attract and grow businesses in our region if we do not have strong schools for working families to send their children.
My favorite part of this job remains the work I do in the district to support and advocate for our towns, villages and community organizations. After last year’s toxic chemical fire at TCI Inc. in West Ghent, I helped organize a widely attended meeting to provide residents in the area with answers from federal, state and local officials.
There is still much to be done in this legislative session. As a lifelong advocate for women and children, I welcome the focus the Women’s Equality Agenda has put on issues like pay equity, domestic violence and reproductive health. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo on passing this critical legislation. Additionally, before this session is done, we must make meaningful campaign reform a reality. The public and elected officials deserve a fair and open election process that restores faith in democracy and makes public service a worthy job choice once again.
It has been my honor to represent this beautiful and diverse district. This year has seen many successes for us all and I look forward to continuing to bring the voices of Mid-Hudson families to Albany. Please feel free to contact me at 518-455-5177 or email BarrettD@assembly.state.ny.us.