In a farewell conference call with reporters on Thursday, departing Rep. John Faso spoke proudly about trying to combat from Washington during his two years in Congress two New York practices that he believes contributes to the state’s high costs and resulting exodus of businesses and people.
One is the state’s longstanding Scaffold Law, which critics blame for driving up construction costs in New York by making property owners and contractors fully responsible for any injuries that workers suffer in falls. The other is New York’s requirement that counties help shoulder the state’s massive Medicaid expenses, which are then borne by property-tax payers.
Faso, a Kinderhook Republican who lost New York’s 19th Congressional District race to Democrat Antonio Delgado last month, had sponsored a bill that would have forced New York to assume its counties’ Medicaid costs, and got it attached last year to a House bill that would have repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans’ repeal effort ultimately failed, but Faso said Thursday that he was pleased he got his amendment into the bill and raised awareness of the issue.
Faso also had a bill that would have preempted the 133-year-old Scaffold Law by prohibiting federal funding for projects that use New York’s “absolute liability” standard for falls at construction sites, instead of one of the more flexible negligence standards that every other state uses. He argues the Scaffold Law inflates taxpayer costs for public projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge by hiking the expense of liability insurance for contractors.
“I was the first member from New York to raise the issue,” Faso said during Thursday’s call, noting that that he had hoped to attach his proposal to a long-anticipated infrastructure bill that has yet to materialize.
Faso recently tried another approach by asking Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to prohibit the use of an absolute liability standard in contracts for projects receiving federal funds, such as the proposed Gateway rail tunnels under the Hudson. “On my way out the door here, I’m trying to lay down a marker,” he told reporters.
Faso said he doesn’t know yet what he will do after leaving Congress, and he dismissed as fictitious a recent report that he may seek to replace Ed Cox as chairman of the state Republican Party.
Rabbitt congratulates Metzger after final vote tally
In a Facebook message on Tuesday, Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt thanked her supporters and congratulated Jen Metzger on her victory in their 42nd Senate District race following the completion of the absentee-ballot count four weeks after the election.
“In a close election, we wanted to make sure that everyone who took the time to fill out an absentee ballot had their voice heard,” Rabbitt, a Republican from Greenwood Lake, said in the post on her Senate campaign page, her first since the day after the election. “The last of the absentees were counted and, although we did not win, I am proud of the race we ran and grateful to all who helped. I would also like to extend my sincerest congratulations to Jen and wish her well.”
Metzger, a Rosendale town councilwoman whose victory helped Democrats claim a Senate majority for the first time since 2010, had led by 2,522 votes in machine votes after the Nov. 6 election, a substantial margin that made it improbable that absentee ballots would change the outcome. As it turned out, those additional votes wound up widening Metzger’s victory, putting her on top by 3,719 votes, or 3.7 percentage points.
The 42nd District, represented by retiring Republican Sen. John Bonacic for the last 20 years, takes in Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties. Here are the final vote counts for each of those counties:
Senate Dems spent $0 on Metzger’s winning race
The Senate Democrats’ campaign arm spent heavily on James Skoufis and other candidates this fall in what turned out to be a hugely successful bid to boot Republicans from power in a chamber they have ruled for most of the last half-century.
But the campaign finance report filed last week by the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee confirmed that the party gave no money to and bought no ads and mailers for a candidate it clearly underestimated: Jen Metzger, the Rosendale councilwoman who beat Republican Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt in the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. John Bonacic in the 42nd District.
The filing by its GOP counterpart shows the New York State Republican Campaign Committee gave her opponent financial support, although not a huge amount: it spent $124,674 on campaign materials promoting Rabbitt and gave her campaign $50,000 on Nov. 1, five days before the election. But Metzger was not among the 17 candidates on which Senate Democrats reported spending as much as $617,000.
The two parties invested a lot more in the 39th Senate District race, in which Skoufis, a three-term assemblyman from Woodbury, beat Republican Tom Basile, a Stony Point councilman. Last week’s campaign filings show Democrats spent $573,470 on Skoufis and gave his campaign $230,000 on Oct. 30, and Republicans spent $378,593 on Basile and gave his campaign $118,000 on Oct. 24.