My family has lived, worked and contributed to the Hudson Valley community for seven generations. This is our home. Our outlook on life is informed by the long-held values of our communities — hard work, personal accountability, honesty, and good neighborliness.
I was raised in Dutchess County. I went to public schools here. My father published the area newspaper for 40 years and I grew up talking about the issues of the day around our kitchen table. In my youth, sports were my passion. But as I grew into adulthood, my interests quickly evolved into the issues of the day — the issues that affected the lives of my friends and neighbors.
One thing I noticed in my early twenties was that career opportunities were drying up here. Businesses were leaving, and so were many of my friends. At the same time, the cost of living continued to rise. Home prices and property taxes became prohibitive barriers to living here — particularly for those who could not find good paying jobs.
I studied hard in school, eventually earning a MBA and a law degree from Fordham University. I went on to work in the administrations of New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg in the government restructuring and economic development arenas. I witnessed there first-hand how an improved government can foster job growth. I am using those hard-earned skills today as a successful management consultant with a firm of significant size.
As a husband and a father of two children, my dream is to help the Hudson Valley reclaim its economic health and preserve its natural beauty. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents — and their great grandparents — carved out good lives here, and I am going to do my part in making sure that my children and theirs have the opportunity to continue that tradition.
I know how government works, and I know how to improve it. I have done it under two legendary New York mayors. I also know every stick, stone, and hamlet in this district. My deep local knowledge of what we need here in Columbia and Dutchess counties is, I believe, the greatest asset for the job I seek.
I have also seen up-close-and-personal what it means to struggle. After graduating from Providence College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I took a vow of poverty and dedicated almost three years of my life to the challenges affecting some of our nation’s poorest residents. Volunteerism is important to me — to how I was raised — and I currently serve as a board officer of an affordable housing program in Birmingham, Alabama, a board member of the Dutchess County based non-profit, Hudson River Housing and the Hudson Valley Greenway Conservancy, which works toward the preservation of the scenic, natural, historic and agricultural resources of the Hudson Valley.
All these experiences will inform my views as a member of the New York State Assembly.
On the property tax cap and our schools
The tax cap was an essential first step toward addressing New York’s property tax crisis. Now we need mandate relief. Without it, counties, towns, and villages will be forced to slash essential services in order to meet the cap strictures. Mandate relief and pension reform are the most important tasks before the state legislature today.
The Triborough Amendment is the core of the problem. Triborough, an amendment to New York State’s Taylor Laws, tilts all labor negotiations in favor of the public employee union bosses. By mandating that all contract perks remain in place until a new contract is signed — even after a contract expires — there is no incentive for the unions to negotiate in good faith. By holding out, they are guaranteed a more generous contract. So why negotiate?
We all value our state employees, but the generous benefits that have been handed out by Albany politicians in exchange for endorsements are unsustainable. Those overly generous benefits and work rules — Buffalo teachers get free cosmetic surgery — will break the backs of towns and school districts and devastate our social safety net.
On same-sex marriage
I have always supported civil unions. The people have spoken through their legislators, though, and the matter is now settled.
Simple: If hydrofracking can be done safely, with absolute assurance that drinking water will remain safe, then we should do it. We need the jobs, and we need the energy. But until we have those assurances, we should not drill. We cannot take risks with our drinking water. Town ordinances would obviously have to be considered on a project by project basis.
On independent redistricting
Yes. I support an independent redistricting commission now. Transparency and accountability in New York State government is badly lacking, and a commission is necessary to rebuild faith in our government and elected officials.
In visiting farms and other small businesses throughout Dutchess and Columbia, one thought consistently has come to mind. When government agencies contact a business in New York, it’s generally because that business is in trouble, usually for some petty transgression involving paperwork. Government overreach into people’s lives and livelihoods in New York has become overbearing.
That posture has to change if we are to halt the economic decline in this state. Government shouldn’t be the enemy to small businesses. It should help them grow and hire more workers — or it should get out of their way.
New York State has just been rated as the state with the second worse business climate in America. The taxes and nitpicking regulators are systematically killing the incentive to grow jobs here and that has to stop. Changing that mindset will be one of my major priorities in the State Assembly.
Hyper-partisanship is something else that needs to change. We are all New Yorkers first, and I will stand with any legislator of good will — Republican or Democrat — to help this state move forward economically.
I am a seventh-generation resident of the Hudson Valley. My family and I have been contributing to this community for more than 200 years. Through the grace of God and good fortune, I will able to bring considerable financial and governmental skills to this job — I have learned them from extraordinary leaders like Rudy Giuliani — to help our region grow economically. But more than that, I am a husband and a father committed to rebuilding New York State for the next generation.
I pursue this office with a deep sense of humility and an even greater sense of purpose. It is time for regular citizens, like me, to step forward to help manage the affairs of this state. I am fully prepared to do that, and I would be honored to serve as your representative.
To learn more about Rich Wager, visit www.wager2012.com.