Yesterday, Patch looked at Joseph Gravagna's . This 33-year-old Suffern Resident is running for the NY State Assembly in the 97th district against Ellen Jaffee, 68. Jaffee's current 95th district will become the 97th district because of changes to the district map. He is running on three party lines:
“This is the first time that Ellen Jaffee has not had the Independence line in an election,” said Gravagna. “I am one of the few non-incumbents to earn the Independence party endorsement in the state.”
This pro-union Republican has three core issues for his campaign:
- Unemployment Reform
- Business Assistance
Gravagna has several plans for education reform such as re-establishing after-school programs for kids.
“I don’t like what I see in certain towns throughout my district,” said Gravagna. “Towns are cutting kindergarten. That’s inexcusable. We have to support our kids because they’re our future.”
He added that his outlook on education is more up to date with today’s generation compared to his opponent.
“My wife is currently a teacher and Jaffee, she hasn’t been a teacher in a very long time—there’s a disconnect between her and today’s kids,” said Gravagna. “As for teacher evaluations, I think the system is flawed. It’s tied to state testing now. You can’t compare school districts. You can’t compare apples to apples. “
Another important issue he plans to pursue is the New York State lottery money.
The New York Lottery's sole mission is to earn revenue for education, according to its website. Lottery Revenue is distributed to local school districts by the same statutory formula used to distribute other state aid to education.
However, Gravagna plans to call for a federal audit of the New York State lottery money because he feels New York schools are not getting their fair share of the lottery money intended for education.
“I want to know where the money’s going. Our kids deserve better,” he said.
One of the first things that Gravagna plans to do is address unemployment.
“At one point, I was unemployed for six months. Most of my people in my district are unemployed or know someone that is unemployed,” he said. “Under the current unemployment system, you can’t work even a part time job and still get unemployment checks."
He believes that this causes many to work for money under the table.
"You should be able to work a minimum-wage part time job and collect unemployment for a certain period of time," he said. "It still needs to be reasonable, so they have money for things like gas to go to their interviews. That’ll be more cost efficient than having people working off the books while collecting unemployment.”
If elected, Gravagna plans to introduce legislation in Albany that will provide a tax cut to small businesses.
“Business owners that create jobs in the district will receive an incentive,” said Gravagna. “If they hire an employee (that) stays with them for a 6-month period, that business will receive a 1 percent state tax cut. It’s been talked about but never implemented.”
He added that he wants job creation and fewer empty storefronts.
“We need politicians that understand small business owners. Everyday I talk to small business owners in my job as a sales executive,” he said. “They tell me they can’t do business anymore in New York. That’s got to stop.”
He ended by adding that small businesses and labor unions go hand in hand and are the backbone of this country
“If either one of them is hurting it effects the economy,” he said. “I also want to provide some sort of tax relief to municipalities in New York State that hire union workers.”