Tonawanda News

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October 19, 2010

Senate hopefuls talk spending

— — Spending has emerged as a key issue between the candidates for the New York State Senate’s 61st District, which includes the Town of Tonawanda, Kenmore and part of the City of Tonawanda.

Michael Ranzenhofer, the Republican incumbent from Amherst seeking a second term, says he’s a fiscal conservative who knows how state spending affects local small businesses. Democrat Marc Coppola of the Town of Tonawanda wants to return to the Senate to reduce taxes and eliminate red tape that often stymies business owners.

Ranzenhofer, 56, cites his endorsement from numerous business organizations as an example of his business-friendly stance as a lawmaker. “I’m what you’d consider a ‘citizen legislator.’ I understand how fiscal decisions and policy decisions affect businesses,” Ranzenhofer said.

“When I ran, I told people I was not going to vote for increases in spending and higher taxes. When budgets came up that raised taxes and spending, I said no to new spending. We simply can’t afford it,” he added. “I’ve talked to thousands of people and their No. 1 concern is jobs, which is my No. 1 concern, and trying to crate a better economic climate for businesses to survive here,” he said. “That’s very closely related to excessive spending.”

Coppola says he’s a moderate Democrat with a record of reaching across the aisle to work with his opponents. He points to his seven-month stint in the state Senate four years ago when he won a special election, saying that he obtained the passage of four bills despite being the freshman lawmaker serving in the minority party at the time.

Coppola, 42, graduated from Lafayette High School and attended Empire State College. He holds a New York state real estate license and is a first class stationary engineer. A former Buffalo resident, Coppola served five years on the Buffalo Common Council, including two as majority leader. He takes credit for leading the charge to downsize the Common Council. If elected back to the state Senate, he said he hopes to restore some credibility to state government. “Part of the frustration people have is that they want some dignity back in their government,” Coppola said. “They want some substance, and they don’t want our State Legislature to be an embarrassment.”

In addition, Coppola wants to institute a constitutional budget deadline, which he says would end the late state budgets that cause havoc for local governments and businesses.

Calling for an end to fusion voting, which allows candidates in New York to run on multiple party lines, Coppola took the rare step of seeking third party lines, including the Independence, Conservative and Working Families.

Coppola criticized Ranzenhofer for what he calls “frivolous” mailers the senator has sent out in recent weeks, including a piece offering tips for being safe on Halloween. “We need to lead by example. It’s highly hypocritical for legislators who claim they want to cut spending but yet continue to spend on frivolous things,” Coppola said. “He’s spent more money on those mailers than any other Republican in Western New York. One cost $40,000. That is unbelievable. I don’t think we need to spend $40,000 to tell people how to be safe on Halloween.”

Responding to that criticism, Ranzenhofer said, “It’s ironic that he would make that comment, because when Marc served in the Senate, he spent more money on mailers in the few months he was there than even Antoine Thompson spends right now.” Thompson, who also represents part of the City of Tonawanda, has come under fire after a recent Buffalo News article reported he produced a 102-page book as a campaign piece at taxpayer expense.

Coppola also said Ranzenhofer is a party-line voter, siding with his Republican colleagues most of the time, a charge the incumbent disputes, citing his being named the most independent member of the Senate last year.

Ranzenhofer is seeking re-election to help cut spending and tax increases. “My first term was not quite what I expected,” he said, adding that Albany was “chaotic and dysfunctional and in need of some very serious change. The most important thing is that I became a very vocal spokesman and advocate for the views and concerns of the people that live in the district.”

If re-elected, Ranzenhofer said he wants to reduce the size and scope of government, redirect a larger amount of energy from the Niagara Power Project to local companies, re-instate the STAR rebate check program and, of particular importance, work with his colleagues to pass the UB 2020 legislation that was killed this year. “I will never give up on that bill,” he said.

The two candidates agree that New York State needs to reduce the bureaucracy and mandates that stifle businesses. “Just look on any wall of our local restaurants. They have so many permits from so many different agencies that it could be wallpaper,” Coppola said.

Before winning election to the state Senate, Ranzenhofer served 19 years as an Erie County legislator. He is a partner at Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. He holds a law degree from the University at Buffalo.

Ranzenhofer said he’s pleased to have gained the backing of several business groups, including Unshackle Upstate, the New York State Business Council and the National Federation of Independent Business.

In endorsing the incumbent, Mike Elmendorf, the NFIB’s New York State director, said: “Senator Ranzenhofer has stood with small business on key issues this session, including opposing the biggest tax increase in New York State history, which included a tax hike on small business income and increased energy and health insurance costs.”

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