Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Faso Connects With Jewish Community

Representative John Faso, who recently received a Distinguished Leadership award from the venerable Hecht family at the 77th annual fundraising awards dinner in Manhattan for the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, continues to appear before Jewish community groups, even those outside his sprawling 19th Congressional District (Hudson Valley/Catskill region).

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Earlier this month Faso was the guest speaker at a breakfast in Albany sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and hosted by AIPAC’s political director Jason Koppell. While the discussion was off the record, Faso gave The Jewish Press an exclusive interview after the talk, which focused on his week long August trip to Israel.

Representative John Faso

Referring to the American government giving the Palestinian Authority/PLO hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year, Faso said:

“The PLO makes payments to those terrorists that kill Jews and they make payments to the families, kind of like an annuity,” Faso said. “You kill Jews, you kill Israelis, then we’ll pay for that. This is something many of us in Congress feel is completely unacceptable.”

There are those who say that if the U.S. government did not provide the money to the Palestinians, countries such as Iran would fill the financial void.

“I feel that’s a ridiculous reason for us to continue making these payments to the Palestinians,” Faso said. “The Palestinians need to clean up their act. There is rampant corruption, they are not pursuing economic reforms and opportunities for their people, and they are attempting to blame all of the situation just simply on the state of Israel.

“While certainly there could be improvements in that area, the most important thing is if the Palestinians adopted a different approach toward Israel, recognized its right to exist, and pursued a meaningful economic and political dialogue with the Israelis and vice versa, many of these problems would be solved. Keeping the Palestinians in a state of habitual warfare against Israel is not a way to solve this problem.”

During his weeklong visit, Faso waded into the Dead Sea and floated. “I couldn’t stay in there very long,” he said. “It’s a little salty.”

Local Leaders Complain About Federal, State Aid

With New York State facing a $4.4 billion deficit, local government leaders are trying to prepare for an onslaught of federal cutbacks that would hurt residents in towns, cities, villages, and counties across the state.

In addition, municipal government leaders are complaining to state leaders that they have not had an increase in state aid to localities (known as AIM funding) in a decade.

“When the school aid increase year in and year out is more than the entire AIM program, when the municipal property tax slice of the pie is about half of the school slice, why aren’t we getting half of what school aid is?” asked Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors.

“School aid is $24 billion. Municipalities get $715 million. That’s not fair. That’s not showing you care about municipal government.”

“I think we do everything conceivable to help our local governments,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R – Smithtown, Suffolk County) told The Jewish Press.

Then there is the issue of shared services; mayors have told state leaders they already share services with neighboring government entities without being forced to by state legislation. A bill being pushed by the governor would mandate local governments to share services without giving credit to the municipal mayors who already share services.

“For every dollar the state government sends to the federal government we get 84 cents back,” noted Fishkill mayor James Miccio, president of the New York Conference of Mayors. “For every dollar of local taxes that go to the state, the local municipality only gets 21 cents back. If it’s not okay for the state to get less money back from the federal government, it’s not okay for the local communities to get less money back from the state governments.”

While the mayors wanted a dialogue with the governor to ask for parity, a private cocktail reception with the governor and mayors at the Executive Mansion only yielded a monologue from the governor.

“The governor emphasized the state’s own burdens,” reported Josh Cohn, mayor of the city of Rye. “He sounded a hopeful note regarding the possibility of legal arguments to undo the SALT (State and Local Tax) deductibility deprivation.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie snubbed the gathering of local elected officials.

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