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8th Assembly District

Incumbent state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick will be challenged by Democrat Dave Morrissey at the polls. Photos by Kyle Barr

The two candidates running for New York’s 8th Assembly District, incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown) and Democratic challenger Dave Morrissey, agree on the area’s problems of high taxes and shrinking youth population. However, they disagree heavily on how the state should work to change it.

Fitzpatrick and Morrissey stepped into the TBR News Media offices where they discussed their varying stances on state and local issues.

Fitzpatrick is running again for his long-held seat on a number of fiscal issues, including
taxes, young people leaving Long Island and cutting back on government employee’s benefits.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the numbers, we continue to be a state in decline. We’re losing 100,000 people a year,” he said.

Morrissey, a local software engineer and project manager from Smithtown, is running heavily on reforming New York’s response to the opioid crisis. This comes after a personal tragedy where Morrissey’s son William died of complications due to opioid addiction in 2016.

“He wasn’t one of the statistics because he didn’t die over an overdose death, and there are many more deaths than most often reported because of this,” the Democratic challenger said. “All levels of government need to do more.”

Taxes/Cost of Living

Fitzpatrick sees a need to deal with union contracts and government employee pension programs, which he said is sapping the strength out of the economy. The assemblyman has campaigned to change automatic pay increases while employers and employees are in between labor contracts as well as pushing for a transition from pensions for 401(k)s for government employees.

“The tax burden is too high,” the assemblyman said. “You have to get every elected official out of the defined benefit retention system. That particular benefit and how we are compensated encourages fiscal irresponsibility.”

The Democratic challenger said that while his campaign has received union support, he would still push for school consolidation of resources. He opined best way to affect the school district’s taxes was to expand Long Island’s commuter infrastructure to appeal to young people and, hopefully, encourage new business growth.

“We need to have smart strategic investments that will have a real cost benefit,” Morrissey said. “If the only thing you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, and you can’t cut your way into prosperity.”

Health care/Opioid crisis

On the opioid treatment and health care, the challenger said there needs to be much more done on the state level. He supports medically assisted treatment for all drug or alcohol users who need it, opening up an addiction high school through the BOCES system, and opening up at least 11 more recovery centers, for which he suggests the state should get pharmaceutical companies to pay.

The incumbent said he feels it would be near impossible to get the pharmaceutical companies to pay for these programs, while agreeing it would help, he said funding from state government is never guaranteed.

Morrissey said he also believes in health care for all and supports the New York Health Act, which passed through the state Assembly but did not reach the floor of the state Senate. He said he would look to give the state more negotiatinpower with pharmaceutical companies.

“I think it’s a great system that needs improvements — something rolled out gradually,”
Morrissey said. “Big pharma has so much wealth, we should be able to negotiate on the process.”

Fitzpatrick said he disagrees with a health care for all program, and especially the New York Health Act. He would instead advocate for use of Health Savings Account programs, one where people can save money for health-related emergencies only.

“The system is not broken — it needs to be repaired and modified,” he said. “You want a system that attracts the best and the brightest doctors.”

Rich Macellaro, right, wants to unseat long term Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick, left. Photos by Donna Newman

Incumbent Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) will square off against Kings Park resident and Democrat Rich Macellaro on Election Day for the right to oversee the district that spans Smithtown Town and a portion of northern Islip. Macellaro has made unsuccessful bids for office, first in the Assembly in 2010 then for a Smithtown Town board seat in 2013. The two sat down for an interview in the TBR News Media main office.

During his 14 years in the Assembly, Fitzpatrick has sponsored legislation to establish a two percent property tax levy increase cap for school districts and to cap pensions for elected officials as a means to stave off financial hardships for the state. Macellaro prided himself on his work with civic and community organizations and projects in Smithtown, and his ability to bring a new set of eyes to a district in need of change.

“There are some storm clouds on the horizon. The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet.”

— Mike Fitzpatrick

High property taxes and swollen government budgets have contributed to a litany of issues specific to the 8th district, but also to the region as a whole, according to Fitzpatrick. Some of those issues include a cost of living far higher than most of the nation, and fewer high paying local careers as an incentive to keep young people  here after graduation. He also suggested the community’s high rates of opioid- and heroin-related deaths could be a byproduct of the tough economic times in his district.

“There are some storm clouds on the horizon,” Fitzpatrick said. “The lack of jobs, the lack of housing — I think the stress that life on Long Island puts on people, on families, maybe people are using as an outlet. Obviously they are.”

Fitzpatrick was also involved in the passing of a series of bills earlier this year designed to combat addiction on the North Shore and beyond. As a result, insurers must cover the costs of life-saving Narcan to families with individuals suffering from substance abuse. Substance abusers are now offered 72 hours of emergency treatment, instead of 48 hours, so they can be stabilized and connected to longer-term addiction treatment options while also balancing the individual rights of the incapacitated individuals, among other benefits.

Macellaro said he believes penalties for dealers could be harsher, though it is not the only possible solution to the problem.

“We need to have increased penalties for drug traffickers and dealers, and we also need to get those folks who, unfortunately, for whatever reason, become addicted to opiates — we need to get them immediate rehabilitative services.”

“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs. We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”

— Rich Macellaro

The Assemblyman said he believes in the “invisible hand” as a means of economic development, meaning government policies cause more harm than good in the private sector, and called the statewide START-UP NY stimulus program a failure.

“Government-directed economic development does not work,” he said.

Macellaro has a different, if outside-the-box, plan for economic development through a measure that would lower property taxes.

“I think now is the time to look at how we rein in the cost of providing education in Suffolk County and Nassau County, of which there are 124 school districts,” he said. “There are 13 towns in Nassau and Suffolk — three in Nassau, 10 in Suffolk. My proposal is simple: one school district per town. So from 124 school districts, we’ll get down to around 13.”

He said the idea would allow districts to pay for services like maintenance, athletic fields, security and even administrators in “bulk.” He strongly supported legislation to cap increases to property taxes.

“The two percent tax cap is great because it forced government into reducing their costs,” he said. “We have to do anything possible to prevent any increase in property taxes.”

Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick is the right choice for another term in the 8th Assembly District. File Photo
Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick is the right choice for another term in the 8th Assembly District. File Photo

When it comes to the 8th Assembly District, we believe incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick is the only choice.

Seeking his ninth term in office, Fitzpatrick has a clear understanding of what his constituents need and knows how to get it done. He has supported bills to curb the heroin problem facing thousands of North Shore residents, and for a two percent tax levy increase cap for school districts to limit spending. Fitzpatrick’s years of experience serving in the Assembly are also a plus for us, as he has the know how, and experience to create and pass new bills to help the district.

We appreciate Rich Macellaro dedicating his time to try and serve the public. When he sat down with us, his passion was clear, but we see Fitzpatrick as the stronger candidate.