GOP Assembly candidate Walczyk wants checks on Albany
By JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
Watertown City Councilman Mark Walczyk is challenging Addie Jenne for her seat in the 116th Assembly District.Walczyk, who serves in the Army Reserves, is no stranger to Albany having worked for Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, for eight years.
Walczyk sees himself as a watchdog and says he favors transparency and likes cutting through red tape. He opposes universal healthcare, wants to protect Second Amendment rights, would like to see the governor’s economic development programs scrapped, does not support legalization of marijuana and is a proponent of term limits.
Walczyk would like to see less money taken from taxpayers and filtered back though bureaucratic channels and says Albany needs people like him to fight for the North Country. He says his experience as a Ritchie staffer and city councilman have taught him how to work effectively across party lines.
Being in minority
Walczyk knows that being in the minority in the Assembly could put him at a disadvantage in getting legislation on the floor, but believes there is more to the job than how many bills you pass or how much money you bring home.
“Focusing on just those two things loses a big part of the legislator’s job,” he said. “I’d like to think being in the minority can sometimes be an advantage with what I think is the most important part of that job, which is being a check on executive power and fighting hard for your constituencies.”
Walczyk says that while he does not like the nature of Albany politics, he understands how to get things done. He says if elected, he will work with his colleagues in the Senate and across party lines to ensure he can meet the needs of the North Country.
Walczyk wants to improve access to healthcare, but doesn’t support a single-payer solution. He says the best way to deal with the healthcare crisis is to reach out to local organizations to better understand the issues facing community hospitals to understand the issues facing the industry.
While Walczyk doesn’t have a silver bullet to address St. Lawrence County’s lack of affordable health care, he says he is concerned proposals from the Assembly leadership could make thinks worse. Most notably, he is opposed to the New York Health Act, which is essentially a statewide universal health care proposal.
He said the bill will continue to raise costs for taxpayers and reduce access.
“The focus for me is going to be access to good medical care in St. Lawrence County,” he said.
Walczyk says he believes strongly in Second Amendment rights. He supports full repeal of the SAFE Act, though he doesn’t believe there is much chance of making that happen at this time.
Walczyk says if elected, his focus will be on ensuring even more restrictions aren’t placed on his constituents.
“I will certainly support the repeal of the SAFE Act, the full SAFE Act,” he said.
“We really need to have a fighter in Albany to see what’s coming next. Because there is always a next anti-Second Amendment bill.”
While many states, including nearby Vermont, have voted to legalize marijuana, Walczyk says he does not support legalization of recreational use of the drug.
“I’m not for all-out legalization. I think the federal government needs to take the lead on that,” he said.
He says he doesn’t have strong feelings on the issue and would be supportive of expanding the decriminalization of marijuana in New York State.
He said legalization of marijuana in New York, while it remains illegal at the federal level, could create a variety of problems for his constituents stationed at Fort Drum.
While Walczyk understands how to work within the governor’s often-criticized economic development programs, he says would like to see them scrapped. Watertown was a winner of one of the governor’s grant competition, which netted the city $10 million. This year, Saranac Lake won the prize.
Walczyk says programs like Start Up New York have failed to deliver on promises and believes Cuomo’s funding competitions are poor way of doing business.
“To pit Massena against Potsdam, against Ogdensburg against Watertown is the wrong way to go about it. Most of the economic development programs of this administration have failed to create the jobs that they purported to create in the first place.”
Walczyk said he opposes the idea of taking money from the taxpayers and then redistributing them via multiple layers of government.
“I understand at the beginning of the day this is money that we’ve taken from the taxpayer. So if you are sending it back to the taxpayer and filtering it through a bureaucratic process it’s got to be in a way the taxpayer would agree with it in the first place,” he said.
“I tend to think that not taking money through taxes and fees from businesses in northern New York and individuals in northern New York in the first place is the wrong way to go about it.”
Walczyk supports term limits, one of many differences between him and his opponent.
He says he would like to see them imposed at all layers of government and says leadership is a good place to start.
“I do see a problem with someone being the speaker of assembly for 20 years.” He says lengthy tenures have proven to lead to corruption, though he noted that some politicians do a good job despite their lengthy time as legislators.
“This is a job where you serve and move on. I don’t think we set up the New York Constitution to have career politicians,” he said.