Gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout said she is looking to increase education aid for schools and help support small businesses statewide.
Teachout, who is from Vermont but moved to New York state in 2009, is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary Sept. 9. As governor, Teachout said she would focus on providing more funding for low-income school districts.
“We are at a crossroads in education. I want to see schools get more education aid,” she said during a visit with reporters and editors at The Daily Gazette. “I know that is something that affects you guys here in Schenectady. The state is not paying its fair share on education.”
Teachout said there are other issues in education she would also tackle, like the Common Core learning standards. She said she is against the standards because they have led to stress among students, parents and educators.
“I like the idea of standards, but I see this as a result of a top-down mandate,” she said. “It has led to stress in schools, and kids do not learn well under stress. I would like to explore what we can do to change that but ensure we don’t lose federal funding.”
Teachout said she would also pursue new ways to spur economic development upstate — but betting on casinos is not the answer.
“With casinos, there is this initial promise that they will provide jobs,” she said. “But as we know, there might be saturation, and casinos are failing in Atlantic City. I don’t think casinos are the right direction for economic development.”
Teachout said she believes the Galesi Group’s plan to revitalize the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard is development that “makes sense.” Add in a casino, though, and it creates trouble.
“It’s my understanding Galesi was looking to make that investment before the casino,” she said. “Casinos are a gamble themselves. It’s riskier to bring in a casino. It’s not a priority for my campaign to pursue casinos.”
She also knocked Cuomo’s business tax incentive program START-UP NY. The initiative allows new, expanding and out-of-state businesses to locate in New York and pay no taxes for 10 years.
The program is aimed at partnering businesses with colleges, targeting schools in the State University of New York system. Schenectady County Community College recently received approval to participate in the program and attract companies to the area.
“Cuomo has a start-up model for economic development,” Teachout said. “START-UP NY is going to create competition for existing small businesses. But we want a small business economy and to support small businesses. In general, I am in favor of more broad-based state investment in infrastructure.”
Teachout expressed strong opposition to hydraulic fracturing, which Cuomo has been pondering since he was elected. She said drilling for natural gas would not succeed in creating jobs and would lead to environmental health hazards.
“The science is in and it’s pretty devastating what hydrofracking does,” she said. “Like with casinos, there is the initial promise that this will provide jobs.”
Instead, Teachout said to boost economic development statewide she would turn to the transportation industry and more energy-efficient alternatives, particularly solar power.
On Thursday, Teachout picked up the endorsement of the Public Employees Federation — the second largest public-employees union in the state, with 55,000 members.
Supporters of Cuomo attempted to push Teachout off next month’s Democratic ballot, arguing the Fordham Law School professor did not meet the state’s five-year residency requirement. The case was dismissed Monday by a judge in Brooklyn.
Teachout said the enthusiasm for Cuomo as governor has dwindled. She is looking to debate Cuomo before the Democratic primary, an offer he has so far not accepted.
“I have far more experience the last four years talking with people about their struggles,” she said. “I am running to win.”