An interview with GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio
BY: FERN SIDMAN
For New Yorkers who are angered and frustrated by the corruption that has plagued politics in Albany for many years now, the upcoming gubernatorial mid-term election races offer viable alternatives in terms of candidates. Having represented New York’s 2nd congressional district for four terms from 1993-2001, Republican Rick Lazio is challenging Democrat Andrew Cuomo for the state’s highest office. With a platform predicated on bold reforms and a concrete plan to battle corruption, I sat down with Mr. Lazio to discuss some issues effecting New Yorkers.
FS: Concerning healthcare reform, as you know, the Medicaid system in New York spends 73% more per recipient than the country as a whole and 25% more than California, which covers twice as many people. What would you do to make Medicaid a more efficient system?
RL: I’m totally in favor of reforming and revamping our Medicaid program. We must move Medicaid to a managed care system in order to streamline costs. The taxpayers in this state are already been strangled by exorbitant taxes and with the rising cost of healthcare for employers, we must move with alacrity to remedy this problem. Those on the Medicaid rolls should be encouraged to seek appropriate healthcare and that means each recipient should have a primary care doctor who can oversee their follow up care if they need to see a specialist. What has proven to be extremely costly to our system are those Medicaid recipients who visit their local hospital emergency rooms when they have a health crisis, rather than seeing their own doctor. Incentives should be provided such as beneficiaries having stored value cards in order to get the right level of care. Provider reimbursement should be harmonized and doctors and hospitals should be extended the same reimbursements and the co-pays should be managed accordingly. I am also in favor of enforcing an anti-fraud program to the Medicaid system because each year there is over $5 billion in Medicaid fraud. We want to promote the very best healthcare system for all New Yorkers and in order to do that we must investigate medical supply companies and others who are bilking the system and hence increasing taxes in our state.
FS: How would you address the burgeoning unemployment rates in New York State and what would you do to help stimulate the economy?
RL: There is no doubt that we must focus our efforts on putting people back to work immediately. There has been way too much emphasis on stimulus money to create jobs and that’s just not happening. New York ranks 49th out of 50 states that are business friendly and that’s just deplorable. The fact that our state is laden with high taxes drives individuals and their businesses out of the state. We must encourage the creation start up businesses to stimulate the private economy in New York. We must take a good hard look at the tax environment that we find ourselves in and we must put an end to the political chaos in Albany, where the state legislature can’t get a budget done. Our government is unpredictable and Bush era tax credits have been revoked for businesses. Subsidiaries that provide energy costs have also lapsed. The more people that are employed translates into fewer dollars being taken out of businesses for taxes. The core part of our strategy is to restart the growth engine, get the costs to businesses down by reducing business taxes, rewarding start up companies and creating a new capital gains structure. Another source of major capitol and economic development are our colleges and universities. New York is a state of great people, with great skills and ingenuity and I am sure we can do exciting things in this wonderful empire state.
FS: You’ve come out against the construction of the proposed mosque at Ground Zero. Could you tell us why you are against it and what do you think of offers to have the mosque built on state property?
RL: I stand in staunch opposition to the construction of the proposed mosque close to Ground Zero. What we need here is complete transparency as this issue is not about religion. I would immediately demand a full accounting for where the funding is coming from for the construction of this $100 million dollar building. Clearly, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is behind this project is ducking the question of why he refuses to label Hamas a terrorist organization, when the US government lists Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization. We also know that Hamas is behind the incessant rocket attacks on Israel’s southern border. Imam Rauf has said that America was an accomplice to the 9/11 attacks on our country and that “Osama Bin Laden was made in the USA.” When Imam Rauf was asked whether he would take money from Iranian sources to build this mosque, he refused to answer and if he can’t respond to that kind of question, one could believe that he and others involved in this project may have sympathies with radical Islamist organizations.The Imam has also been associated with the Turkish terrorist organization who was behind the flotilla that sought to smuggle arms to terrorists in Gaza Just a few short years ago, Sharif El-Gamal and his brother Sammy El-Gamal of Soho Properties who are the developers of the Ground Zero Mosque were waiting tables in New York City. Where did all their money come from?
Andrew Cuomo is the attorney general of New York and as such, he could eliminate the controversy that swirls around this mosque by launching an investigation into the group’s monetary sources. People really need to get their voices on this issue because if Iran is even partially funding this mosque then we can expect that those preaching in it will be promoting terrorism against the United States and Israel. Iran has already threatened to wipe our ally Israel off the map while the whole world sleeps. America must never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and we must do everything in our power to protect Israel. I believe in solidifying relationships with our good friends such as Israel and working to ensure her safety and dealing forcefully with our avowed enemies such as Iran.