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Ritchie, Tresidder square off in debate slated to air today

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The cornerstone of state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie’s re-election campaign is her claim that the political and fiscal culture in Albany has improved in two years of Republican control of the state Senate, which was made possible by her 2010 victory.

In a debate set to air on the radio today, Democrat Amy M. Tresidder, who wants to end Mrs. Ritchie’s tenure at two years on Nov. 6, claims things in Albany aren’t as great as Mrs. Ritchie says.

“I do take issue with that,” Mrs. Tresidder said in a debate this week with Mrs. Ritchie, moderated by Grant Reeher of WRVO. “Because as I said before, a lot of the costs have just been shifted downward.”

Mrs. Ritchie, meanwhile, said she’s proud of the record she has compiled by “working with Governor (Andrew M.) Cuomo.” Mrs. Ritchie frequently mentions the freshman governor and the Republican conference’s close relationship with him.

“We’ve passed an on-time budget two consecutive years in a row,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “And we’ve filled in a $14 billion deficit that the state was having over the last two years without increasing taxes, and we reduced spending two years in a row.”

On keeping taxes low, Mrs. Ritchie did vote to extend higher income tax rates for those who make more than $1 million in New York as part of a deal to stave off further education cuts.

Mrs. Tresidder was unimpressed with the budget claims.

“Passing a budget on time is your job,” said Mrs. Tresidder, a Democratic county legislator of Oswego. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. As far as saving costs, a lot of costs have been shifted to county governments and other municipalities, and it’s made it very difficult at the county level to budget and try to figure out how we’re going to maintain the services that people count on.”

The two candidates also sparred on St. Lawrence County’s sales tax rate. County officials want to increase the local sales tax rate from 3 percent to 4 percent, but they need state legislation to do so. Mrs. Ritchie has refused to carry legislation that would let the county raise its taxes.

“I think they’ve not looked at places where they could make some cuts to do more to help the taxpayers,” Mrs. Ritchie said, adding that her constituents “don’t want to pay another dollar.”

Mrs. Tresidder, meanwhile, said raising the sales tax should be a local decision and the state shouldn’t get in the way.

“If we don’t have the autonomy of local government, we’re only an administrative arm of the state. We need more than that,” Mrs. Tresidder said. “We need that accountability that comes from local representatives.”

The debate will air on WRVO, a public radio station based in Syracuse, at 6:30 today and at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will also be available to download this evening at http://wrvo.org/ by clicking on the Campbell Conversations tab.

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