In his campaign for a 19th term, New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle maintains that experience counts, especially in Albany.
The 73-year-old Republican said he has built a solid record over his last 36 years in office, and he is relying on that—rather than negative campaigning—to earn the support of voters.
“I always use the example, who would you go to if you needed complex surgery—someone with a couple years of experience, or someone with many years of experience?” he said. “Someone who has a good reputation and who has the experience.”
Mr. LaValle represents the 1st Senatorial District, which includes the five East End towns, as well as a portion of Brookhaven Town. He has held the seat since 1976.
He said one of his priorities if reelected is to make sure the Stony Brook Southampton campus continues to grow by adding programs, such as an incubator for film production. He takes credit for facilitating an alliance between Stony Brook University and Southampton Hospital, which announced plans in early October to build a new Southampton Hospital on the Stony Brook Southampton college campus. Mr. LaValle said the initiative will not only foster economic development and provide jobs, but will bring quality health care for the “medically underserved” region.
He added that he would like to see undergraduate residential dormitories reopened at the Shinnecock Hills campus at some point in the future, possibly by reestablishing the undergraduate marine science programs and bringing health science programs in if the new hospital becomes a reality.
Mr. LaValle, who began his career as a teacher, has served on the State Senate Higher Education Committee for the past 30 years and said education continues to be a priority. After earning an undergraduate degree from Adelphi College and a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York at New Paltz, he taught elementary and middle school students in the Levittown and Middle Country school districts and served as a school administrator for five years. “I’ll tell you, I don’t think I had a bad day,” he said of the time he spent teaching.
Mr. LaValle said in his next term he will continue to work on the reorganization of school districts by sharing services or consolidating to cut costs at the administrative levels. He pointed to the Eastport South Manor School District, which he helped consolidate in 2000, as an example of how merging districts can cut costs while maintaining quality education, although he added that any such consolidation would need to be approved by taxpayers. The Tuckahoe and Southampton school districts are currently studying the possibility of a merger.
A proponent of the 2-percent tax levy cap, Mr. LaValle said he will seek to help ease the burden the cap places on districts. The senator pointed to the need for pension reform and mandate relief, although he placed blame on the Democrat-led Assembly for blocking legislation to do so.
He added that he hopes to see the reinstatement of the STAR property tax rebate program, a measure he sponsored, which would provide $202 million in property tax relief to senior citizens and $1.2 billion in property tax relief to the middle class in the next school year.
Mr. LaValle, who is endorsed by the Sierra Club and other environmental advocacy organizations, said he is also proud of his efforts to preserve open space on eastern Long Island. “That truly is for future generations, and I would tell you, I get chills,” he said, contemplating the success of the preservation of land in the 1st Senate District.
He said the attention has shifted from that land to the waters, and though a number of initiatives were put in place last term, such as legislation that would allow towns, with taxpayer approval, to set up watershed protection taxing districts and the Sewage Right to Know Act, more can be done on the state level to protect East End bays and oceans. He hesitated at the high costs of installing a major municipal sewage system, noting that such a project had been “mired by scandal” in Suffolk County, but added that the State Legislature should consider offering tax credits for residents who inspect and upgrade their private septic systems. “The protection of our water is really essential to our economy,” he said.
Mr. LaValle lives in Port Jefferson with his wife, Penny, and the couple has two children and four grandchildren.