Ritchie Readies to Chair Ag, Defend Prisons

Oswego, NY – Freshman State Senator Patty Ritchie plans to spend the today in Oswego County talking with folks about her new role as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Like her Democratic predecessor, Darrel Aubertine, Republican Ritchie comes from a farming background.

She says she looks forward to working with Aubertine, who is Governor Andrew Cuomo's pick for Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets.

Ritchie says from what she heard during her campaign, one of their most important roles will be getting out of the way.

"I heard over and over again that farmers, that they just wanted to be left alone," she says. "That they were running their business and Albany was too heavy-handed, too many regulations, and if Albany would just take a step back and let them run their business they would be doing much better than they are doing right now."

Ritchie says her first priority will be looking into mandate relief for farmers in the 48th Senate District which represents parts of Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties and includes nearly 3000 farms.

Ritchie says New Yorkers are also demanding an on-time state budget.

That's another thing that I heard time and time again," says Ritchie. "People are looking for leaders in Albany to set aside partisan politics, and we've all been elected to do a job. And one of our main jobs is to pass the budgets. So I hope it's passed on time this year and a lot of my colleagues have said the same thing."

Ritchie says it will be a tough year in which spending must be cut to close the state's huge deficit. She says her job will be to protect important programs in her district while keeping her promises to cut both spending and taxes.

She says she's not yet ready to take a stand on the so-called "millionaire's tax" or the estate tax, saying she wants to first look at how they affect family farms and small businesses in her district.

But she is ready to defend the five correctional facilities in the 48th.

"They are important employers, and i want to make sure that they're protected ," she says. "The first thing I'm going to do is look at the Governor's budget when it comes out to make sure no facility in my district is included."

During the last budget cycle, Aubertine waged a fight to spare Ogdensburg Correctional Facility, in St. Lawrence County, from closure.

"I want to make sure they don't look to Central and Northern New York every time there has to be a cut or there has to he a hit," says Ritchie. "That seems like what has happened over the last few years."

Ritchie says local facilities are among the lower-cost prisons to operate in the state.

Ritchie was in Watertown yesterday setting up her district office, and plans to be in Oswego County today.

She says she's putting together an advisory board of vegetable growers, dairy farmers and other people knowledgeable about agriculture to share their ideas with Albany.