- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin on ensuring New York’s leaders act on promises to combat addiction.

April 15

We remember a corporate executive who, after making a staff assignment, had a great answer to the question “When would you like this?”

“Now would be a good time,” she always responded, underscoring her sense of business urgency.

So, to all of those local leaders discussing potential solutions to the crisis of addiction to heroin and other opioids: “Now would be a good time.”

This doesn’t mean we haven’t seen progress in recent months. For example, about 70 addicts have been connected with treatment facilities by the Broome County District Attorney’s Office Operation SAFE program, which kicked off in early February.

We’ve heard great ideas from other leaders across this region.

The latest discussion of the problem was earlier this month, when state Sen. Fred Akshar hosted a session of the Senate’s task force on addiction to take testimony in Broome County.

Much discussion at this session focused on the problem and what can’t be done or what should be done. Little was heard about what will be done.

We don’t want to see addiction turn into those easy topics embraced by politicians everywhere. Name one politician who favors drunken driving, child abuse or inferior school results. They trip over each other to let us know what a tragedy these things are and how something must be done. Then they never do anything.

The heroin and opioid crisis is so severe that any politician or government leader jumping on the “woe is me” bandwagon should be voted out of office if he or she doesn’t become part of the solution.

Who has said it better than Lisa Bailey?

Bailey, from Waverly, has dealt with addiction in her family for years and founded Valley Addiction and Drug Education.

She testified the other night and couldn’t have made it much clearer.

“You can’t just listen to people speak,” she told the group. “You have to do something, and doing something is better than doing nothing.”

Well said, Lisa. Let’s together keep our eyes on our leaders.

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Online:

https://press.sn/1Qn0bM9

The Glens Falls Post-Star on the salary increases of state Supreme Court justices.

April 20

In these difficult times when money is tight and good jobs are scarce, our state lawmakers were especially generous this year to those working at the top end of the judicial system.

Here’s how these things work with the state.

The New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial & Executive Compensation recommended in December that the salaries of Supreme Court justices be raised from $174,000 a year to nearly $193,000 a year on April 1, and then to $203,000 in 2018 to keep pace with the salaries of federal district judges.

That triggered a trickle-down effect we wish we had seen with Reaganomics.

By law, county judges have to receive 95 percent of the salary of Supreme Court judges, so county judges will see their salaries increase to over $183,000.

And since the law states that the county district attorney must receive a salary equal to or above the county judge, the local district attorneys will get a pay bump over $183,000 as well.

But the state neglected to include $30,000 in funding to the counties for the raises.

That - rightfully scream the counties - is another unfunded mandate.

In the grand scheme of a $150 billion state budget, the $1.6 million owed to counties around the state is small potatoes, but there is a principle in play here.

Many taxpayers will make the “Does it really matter?” argument, since taxpayers foot the bill one way or another, but the state should be held responsible for this added county cost.

Thankfully, legislation is being proposed in the state Senate to provide the additional funding for the counties. We hope the Legislature enacts this measure quickly, and the state actually writes the check in a timely manner.

It didn’t escape our notice earlier that these judicial raises were indeed sweet.

The back story is that state judges failed to get any salary increases - not even cost of living - between 1999 and 2012. Granted, it was long overdue, but to make up for that, their pay was increased $38,000 just four years ago.

So over the past four years, judges have gotten just two raises, but the total has been more than most families make in a year - $57,000. And there is more to come in 2018.

We understand that if you want good judges you are going to have to pay for it, and we suspect just about every working man out there can relate to going years without a raise, but when the salary is well over $100,000, the situation is hardly dire.

We wonder if the minimum wage argument could have been applied here, regarding the salaries of state judges.

While a judge making $193,000 in New York City or Long Island might indeed struggle just to find suitable housing, that same salary in upstate - including locally - is an extremely comfortable wage.

We wonder why the state and the Legislature did not address the same concerns with the judges’ salaries as they did over the high cost of the minimum wage.

As we researched the salary bump, we stumbled onto another story that really made our blood boil and made us wonder if the state should reconsider the raises.

The Times-Union reported last month that nearly 1,800 active and former judges are suing the state for $312 million in retroactive pay to cover “financial harm” caused when the state failed to give them raises from 2000 to 2009.

The lawsuit claims the state violated the state constitution for 10 years by not administering cost-of-living raises.

We won’t get into the merits of the lawsuit, but we suspect the vast majority of our readers would feel like they won the lottery if they made a judge’s salary for even one year.

Many workers around our region have gone years without raises as well, but they have no recourse to sue for lost wages.

The lawsuit by these 1,800 active and former judges smacks to us of greed, and if they win the lawsuit, the state constitution should be changed.

But more importantly, is it even possible another judge would rule against them?

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1XIG5lq

The Jamestown Post-Journal on how censorship and book-banning are dangerous and wrong.

April 17

Nearly everyone agrees censorship and banning books (or, rather, eliminating access to books) are wrong … except for that one book he or she disagrees with or that makes him or her uncomfortable.

Every year the Office for Intellectual Freedom for the American Library Association issues its list of the most “challenged” books in the country. These are the books Americans object to most, in public schools and libraries.

One such book is continually targeted for sexual and violent content, and the legal questions it raises, particularly in a public school setting: the Holy Bible. Yes, the Bible garners the same kinds of objections from allegedly concerned citizens as do “Fifty Shades of Grey,” ”Two Boys Kissing” and “Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan.”

American Library Association officials try to suggest gently that, of course, the Bible belongs in libraries - as do the Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Book of Mormon, and any other religious text a library can obtain. But the truth is banning books does more harm than any good objectors are pretending to do. And, practically speaking, limiting access is the fastest way to increase interest in a book.

Library officials say the number of formal requests to pull books from library shelves was down last year, but still an absurd 275. Meanwhile, complaints about material assigned in English classes are on the rise.

“We see the danger of censorship moving from the school library into the English classroom,” said Office of Intellectual Freedom Director James LaRue.

Censorship and banning books are dangerous and wrong. They are the tools of small minds bent on controlling others by limiting their access to information. Such behavior is ridiculous and sad in a country where freedom is valued more than in any other.

___

Online:

https://bit.ly/240hGvv

The Poughkeepsie Journal on the need for federal lawmakers to simplify the tax code and crack down on corporations that try to hide or mask income.

April 19

So did you have fun filling out your tax returns recently?

Millions of Americans just made the April 18 deadline after poring over deductions, expenses and a host of other financial matters that make their eyes glaze over.

In stark contrast, though, Congress has gotten nowhere by refusing to accept the notion that the tax code needs a massive overhaul. It needs to be simplified. And federal officials have to do more - much more - to stop corporations from using all sorts of loopholes to evade paying their fair share.

For instance, calling it “one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there,” President Barack Obama has rightly clamped down on “corporate inversion.” This outrageous technique has allowed U.S.-based corporations to reconfigure overseas to shirk their U.S. tax burden. The business either merges with or is acquired by a foreign company in a country with a lower tax rate, but the companies still can keep control of their operations, even their headquarters, in the U.S.

Fortunately, the U.S. Treasury Department is starting to do something about it. The department was able to scuttle pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s $160 billion tax-inversion deal with a company headquartered in Ireland by denying some of the potential tax benefits.

But even the Treasury Department and many others have said the best way to address the problem is through tax-reform legislation, which has stalled for years in Congress. And many experts have argued that marginal tax rates could be lower for individuals and businesses if some of the deductions were eliminated, loopholes were closed, and laws aggressively enforced.

The tax code is more than 70,000 pages, and there have been 15,000 changes in tax laws since the last major rewrite in 1986. Talk about making your eyes glaze over. It’s impossible to make the case that such complexity is good for the system, that it somehow fosters compliance. Actually, the exact opposite has happened, especially for big businesses and international corporations that have the resources to use every trick in the book to mask or hide income and use shelters to their advantage. The answer is not to create another layer to the convoluted system but, rather to simplify it greatly.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1XIG5lq

The New York Post on not allowing Iran to access U.S. dollars through a clearinghouse in Hong Kong.

April 18

Just how far will President Obama go to protect the nuclear deal with Iran - which he sees as central to his legacy? We’ll be finding out soon.

Tehran is loudly threatening to pull out of the accord unless it gets access to the US financial system. It would have to settle for the measly $150 billion in cash it’s already pocketed, plus the end of global sanctions.

Valiollah Seif, head of Iran’s central bank, charged last Friday that Washington isn’t living up to its part of the deal because “we are not able to use our frozen funds abroad.” Unless that’s resolved, he said, “the deal breaks up on its own accord.”

Don’t expect Team Obama to even think about calling Iran’s bluff.

In fact, the State Department has already written all 50 governors asking them to reconsider their states’ sanctions on Iran.

Yet most of those sanctions aren’t about Iran’s nuclear program but its support of terrorism, its missile program, its general oppression of its own citizens, etc.

And the Financial Action Task Force, a global body that combats money-laundering and terror financing, just declared it remains “exceptionally concerned” about Iran’s continued financial support for international terrorism.

Indeed, FATF urged all members to “apply effective counter-measures” to protect their financial sectors against “risks emanating from Iran.”

Yet the administration is reportedly moving to do the opposite - looking to let Iran access dollars via a Hong Kong clearinghouse.

It’s one reason this rancid deal was never submitted to Congress as a treaty: Obama keeps having to change the terms to please Tehran. As things stand, he’ll likely keep on with it until Iran gets everything it wants.

___

Online:

https://nyp.st/20S32Ex

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