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Sen. John DeFrancisco and Mayor Stephanie Miner Engage in "Civil" Discussion on State Issues

Karen DeWitt

At an event that’s become increasingly rare in state politics, two politicians from opposing parties sat down together and had a civil discussion about issues facing New York.  And their names are certainly familiar to Central New Yorkers.

Democrat and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, along with Republican State Senator John DeFrancisco spoke in Albany during a forum about state issue and politics.

To have a vibrant civic dialogue is important,” said Miner. “The fact that it’s been missing, we’ve all suffered for it.”

Senator DeFrancisco, who is also from Syracuse, agrees.

We have to have more open government and more dialogue,” DeFrancisco said. “And better policies.

At the forum, held by the  Bull Moose Club, a political and business venture, Miner and DeFrancisco disagreed – politely- on whether marijuana should be legal in the state. Miner is for it, DeFrancisco against it.  And they differed on the best strategy to increase voter participation.  DeFrancisco says if politicians behaved better, and talked about issues, more people would come to the polls, Miner says voter access needs to be expanded.

Miner and DeFrancisco, who are both potential gubernatorial candidates, were united, though , in their criticism of Governor Cuomo’s economic development programs and the accompanying multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns, which Miner calls “sound bite government”.  She also critiques the governor’s tax free incentives program for new businesses, known as Start Up New York. She says focusing on the state’s crumbling roads, bridges and aging sewer systems infrastructure would work better.

We have to go back to the basics of governing,” Miner said. “Let’s invest in our infrastructure. “

DeFranciso agrees, saying small businesses are leaving the state because of the taxes and regulations, saying they can’t make money. He also took shots at an empty LED lighting factory near Syracuse, built with state funding. The project stalled after the construction company involved was charged with corruption. Officials at COR development face trial in 2018.

Some company out of god knows where getting $70 million, and by the way, the building still isn’t up,” DeFrancisco said. “That is so frustrating.”

DeFrancisco also criticized Cuomo for taking over the distribution of economic development project grants from the legislature, calling the governor the “chief porkster”.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither the Senator nor the Mayor would commit to actually launching a campaign for governor for the November 2018 elections. Senator DeFrancisco says he’s continuing to travel the state, and talk with county chairs.

I’ll make a decision as soon as I possibly can,” he said “I don’t wat a fools errand.”

But he says if there’s chance to raise money and be a viable candidate, he will “go for it”.

Miner says right now she’s focusing on wrapping up her time as mayor, which ends on December 31st.  Term limits restricted her to two terms in office.

What I’ve said to my family is ‘I’m going to get some good sleep in and some good meals in’,” Miner said. “And then I’ll start thinking about it in earnest.”

Miner has said she is also considering a Congressional race against House representative John Katko.

Both say they know it’s difficult for an upstate politician to make a successful run for governor. But they both believe that Cuomo, who has said he’ll seek a third term next year, will face a competitive opponent.


The Chair of the state Senate Finance Committee says 2018 will be a difficult year for balancing the state budget.  Senator John DeFrancisco predicts cutbacks in healthcare spending to help close a multi billion dollar deficit. 

Senator DeFrancisco says  the state’s $4.4 billion projected  deficit, combined with  potential effects of the federal tax overhaul on New York , will make the next state budget the most difficult one in at least seven years.

“It’s going to be a horrible budget,” DeFrancisco said.

The GOP Senator says he doesn’t believe that education funding, one of the largest areas of the budget is at risk. But he says the state should consider paring down some of its health care benefits.

We’re very generous,” he said. “But you cannot keep doing that indefinitely, especially when you have a bad year.”

He says New York’s Medicaid budget is bigger than that of California and Texas.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at