A panel that included several Westchester representatives in the state Assembly and Senate took questions on Indian Point and the state’s plan should the Affordable Care Act be repealed.
The hour-long discussion, hosted by the Westchester County Association at Pace University’s Pleasantville campus on April 28, touched on a wide range of issues. But the panel focused especially on the future of two fields in the county facing uncertainty: health care and energy.
With the future of the Affordable Care Act still uncertain, the panel of state representatives was asked how New York and Westchester can prepare for what could be a radical shift in the health care system.
Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers, the Senate Democratic conference leader, said to the group of mostly business executives that “while this may not be a fun thing to talk about right here,” the uncertainty around the future of the Affordable Care Act has pushed Senate Democrats to pursue new single-payer legislation at the state level.
“We are really talking, as the Assembly has spoken, about single payer or something that we can do here to shield people and to shield our economy and make sure people get health care,” Stewart-Cousins said.
Assemblyman David Buchwald of Mount Kisco said the state budget does allow some authority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make changes to adjust to any cuts in Medicaid that could come along with an Affordable Care Act repeal.
“But the first and foremost thing is for us to convey to Washington that there are far too many efforts in Congress to essentially gut the success that we’ve had here in New York State,” Buchwald said. The Democrat said New York has had a much smoother rollout of its health exchange than other states.
With Indian Point Energy Center scheduled to fully shut down in 2021, much of the discussion centered on how to replace the power produced by the Buchanan nuclear plant.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, chair of the Assembly’s Energy Committee, said a tough energy market was mostly responsible for pushing Entergy Corp. to close the plant, but the litigation costs fighting the state likely played a role as well.
The Scarsdale Democrat added that she has advocated for increased production of renewable energy sources to replace the plant’s 2,000 megawatts, but doubts that solar and wind can fill the gap alone.
“The entire town of Ossining would have to be covered in solar panels,” to match the production levels of Indian Point, Paulin said.
“Until we see that there is an ability to get a lot of renewables, it’s going to be gas (generation),” Paulin said.
Assemblywoman Sandra Galef,whose district includes Buchanan, said the focus now has to be on preparing for the loss of tax revenue and jobs.
For the 1,000 jobs there, the Ossining Democrat said, the state and local municipalities should look into “whether we can retrain them to get them into other energy sectors.”
Assemblyman Kevin Byrne of Mahopac said he was concerned the workers there would instead have to relocate.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty for some communities,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I don’t want these folks to have to leave New York state.”
Another question the panel addressed was whether the state could provide any funds toward the Westchester County Association initiative to bring high-speed gigabit broadband to Westchester’s four largest cities.
The state has committed to spending $500 million to provide broadband to the entire state by 2018, but Paulin said that funding is focused on areas with greater need.
“I think right now, there are communities in rural parts that have absolutely nothing,” Paulin said. “Until that’s done, which hopefully will be 2018, we will probably have to wait until next year.”