District 39: Deborah Busch

Deborah Busch

ALBANY COUNTY — Claiming a legislative seat for an expansive rural area, Republican Deborah Busch is laying out pointed remarks for her Democratic colleagues while continuing to sound the mantra of no tax increases that she rode into the legislature in 2011.

“Once they're paying taxes, it means less for their own personal enjoyment,” Busch said of constituents in Rensselaerville, Westerlo, and parts of Berne and Knox that make up the 39th Legislative District.

As Republican minority whip, Busch said she is gaining a deeper understanding of the budgeting process, which she feels disproportionately funnels money to inner-city Albany over the suburban and rural parts of the county.

Though still dominated by Democratic enrollment, the four Hilltowns have shown positive responses to conservative candidates in the past, and Busch ascended to her position as the Tea Party movement was taking hold. She says she has enjoyed her role as legislator.

“I have to tell you, it gets tiring. I've put four hard years into it. I feel now I’m groomed and I’m ready to fight for bigger things.”

This election season, she has endorsements from her own party, the Conservative Party, the Independence Party, and the Reform Party.

Busch, 52, grew up in Knox, and she has had a long career in health care, most recently as a nurse manager.

Talking to people in the Hilltowns, she said, she has learned very local issues are on their minds. Cell towers proposed for high points in the Hilltowns are opposed by local residents, but Busch said she ultimately feels the towers should be allowed.

“People can die,” said Busch. “You need to get help as quickly as possible and having to run two to three miles up a road to try to get service to someone that’s in dire need is ridiculous.”

She also said finding ways to expand public transportation options for the elderly and funding for broadband cable in the Hilltowns are major concerns of hers.

Though increased heroin use has affected areas beyond the Hilltowns, Busch said she has seen it become a serious problem in her district, as well.

“This heroin situation is extremely disturbing to me. I remember working in the emergency room and seeing people on crack with heart attacks,” she said. “I am seeing people come in dead on heroin.”

“At the county, we cannot raise these children, but we can give assistance to these parents that see they have a child with a problem, an offshoot of PINS that focuses on drugs. Create a program where kids would go,” Busch said, referring to Persons In Need of Supervision, run by the county’s Department of Probation.

She also said police need strong investigative units to target the sources of drugs.

Asked whether she would put her support behind such programs in a budget vote, Busch said the Sheriff’s Office is always given a wide berth in the budget. Though it’s expensive, she said she supports the methadone treatment and the addicts’ recovery program at the jail. “That type of resource I don't even think is negotiable. The reason is, all communities are at risk.”

Busch said she supports efforts at finding efficiency on public roads, but she stressed that municipal identities are at stake in any consolidation or merging of entities that could cost jobs.

She supports the use of shared facilities, as with a planned salt shed for both county and Berne town workers, suggesting that town courts could do the same, having town justices go to a central location.

“It’s expensive to make it where the legal process is done in a respectful manner, with privacy and people are sitting where they are supposed to,” she said of town courts. Asked whether she would stop at sharing the elected position of town justice across municipalities, she said she wouldn’t if it would save money.

Recommendations for revisions to the county charter included downsizing the legislature, which Busch said she was behind. She called the choice presented to voters on Nov. 3, however, a “packaged deal” by legislators who made their amendments, which she opposes.

On poverty, Busch said the county lacks a “good, written economic plan,” and she thinks too many resources are put into economic problems in the city of Albany, ignoring the same issues in rural and suburban areas. She blames the concentration of population in the city, creating a large number of legislators with urban constituencies.

“A good example is a resource center set up in West Albany that is functionally doing what I am trying to get set up out here in the Hilltown Resource Center,” said Busch, referring to a resolution of hers now languishing in committee.

“The minimum wage requirement should be based on counties,” Busch said. “They need to look at mean income across the board and the population distribution.”

She called the delays over environmental impact review for a Soldier On facility a “stop-gap measure” by a Democratic faction. “Soldier On was right on target,” she said.

Busch serves on the Elder Care Committee that oversees the nursing home, a point of controversy and debate in the legislature for many years. Busch criticized both the handling of the Local Development Corporation, saying it has failed to get the nursing home out of the red, and the large salary of more than $300,000 paid to its director.

“This LDC was a sham. It did not work,” Busch said. “I support the privatization of the home so we can get employees in there that are not looking to fight for union causes.”

Referring to a Schoharie County program where she worked as an intern, Busch said the county can do more to contract with third parties for in-home care, especially in rural areas like District 39.

“I was never so welcomed in all my life as when I was a nurse coming to the door with my bag — ‘I'm here to help you,’” Busch said of her experience in Schoharie County. “It's a nice thing.”

Busch voted against the laws banning toxic toys and Styrofoam in Albany County, saying such issues should be handled on a federal level.

“That's something we cannot enforce, and we're right now in litigation with two industries over it because of the way the law was crafted…We don't have the funds to fight that. We don't have the proper counsel to do that.”

She said she is looking to support a bill by Guilderland Democrat Brian Clenahan that would ban microbeads from cosmetic products, which can damage fish and wastewater systems. The difference she said, is that the list of products can be narrowed and the companies producing them could participate.

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