50th State Senate District Map, courtesy of the State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

The 50th Senate District, covering northern Onondaga County and all of Oswego County, will be defined by the impact generated by the proposed Micron computer chip manufacturing facility.

Both candidates running to represent the district in Albany had a hand in luring Micron’s $100-billion investment over the next two decades to the town of Clay.

Incumbent Democrat John Mannion, who lives in Geddes, is a proponent of the state’s “Green CHIPS” bill, which offers key financial incentives to corporations like Micron seeking to bring sustainable manufacturing of semiconductors to the Empire State. Mannion is running under the Democratic and Working Families party lines. 

Manlius Republican Rebecca Shiroff is a program analyst for Onondaga County in the Office of Economic Development. She was a part of the county team that helped bring Micron to Central New York. She is running under the Republican and Conservative party lines. 

Central Current asked the candidates five questions regarding their professional and public service backgrounds, as well as the issues facing their district. The candidates submitted their answers in writing.

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What is your professional or public service background? How would that influence your time in office?

Mannion: “For 28 years, I was an AP biology and chemistry teacher in public schools. I had to conduct myself in a balanced and informed manner. As a role model to young people, I had to be prepared for the expected and unexpected, knowing that I had the trust of the students and their parents. I use those skills today as a state senator, chairing the Committee on Disabilities. I can provide real world input into legislation and prioritizing items in the budget. I serve on a multitude of other committees and like in the classroom, I do my homework. I engage all stakeholders and constituents, then make what can be challenging decisions that would best reflect the positions and interests of the people I serve.”

Shiroff: “For more than 18 years I was a successful small business owner here in Central New York. I know firsthand what it is like to be an employer and an employee. I fully recognize the critical importance small businesses play in regard to a healthy local economy. I have been an outspoken advocate for children and mental health struggles serving as a school board member and organizer. Additionally, I have volunteered my time with many local non-profit organizations including Hope for Heather, The Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, and Ronald McDonald House to name a few. Currently I am a program analyst for Onondaga County in the Office of Economic Development where I worked for over a year on the Micron project. I have devoted most of my adult life to my community and look forward to being able to continue that work in a new role as state senator.”

What do you see as the biggest issue in your district? How do you plan to address it?

Mannion: “As a native Central New Yorker, I have watched many jobs leave and manufacturing plants close during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The key to success and a good life in the Syracuse region is a good paying job. That is why I was proud to make funding for a local apprenticeship program a priority and I delivered on that promise. Additionally, I was instrumental in the development and passage of legislation referred to as Green CHIPS. This bill was passed into law and helped draw a major semiconductor manufacturer, Micron, to my district. This is a transformative project that sets us on a high trajectory for the creation of jobs and establishing the region as a technology hub.”

Shiroff: “Today, the biggest issue facing the 50th Senate District is inflation. Our day to day lives have become less affordable and that is a pain we all feel. As a mother and former small business owner I am keenly aware of the challenges felt by those in the district each and every day which is why I will fight to cut taxes, reduce the cost of living and improve the climate for businesses. We need to push for a full repeal of the state’s gas tax, work to repeal unfunded mandates that drive up local property taxes, accelerate and expand middle class tax cuts, and put forth measures to cap irresponsible spending in Albany. As we look at the cost of living, I believe that it is important to expand support for employer provided childcare, expand the Empire State Child Tax Credit, empower localities to offer sales tax holidays for essential goods, provide for energy tax relief and support the rights of individual property owners here at home. But all of this must also work in concert with supporting businesses in the state. Specifically, I support the reduction of burdensome regulations and taxes, and renewed economic development not overshadowed by corruption. This is a complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions. I am committed to delivering relief to my community and making it easier to go to the grocery store and gas station.”

What is your plan to ensure that the proposed Micron microchip plant in Clay is a success for the people of your district?

Mannion: “I will continue to engage with representatives from Clay, Onondaga County, Micron, CenterState CEO, Empire State Development and others to see what needs to be done legislatively or in the budget to assure this success. This Green CHIPS program provides incentives only on the back end, when Micron has utilized green energy, hit their job projections and fulfilled their community commitments.”

Shiroff: “I dedicated over a year as part of the team in the Office of Economic Development for Onondaga County. It is critical that we engage our local businesses in this economic expansion and provide them with opportunities for growth. Our community is in a unique position to create substantial and sustainable economic stability. This will require collaboration with all local leaders and a clear vision and strategy. In my opinion, it is imperative to provide the local business community with support and solutions. Our ability to have foresight and adapt to issues that may arise from this opportunity will be a key factor in long term success. Micron’s historical investment in the CNY community will also create challenges that we must anticipate and plan for. For example, with the creation of more than 50,000 jobs, comes the issue of housing. We must be well prepared and adapt to the needs that this opportunity will create for all of us. I believe we can rise to the occasion and capitalize on this. It will take ingenuity, perseverance, and grit. I am ready to participate in the process and create the Central New York we all hope for.”

The promises of Micron’s investment and job generation in the next decades are significant. Land in Clay, Cicero, and Lysander has sold for prices higher than expected. How would you ensure your district remains prosperous, affordable, and attractive to working families?

Mannion: “I will continue to build on our prior successes of accelerating the middle class tax cuts, providing property tax relief and suspending the gas tax. I will also advocate for state dollars to assist our municipalities with infrastructure projects to alleviate the pressure of local tax burdens.”

Shiroff: “I am aware that real estate around the proposed facility has increased in price due to speculation of future need. I also recognize that the need for increased housing solutions will have to be addressed moving forward. Personally, I see this as a great opportunity to expand the tax base making home ownership and rentals more affordable. The anticipated increase in demand for suitable housing creates an opportunity for a significant increase in municipal revenue from the existing property tax base. More taxable land parcels equal more profitable towns and villages. Proper planning is required to capitalize on this unique situation, but our community has much to gain.”

The 50th State Senate District had not elected a Democrat for more than 50 years until Mr. Mannion’s election in 2020. How does that affect how you see this race?

Mannion: “I serve in the majority and therefore bring an Upstate and Central New York voice into the conversation in the room where the decisions are made. As a proud Syracusan, I represent everyone. I am a pragmatic voice that is always looking for commonsense solutions.”

Shiroff: “The 50th Senate District has changed geographically several times over the last 50 years. Most recently, the district map was redrawn earlier this year. I entered this race to help better the lives of the constituents of the district. Partisan politics was not a part of my decision-making process. To me, this has always been about reducing the struggles and easing the burdens of the people. What I can say is that the people have not seen the progress they deserve over the last two years, and I look forward to changing that. I am grateful for the support and endorsements of former Sens. John DeFrancisco and Patty Ritchie who both believe I have what it takes to move CNY forward. I am asking for people to vote for me because a vote for me is a vote to bring common sense and comprehensive solutions back to Albany.”

Election Day is Nov. 8. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Got a tip, question or story idea? Contact Central Current at newsroom@centralcurrent.org.

Follow Eddie Velazquez @ezvelazquez.

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