Don Miller was elected to represent the people of the 121st Assembly District (now the 127th) on Nov. 2, 2010. The district encompasses the towns of Cicero, Clay, Manlius, LaFayette and Pompey in Onondaga County.
Miller began his career in politics in 1980 as a volunteer for Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaign. He pursued political activities through a variety of campaign work and eventually founded The Empire Group, Inc., a full-service political campaign consulting firm. Miller was awarded two Silver Microphone Awards for political advertising in 1996.
Miller earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1988 from the State University of New York at Buffalo, a master of arts degree in teaching in 2005 from Lee University, Tennessee, and a master of arts degree enhancement in education administration in 2006, also from Lee University.
Miller is certified as a highly qualified teacher in secondary social studies. He currently works as the quality manager at JADAK LLC, a high-tech engineering firm servicing the healthcare industry, headquartered in North Syracuse, with global offices in Europe.
From 2000 through 2005, Miller served as an unofficial advisor to senior leaders in the People’s Republic of China. Focusing on individual liberty, constitutional government, free markets, economic reform, open political systems, competitive political parties, rule of law, the deliberative legislative process, religious freedom and jury trials, Miller taught many aspects of American freedom to the Communist Party-led Chinese government. He also spent much of 1998-2005 teaching English to Chinese university students in business operation, marketing, economics, public speaking, debate and writing classes.
Miller, 44, is a native of Liverpool, New York, the son of Donald P. and Sarah Miller, the youngest of their four children, and a graduate of Liverpool High School. He and his wife Tracy were married in 2006, and now have two daughters, ages 4 and 2. Tracy Miller is a naturalized American citizen who cast her first vote in the November 2010 election.
What are the major issues facing the 127th district?
The most significant issue facing the 127th district is job retention and growth. I have proposed a comprehensive package of initiatives to protect the jobs that we have in New York, and to make it possible for families and employers to begin to create jobs here again, so that my children and all of our families continue to call this our home.
What have you accomplished during your first term? How will you carry those accomplishments forward? What do you hope to accomplish with a second term?
The most significant accomplishment in my first term is tax cutting that has made room to grow 2,800 new jobs in our area. Before I was elected two years ago, Onondaga County had lost more than 8,500 jobs after my predecessor imposed the largest tax increase in state history. I promised to work hard to reduce taxes and stop Albany’s runaway spending so that families and employers could begin to create good jobs again. Well, we cut taxes and stopped the automatic spending increases. We locked in a middle class tax cut, and a tax cut for small business job creators, and we cut off Albany’s spending spree — and Onondaga County gained 2,800 jobs in the past two years.
I am proud of these accomplishments, but we’re just getting started. New York is still the highest-taxing, highest-spending state in the nation, and there is much more we can do to reduce taxes further for even more job growth. I will continue to push for my proposal for a 0 percent cap on the growth of property taxes, and to eliminate completely the taxes on capital gains and estates. I will also continue to drive toward a constitutional 0 percent cap on spending growth.
You did not support the 2 percent tax cap. Can you explain that position?
The surest way to continue killing off good jobs in our state is to do more of the same taxing and spending that got us into the mess we’re in.
I voted “no” on the 2 percent property tax “cap” because any tax “cap” that is above 0 percent isn’t a cap at all — it is a tax increase. The legislature passed a 2 percent property tax “cap” that will lock in tax increases for years to come, and will allow politicians to walk away from all responsibility for the annual tax hike. Two years ago I promised I would vote “no” on any tax cap that was higher than 0 percent and which did not stop Albany’s spending addiction — an addiction made possible by forcing local governments and schools to pay for state government programs.
I kept that promise, and I will continue to work to pass my proposal for an honest 0 percent property tax cap with complete relief from unfunded state mandates, to control the spending that drives our local property taxes higher every year.
The governor, members of the legislature and even the Post Standard have all moved toward my proposal for a 0 percent property tax cap with complete mandate relief in the same bill. Slowly but surely our message of lower taxes and less spending is gaining ground, and the pressure is mounting on Albany to reverse course before too many more jobs leave the state, and the country.
Your opponent, as well as a local women’s political group, has attacked your voting record in terms of women’s rights and equal pay. How do you defend that record?
My opponent and fewer than 10 partisan political activists — many not even from the 127th district — have failed in an attempt to draw voters’ attention away from my opponent’s miserable record of job losses and record tax increases by making false claims about my voting record.
Here’s the truth: I support equal pay for equal work for women with all my heart. If I ever have a chance to vote on equal pay legislation, I will vote for it. Unfortunately, I have never had that opportunity, because an equal pay bill has never come before the legislature during my time in office.
What I have voted on, and voted against, is comparable worth legislation, which would create a state government office to set wages in every private workplace. Comparable worth will drive wages down for women and minorities, not up. This idea is so bad that even my opponent’s own party refused to pass comparable worth bills when they controlled all of state government for two years. Some of the comparable worth bills I voted “no” on are so bad that they have languished in the legislature for more than a decade without ever breathing life beyond the assembly chamber. Even the old Soviet Union and the dictators in China have thrown away comparable worth — but my opponent seems to think the idea is brilliant. Hmmm.
I look forward to being able to cast a “yes” vote one day on genuine equal pay for women legislation.
The biggest problem municipalities and schools seem to face is unfunded mandates. How can we stem that tide?
Unfunded mandates are job killers, and stopping unfunded mandates is the key to controlling spiraling taxes in our state. That’s why I have sponsored legislation to completely eliminate unfunded mandates.
My mandate relief proposal is linked to a 0 percent property tax cap. My mandate relief proposal calls for a complete review of all unfunded mandates over three years, during which time local governments and school districts can negotiate with the state to determine which mandates are desirable, and who will pay for them. At the end of those three years, every mandate will have been reviewed and will either be retained, reformed, or retired. In every case, each mandate will be paid for by Albany if local governments so choose. This will expose how much money Albany actually spends, allowing taxpayers to make more informed decisions in the future.
One key element of this plan is to avoid tax increases by reducing local tax collections as mandated costs shift to Albany. I worked on a bi-partisan resolution with the Onondaga County Legislature this year to reduce the property tax levy on a dollar-for-dollar basis as the cost of state Medicaid mandates shifts to Albany. The resolution passed unanimously.
New York is notorious for its high taxes pushing businesses out of the state. How will you lower taxes?
We have begun to move in the right direction on taxes. Last year we cut middle class income tax rates to the lowest level in 58 years, and we cut income taxes on family business job creators by about $2 billion. But we’re just getting started.
New York is still worst on job creation because we are the highest-taxing, highest-spending state in the nation. There is only one government in America that is larger and taxes more than New York, and that is the federal government in Washington, D.C. — New York state government is the 1 percent. Our taxing addiction has created the nation’s worst business climate here in New York, and I am determined to change that.
I have offered a number of proposals to unleash the creative power of families and employers in our state so that they will start businesses and grow jobs right here at home. I have proposed an honest 0 percent property tax cap with complete mandate relief; abolishing the capital gains tax, the estate tax, and the corporate franchise tax; capping state spending at 0 percent annual growth; requiring a 2/3 super-majority vote to raise any tax, fee, or surcharge; and an array of specific tax reductions on manufacturers, producers, and families. We have made some progress, and I want to continue to work to make New York better than we have ever been before, a place where families and job creators once again scramble to locate because this is the best place in the world to grow a family and a business.
You say that you have “the most independent voting record in Albany.” How does that translate into effecting change?
Working for Central New York families and employers by protecting our jobs and helping them grow new ones demands a bold vision for new possibilities, and I’ve made it my business to deliver those new ideas in Albany — ideas like a middle class tax cut and a tax cut for small business job creators that we won last year, and staunch opposition to a property tax “cap” that fails to cap property taxes.
I’ve never been the go-along-to-get-along type. I proved that these past two years in Albany — I have voted for Central New York and against the Albany establishment more than any other legislator. On taxes alone, I voted 85 times against more than $4.2 billion in tax hikes. That’s a lot of “no” votes.
But I don’t care which person or party offers the job killers — tax increases, out of control spending, and more debt. I will stand strong against them every time.
Sure, it’s ruffled some feathers. But those feathers need some ruffling, and the families and employers of Central New York need a real voice in Albany again. That’s what I promised to deliver, and I will continue to square off with the Albany establishment — on both sides — to protect and grow jobs through tax cuts, spending control, and debt reduction.
Speaking of your voting record, you vote “no” more often than not. How does that make you an effective assemblyman?
It is untrue that I vote “no” more often than not. It is true that I vote “no” more often than any other member of the legislature. For example, I voted “no” 85 times to stop more than $4.2 billion in tax increases. Constituents often tell me they appreciate those votes. I will continue to vote that way — but it is important to remember that there were no fewer than 85 tax increases proposed. That’s absurd. I can say with confidence that if there were 85 tax cuts proposed, I would be casting a whole lot of “yes” votes!
You’re highly critical of handouts from Albany, yet your business, JADAK Technologies, received Empire Zone benefits. How do you justify that?
Your question is factually inaccurate. JADAK is not my business. I do not own it or have any financial interest in it. I used to work there.
In addition, your question also completely misrepresents my position. I do not view legitimate economic development as “Albany hand-outs.” I voted for more than $750 million of economic development programs and funding to help small businesses and job creators in our state to become competitive with other states and other countries.
What I consistently vote against is pork barrel spending disguised as “economic development,” but what in reality amounts to nothing more than politicians using our tax dollars to pay off political friends and get re-elected. Many “economic development grants” fall into this category. Far different from tax cutting or easing a regulation, grants are too often a direct transfer of tax dollars to the politically well-connected.
The Empire Zone doesn’t make companies profitable. Empire Zone benefits make it profitable for companies to keep jobs here in New York, rather than take them to other states. And that’s worth doing.
What makes you the best candidate for this position?
A simple comparison of my record with my opponent’s record provides a clear answer: My opponent voted 43 times for tax increases of about $13 billion, and while he was in office Onondaga County lost more than 8,500 jobs. When his party had complete control of state government, they went on a two-year tax-and-spending spree so that by the time I arrived in Albany, we faced a $10 billion budget gap and the highest taxes in the nation.
Working independently with members of both parties, I immediately set on a course of protecting the jobs we have and helping families and employers create good new jobs by cutting taxes and reigning in spending. We achieved some initial success: We cut income taxes and nearly closed the budget gap in the first year, and finished the job in the second year. And Onondaga County has gained about 2,800 jobs in the past two years.
We’ve begun to move in the right direction, but we’re just getting started. We cannot afford to go back to the old tax-and-spend schemes that my opponent mastered while he was in office. We need to continue to move forward. I do not want to take New York back to her former greatness. I want us to be greater than we’ve ever been before, and we can achieve that.
Now is the time to ensure new, forward-thinking leadership by limiting the terms of service for all state elected representatives.
Now is the time for new tax policies that protect a family’s earnings and savings.
Now is the time for new rules that are fair to all employers, not just the politically connected.
Now is the time for a new mandate for government to tighten its belt and balance its books the way families and employers do.
I hope to have your support on Nov. 6.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.