Richard Burke seeks seat in the state assembly
The new district is comprised of four Monroe County towns representing 36 percent of the resident constituency; all 17 Livingston County towns representing 47 percent of the constituency, and four northwestern Steuben county towns (including the City of Hornell) representing 17 percent of the constituency.
The overlap with the old 130th district includes the Mendon home of incumbent 130th District Assemblyman Sean Hanna.
Just six of the towns — Mendon, Pittsford, Livonia, Conesus, Sparta and Springwater — are in the current 130th with Hanna as their assemblyman, but these six towns comprise 40 percent of the overall constituency.
As of presstime on Tuesday, Hanna has made no statement in regard to his own intentions of seeking the new 133rd Assembly seat.
Burke was elected Avon mayor in 1995, serving until 2004. He is principal of the Burke Group, located in Honeoye Falls from 1989 to 2005. The business, now in Rochester, employs 19 full time professionals providing services to organizations, businesses and employers throughout western New York.
A lifelong resident of Avon, Richard and wife Heather have four children and are members of St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church.
An active Republican, Burke serves as Avon Committee chair and Livingston County vice chair. Outside the political realm, Burke has compiled an impressive record of public service to the Avon community as a member of the fire department (Van Zandt Hose Co.), Historical & Preservation Society (past president), youth baseball, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus and St. Agnes School Foundation.
A prominent fiscal conservative “dedicated to providing good customer service to my constituents,” Burke calls attention to a track record of being responsive to the needs of those he represents.
In seeking the 133rd Assembly designation from the Republican committees in Livingston, Monroe and Steuben counties, Burke advises he is “not running against Sean.” Rather, he is running for Livingston County as a native son of the county.
In Livingston, Burke will be campaigning among the county’s 116 town committeemen, two for each electoral district, who, in May, will be naming the party’s choice for the Assembly and State Senate seats and for the special district attorney election. Monroe and Steuben have the same process in which committee members convene and designate party selections.
For its select candidates, party committee members perform the petition legwork. Any candidate may challenge the selection of the party committee, collect his or her own petition signatures and thereby appear on a primary election ballot. The final party nominee will be the winner of the primary, to be held Sept. 11.
“I fully expect to win the Livingston County Republican designation and that I will represent the county in the primary,” Burke stated.
Burke’s campaigning approach will be to stay true to the party and the principles it espouses, running as a Republican with a faith in the party structure, and showing up — “in Hornell, in Pittsford, in Wheatland and Ossian for the dinners and events.”
“It’s my job to come to the constituents, to be genuine and honest, to be accessible, to answer whatever questions they may have,” he said.
The Johnson factor
“I am going to be representing the entire district, so I am not seeing this as a Livingston vs. the outside situation,” Burke qualified.
However, Burke makes reference to the 1992 Assembly primary for a newly formed district comprised of Livingston County and parts of Monroe and Allegany counties. At that time resident Pittsford incumbent Jim Nagel was contemplating a run for a state senate seat where he would face John Stanwick. Nagle opted instead to reclaim his assembly spot — and lost to a little known Nunda town supervisor, Jerry Johnson.
“My point is a smaller county running its own candidate with good support can defeat a bigger county,” Burke said, adding, “The people in Livingston County do their duty as committee members — and they vote in primaries.”
“I will seek the endorsements of all three counties and respect the decisions of each,” Burke said. “If Steuben or Monroe counties have a favorite son, I’ll respect that and we’ll have a good, honestly fought primary.”
As a legislator in Albany, Burke would see the essence of the job as constituent services.
“Serving constituents at the local level, being attentive to the folks back home, is what the job is about,” Burke believes. “It’s in my heart. That’s why I’m running.”
Whether assisting individuals, businesses, organizations or local governments, Burke as a legislator will be first and foremost a servant to his constituents.
Burke realizes the legislature often faces difficult questions for which people often want easy answers. Fracking is among those issues lacking an easy answer.
“I am for exploring sources of energy. I don’t want to mess up the environment. I don’t want to pollute our land,” he states. “If fracking is done, it needs to be regulated by state agencies which are diligent.”
On issues of education and state funding of education, Burke is pro-educator and holds teachers in high regard, but comments, “We have pretty good schools. They could be better.”
“We have to continue to explore ways to provide better education to our kids,” Burke said. He envisions a day when more school districts will be consolidated.
“It may not save money right away, but consolidarion will provide better efficiencies as far as administration of the schools,” Burke suggests. “It’s a challenge because there is a lot of parochialism, especially the emotional issues around the sports programs.
“But as taxpayers it’s our biggest expense. We have to make the commitment now to reset how the future of education is going to be.”
With pension contributions by local governments spiraling out of control, there is a need in the legislature for professional expertise and understanding of the very sort Burke has.
“Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve been in the pension business all of my career,” he said. As a fundamental point, Burke notes that the legislators decide what the pensions will be –so it is truly ‘on the legislators’ to rein in those costs.
“It is a promise you’ve made,” Burke stated, qualifying, “But now we’re beginning to realize what those promises mean.”
Burke believes a right step has been made implementing Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Rule 45, which requires municipalities and school districts to recognize the value of a promised benefit, quantifying what the package or incentive will actually be costing the taxpayers.
“The liabilities which are now being revealed on the balance sheets of the school districts and governments is astounding,” Burke revealed. “At this time the rule requires only recognition, but not yet putting the money aside.”
The investment market downslide of 2008 and slow economic recovery have created a worst possible scenario for pension funding.
“There is no reason why the legislature can’t decide that employees need to start paying more into their retirement funds,” Burke advised, adding, “or we can scale back the benefits, realizing we can’t afford the old promises to the new hires.”
“We have to make good on the promises we have already made,” Burke clarifies. “You can’t operate a business without making good you’re promises — but we have got to be realistic and creative about what we can do going forward. The fix is not going to happen overnight and will probably make some people unhappy.”
Warning signs were evident 20 years ago when the private sector started getting out of the pension business, Burke suggested, adding, “The state turned a blind eye, somehow believing it was different.”
As a result, “We have problems with the pension benefits we promised. We can’t afford them today. What makes us think we can afford them tomorrow? It was easy to make the promise when somebody else down the road had to pay the price.”
“There is a lot of special interest relative to retirement funding concentrated in Albany, so the voice of the little guy back home is not always heard,” Burke observes, “but there has got to be a different approach — and taking care of this is what we are elected to do.”