NYS Assembly Energy Chair
Paul D. Tonko, Democrat, was born on June 18, 1949 and is a lifelong resident of the city of Amsterdam. Since his election as a Montgomery County Supervisor at the age of 26, Mr. Tonko has been a leader in his community and New York State. He has served in the New York State Assembly as the representative of the 105th District since April 1983.
In March of 1992, Mr. Tonko was named Chairman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Energy. A member of the Standing Committees on Education, Agriculture, and Transportation, Assemblyman Tonko is recognized as a leader on issues that affect upstate New York.
As Energy Committee Chairman, Mr. Tonko has championed initiatives that would reduce rates for all classes of utility consumers and link economic development and job creation with reduced rates. Mr. Tonko also successfully guided a comprehensive energy bill through both houses of the Legislature. The bill had been under negotiation for eight years before the 1992 agreement.
Assemblyman Tonko's vision of a legislative task force to address the unique problems and values of the economically-distressed Mohawk Valley region came to fruition in 1990 with the formation of the Assembly Task Force on the Mohawk Valley. The Task Force's mission is to provide aid and assistance to the private sector, the agricultural economy, and to promote continued economic development. Under Mr. Tonko's leadership the Task Force: successfully intervened on behalf of Beech-Nut Foods to save numerous jobs at the Canajoharie plant; introduced legislation to address the lack of resources for infrastructure redevelopment, a serious impediment to economic development in the region; successfully promoted Proposition #3 to allow development of the New York State Barge Canal as a recreational and economic development resource; worked with the private sector and higher education to develop education, training and integrated development plans for Mohawk Valley communities; and introduced legislation to create a statewide heritage corridor program and a Mohawk Valley state heritage corridor planning commission.
As former Chairman of the Assembly Subcommittee on Fire Protection Services and as a former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Volunteer Firefighters, Assemblyman Tonko has long been recognized as one of the states leading advocates on firefighter and emergency services issues. During the 1994 legislative session he was able to bring to closure the decade-long fight for emergency services revolving loan fund legislation. This $2 million fund will help financially-strapped communities purchase lifesaving fire and emergency services equipment.
One of the few upstate Democratic members of the Assembly Standing Committee on Education, Mr. Tonko has been a staunch defender of increased school funding for upstate districts. Since his election in 1983, the Assemblyman has held annual budget meetings with the boards of education of each of the school districts in his Assembly District. These meetings are an invaluable tool during crucial budget negotiations and when education votes come to the floor of the Assembly.
A champion of the needs of rural New York, Mr. Tonko was instrumental in forging a solution during the 1983 Glen-Mohawk and 1985 NEDCO milk default crises by successfully obtaining legislative approval to strengthen the Milk Producers Security Fund. In 1991 Assemblyman Tonko led the fight to amend the Rogers- Allen Act to insure fair prices for New York's dairy farmers and alleviate chronically low milk prices. In 1992 Mr. Tonko was the sponsor of numerous land use bills and amendments to the State's Agricultural Districts Law that provides greater protection to active farm operations when local governments consider new development proposals.
As Chairman of the Mohawk Valley Task Force and as former Chairman of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, Mr. Tonko has conducted tours, public hearings, and forums and has hosted numerous meetings with local government officials, business, labor and agricultural leaders to gather input on the formulation of public policy.
As a former member of the Environmental Conservation Committee he has consistently supported a quality environment for all New Yorkers. Assemblyman Tonko is particularly proud of his efforts to secure clean water legislation and, working with concerned citizens, to block the proposed sitting of a low-level radioactive waste dump in the 105th Assembly District.
As a lawmaker, Assemblyman Tonko is recognized as an advocate for affordable housing and universal health care and as an effective spokesman on the special issues of the elderly.
Assemblyman Tonko has won numerous awards in recognition of his work including the New York State Conference of Mayors 1991 Legislative Award for his "continuing commitment" to local government issues. Assemblyman Tonko was also honored by the Statewide Senior Action Coalition for his advocacy on behalf of senior citizens, and in 1993 was honored by the New York State for his advocacy for programs that help low-income New Yorkers make their homes more energy efficient. In 1995, Assemblyman Tonko was named "a friend of SUNY" for his support of public higher education in New York State.
A 1967 graduate of Amsterdam High School, Mr. Tonko went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from Clarkson University in 1971. Prior to his election to the Assembly, Mr. Tonko was employed by the New York State Department of Transportation and served as Senior Valuation Engineer with the Department of Public Service for nine years. A very active participant in his community, Assemblyman Tonko's memberships include the Knights of Columbus, Council 209; BPOE, Lodge 101; the Kiwanis Club of Amsterdam; the Montgomery and Schenectady County Chambers of Commerce. He also serves as an honorary member of several district fire companies, as well as on the Boards of Directors for Hispanic Outreach Services, Horace J. Inman Senior Citizens Center, Montgomery County Red Cross, Montgomery County Unit of the American Cancer Society and is an Honorary Foundation Trustee of St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam. The Assemblyman is also a member of the board of trustees of public broadcasting station WMHT in Schenectady.