Sept. 12, 2018 By Tara Law
Although his primary challenger has repeatedly questioned his commitment to the Democratic Party, State Senator Jose Peralta said that the public has all the proof it needs about his progressive values— his record in office.
Peralta has a long history in state government. He was a state assembly member from 2003 to 2010, and has represented the 39th Senate district— Corona, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst— for the last eight years.
The moment for some that defines his time in office, however, came on Jan. 25, 2017–the day he announced plans to join the Independent Democratic Conference, a break-away group of Democratic Senators who aligned themselves with the Republican majority.
Although the IDC dissolved in April, some progressives still feel that Peralta undermined his Democratic principles and the entire party by working with Republicans.
Peralta will face an opponent in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, Jessica Ramos, who has positioned herself as a “real Democrat” who is loyal to the party.
In Peralta’s view, however, most of his constituents are more concerned with results—which means bringing in much needed state funds to the district. Constituents, he said, are less concerned with absolute party loyalty.
Peralta said that he does not regret joining the IDC because it gave him greater influence and more bargaining power at a time when the Republicans would have controlled the Senate anyway.
“That decision was to have a seat at the table so I could bring resources to my community,” he said.
In Peralta’s opinion, his record proves that he is worthy to be re-elected.
He notes that he supported an increase in the minimum wage; backed Paid Family Leave; helped fund 12 new schools in the district; and brought in $10 million in legal defense funding for immigrants.
Peralta noted that he has also backed numerous bills to help reform rent, such as eliminating vacancy decontrol (which enables landlords to raise the rent of vacant rent-regulated apartments) and ending preferential rent (which allows landlords to increase the rent if tenants are charged less than the amount set for a rent-regulated apartment).
If re-elected, Peralta said that his first priority would be to pass one of his signature legislative efforts— the Dream Act, a bill which would give undocumented immigrants access to financial aid at state colleges. Peralta said that he only needs to gain support from one more senator to pass the bill.
Another priority, he said, is to pass legislation that would strengthen women’s access to abortion—particularly as the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision looks vulnerable.
“There’s no time to waste. You can’t play with that,” said Peralta.
Although he feels that passing the Dream Act and protecting abortion will be straightforward legislative efforts, he feels that reforming the MTA will require more complex effort over a long period of time.
In Peralta’s words, the city’s subway lines must be reformed “piecemeal”— one line at a time— to prevent major disruptions for commuters. A millionaire’s tax and congestion pricing— such as the new surcharge on taxi and Uber rides— would help fund these efforts.
He believes that the state should create a position for an “an independent monitor who has a business background, who understands business and government.”
The goal of this monitor would be to apply business principles to the MTA, such as streamlining the MTA’s finances.
Peralta added that public-private partnerships are the “wave of the future,” and that the state should be more willing to cooperate with businesses that are willing to invest in the subway system.
Peralta said that his constituents can trust that he will get results because he has two things his opponent does not— experience and seniority in the Senate.
“I’ve not only talked the talk, but I’ve walked the walk. I’ve delivered,” said Peralta.