Faso, Teachout pitch platforms to chamber
Congressional candidates John Faso and Zephyr Teachout on Thursday shared their views with Ulster County business leaders on a variety of topics, including how best to jump-start the economy, term limits, trade agreements and working across the aisle to break the gridlock that has stymied Congress.
The two, vying for New York’s 19th Congressional District seat, spoke at the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast meeting at the Best Western Plus Hotel in Kingston. The winner will succeed U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, who is not seeking a fourth term in the House..
Both candidates talked about the need to bolster the economy
and end corruption in government, but they differed on the reasons those problems exist and the best way to achieve those goals.
Teachout, a Democrat who lives in Dutchess County, called for more support for small and medium-size independent businesses, and she said big-business lobbyists are influencing lawmakers to approve legislation that, while good for the big businesses, is not good for the small business owner.
“We are not going to grow if we allow a handful of big business owners push out the independent business owners,” Teachout said.
“One of the things I’m going to fight for is to reduce the power of lobbyists,” she said. “The corruption
in our lobbying system is corrupting our economic system.”
Teachout blamed big banks for refusing to lend money to small businesses after getting huge taxpayer bailouts, and she criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement for the loss of 5 million jobs and 50,000 manufacturing facilities going overseas, as well as the proposed TransPacific Partnership deal for promising more of the same.
“I will fight to bring jobs home, to make things in America again,” she said, adding the trade agreements “undermine those efforts.
“I really want to support our workers here and the work of our stuff here,” she said.
For Faso, a Republican from Columbia County, the way to jump-start the economy is changing the tax code and regulations
that govern the way businesses operate. While he said he opposes the proposed TransPacific Partnership trade agreement as written, he said the nation needs such agreements in order to compete in a global economy.
“We are 5 percent of the population and 95 percent of our customers are around the world,” he said.
Rather than scrapping the trade deals, Faso said, he would work to reduce tariffs and taxes that businesses have to pay when they bring profits back into the country.
Faso criticized New York state’s proposed $15 minimum wage and said the government can’t intervene in the banking industry.
“The worst thing we can possibly do is say the federal government is going to force a bank to do something,” he said.
Faso placed the blame for government corruption
on its intervention into business, saying the current system that provides tax breaks to certain businesses “ordains what type of economic development should take place.” He cited the Buffalo Billion, a project of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s that is now at the center of a corruption scandal, as proof of what can happen when government starts to pick and choose what kinds of projects to fund.
“I want a neutral tax system that keeps everyone the same and doesn’t pick the winners and losers,” Faso said.
The two candidates did find common ground on the need to change the Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement formula for Ulster County, which they said puts the county at a disadvantage in the region, and both said they support term limits, though only Teachout committed to a self-imposed term limit,
saying she would leave Congress voluntarily after 10 years. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms.
Teachout also vowed to fight against the largevessel anchoring proposal for the Hudson River and against fracking, and she called for more resources for sustainable energy and other environmental efforts.
Faso told business leaders that as a longtime Columbia County resident, he understood the needs of the community better than Teachout, who only recently moved into the 19th District.
“She has no history, no business, no family ... here,” Faso said. “If your going to truly represent the people, you should know something about them.”
He struck a sour note, though, when he said suggested Teachout would be beholden to New York City
if elected to Congress.
“New York City is a great place. They already have 13 members of Congress, we don’t have to give them a 14th,” he said, eliciting murmurs of displeasure, boos and comments of “low blow” from some members of the audience.
Faso, a former state Assembly minority leader, ran unsuccessfully for governor against Eliot Spitzer in 2006, will hold the Republican, Conservative, Reform and Independence lines on the November ballot.
Teachout ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party line in the 2014 gubernatorial primary against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though she carried all 11 counties in the 19th District.
The district includes all of Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties, most of Dutchess County and some or all of seven other counties.