Schwartz chal­lenged by Rooney for dis­trict seat

The Ambler Gazette - - POLICEREPORTS - By Linda Finarelli

Demo­crat Allyson Schwartz, a four-term 13th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and Repub­li­can chal­lenger Joe Rooney, a mil­i­tary vet­eran and Delta Air­lines cap­tain, agree on one thing: Im­prov­ing the econ­omy is one of the most im­por­tant tasks fac­ing the county.

They dif­fer on how to ac­com­plish that.

“Eco­nomic growth and jobs and the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges we have — we don’t have ad­e­quate rev­enue,” Schwartz said, re­gard­ing the most im­por­tant is­sues to be ad­dressed by the next Congress. “We’re see­ing a re­cov­ery,” she said, and while job growth is “not as ro­bust as we would like, we’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

The an­swer is to cre­ate greater pre­dictabil­ity of tax poli­cies for busi­nesses and to pro­tect the mid­dle class, with “the right kind of in­vest­ments that are com­pat­i­ble and pros­per­ous in a global econ­omy,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz, 64, a res­i­dent of Jenk­in­town, said she sup­ports ex­tend­ing the tax cuts due to ex­pire and in­creas­ing the tax rate for those who earn more than $250,000, al­though she would be “flex­i­ble about what that num­ber is,” per­haps $500,000, “but I do be­lieve the wealth­i­est should be pay­ing a bit more.”

“We need rev­enues to meet our obli­ga­tions,” Schwartz said, adding she sup­ports deficit re­duc­tion, bal­anc­ing the bud­get and pay­ing down the na­tional debt. Spend­ing has been cut by $1 tril­lion she said, with an­other tril­lion “com­mit­ted” over the next 10 years, but “we can’t do it with spend­ing cuts alone.”

Re­fer­ring to the coun­try’s $16 tril­lion debt and more than $1 tril­lion in deficits in re­cent years, Rooney, who de­scribed him­self as a con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can, said, “We can’t keep that up. We have to get spend­ing un­der con­trol and grow the econ­omy” to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment and bring in more rev­enue.

Rooney, 54, of Ard­s­ley, said Congress must lead by ex­am­ple, and “cut its bud­get by 10 per­cent across the board,” by re­duc­ing staff and other ex­pen­di­tures. Re­fer­ring to a com­ment made by pres­i­den­tial Repub­li­can can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney dur­ing the Oct. 3 de­bate, he said he agreed that pro­grams should not be funded if they are “not worth bor­row­ing money from China” for.

Rooney said he would not vote to raise in­come taxes to help cut the deficit.

“The main fo­cus has to be on flat­ter taxes, lower tax rates; rea­son­able reg­u­la­tions and giv­ing the pri­vate sec­tor busi­nesses the pre­dictabil­ity they need,” he said.

Rooney said he was against the pres­i­dent’s health care re­form act, not­ing he is “a big be­liever in the free mar­ket sys­tem.”

Schwartz, who has spon­sored a va­ri­ety of health care pro­vi­sions over the years to re­quire elec­tronic med­i­cal records and elec­tronic pre­scrip­tions to re­duce er­rors, au­thored sev­eral key pro­vi­sions of the Af­ford­able Care Act, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing ac­cess to pri­mary care, ban­ning ex­cu­sions for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions and al­low­ing young adults to re­main on their par­ents’ health care cov­er­age.

She has also spon­sored leg­is­la­tion giv­ing tax cred­its to biotech com­pa­nies and giv­ing busi­nesses a tax break for those who hire vet­er­ans re­turn­ing from Iraq and Afghanistan, she said.

On a lo­cal level, Schwartz said, she spon­sored an amend­ment that pre­vented fu­ture use of the Wil­low Grove Naval Air Sta­tion air­field in Hor­sham for com­mer­cial pas­sen­ger op­er­a­tions and brought “fed­eral dol­lars back to the dis­trict” through an in­fra­struc­ture bill to pay for Main Street projects in Ambler, Lans­dale and Jenk­in­town.

In terms of Mont­gomery County, Rooney tar­geted man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“We used to have an in­cred­i­ble man­u­fac­tur­ing base; a lot of it is gone,” he said. “We need to look at that … how we can get some of it back.”

Asked how to re­duce the grid­lock and po­lar­iza­tion that marks Congress, Rooney, who spent 23 years in the Marines, in­clud­ing 11 on ac­tive duty, said he has “spent a life­time work­ing to­gether [with oth­ers],” not­ing “the mil­i­tary is an apo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.”

Rooney ac­cused Schwartz of not try­ing to work with Republicans in Congress.

“She has never been the prime au­thor of a piece of leg­is­la­tion that has passed … she is not a mod­er­ate, she does not work across the aisle,” Rooney said.

Schwartz re­sponded that the leg­is­la­tion she has spon­sored has been passed as part of larger bills.

“Ev­ery piece of leg­is­la­tion I worked on I’ve looked for a Repub­li­can to work with me,” she said. “That’s been a chal­lenge in the last year or two.”

Rooney, who has a me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing de­gree from Cor­nell Univer­sity, is mar­ried to a Navy vet­eran and has five chil­dren, two of whom are also in the mil­i­tary, said he was run­ning be­cause “a lot of work needs to be done here at home.”

“We need strong, firm lead­er­ship,” Rooney said. Re­fer­ring to the Mid­dle East, he added, “We have to stop bow­ing and apol­o­giz­ing.”

Schwartz, de­scrib­ing her­self as a cen­trist Demo­crat, said she was run­ning again “to get our fis­cal house in or­der, pro­tect Medi­care,” and “grow the econ­omy by mak­ing avail­able higher ed­u­ca­tion.”

The 13th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict in­cludes parts of Mont­gomery County and North­east Philadel­phia.

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