When Congressman Reed says, "just call me Tom," he means it - he is one of us and is working tirelessly on behalf of the residents of Chautauqua County. I spoke with the Congressman this past week, and this is a synopsis of our conversation as we discussed a range of local concerns.
"When we talk about the economy, we have to make this area and New York state as a whole more attractive to those wanting to do business here. One way to make that happen is to reduce the cost of doing business. If we can offset some of the state and federal regulatory costs with lower utility costs, then we will begin to see more job creation." Job creation is a main focus of his - and he has a plan to make that happen.
He starts with the desire to encourage overall economic activity: "We must be able to show that doing business in America, and specifically here in western New York, is cost effective. That means looking at regulations - our regulations are cumbersome, and we need comprehensive regulatory reform."
Secondly, our current tax policy needs to be simplified and made more competitive. Tom said, "our 70,000-page tax code is putting us at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. And because of our complicated tax structure - combined with onerous regulations - businesses find it difficult to operate here."
Energy is another concern. We need continued research and development of alternative energy sources: "We need an energy policy that is innovative and cost effective. We must continue to develop an energy policy that includes natural gas development. Governor (Andrew) Cuomo has asked for a 90-day extension to study regulations, and the deadline for that extension is fast approaching. A decision needs to be made one way or the other so that we can move on and work for the people of western New York."
When it comes to the cost of welfare and Medicaid, he has been working on this as part of his effort toward entitlement reform. "We must target Welfare reform," he said. "We should apply stiff penalties for those who are found abusing the system, re-tool the way we train individuals who have lost their jobs, institute drug testing and an appropriate rehab program. We can no longer use taxpayer dollars to support those who abuse the system - we need to restore pride and honor in taking care of our own needs."
With the continued implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, Congressman Reed says he is working toward the passage of a targeted repeal of provisions dealing specifically with the "Cadillac Plans" as they relate to Medicaid. There is a provision in the AHCA that forces states to either maintain the Medicaid plans that were in place at the time the act was implemented, or to raise their plan to the highest level the act allows - whichever is greater. "New York state has become the poster child when it comes to Medicaid - other states are saying that if they are forced to adopt New York's plan they will go bankrupt."
Also under Obamacare, an Independent Payment Advisory Board was established. This board consists of 15 un-elected bureaucrats who are there to make decisions about services and subsequent payments for medical care. There has been much debate about this board, but the fact remains when an un-elected board is established to make decisions on what is and is not a valid medical need, claim or service, there should be questions asked and answers demanded.
We discussed the recent extension of the Farm Bill. "Wasn't this just another time that Congress chose to 'kick the can down the road' rather than deal with the problem for the long-term?" I asked. Tom said that in a manner it was, but it was urgently needed. He voted to extend the bill for nine months and is working on closing loopholes and making it stronger and more meaningful for farmers: "Our farmers in the area were in desperate need of this extension, and we need to be here for them, not just in the short term, but for the future as well."
What about gun control? Reed is a hunter, a family man, a member of the NRA and he believes in gun safety. He also believes that "to put a ban on specific guns or high capacity clips, is dangerous and may be leading us down a slippery slope." He said, "The problem won't go away on its own. We must deal with the individual behind the gun. We have to look at our mental health system and remove the restrictions that currently disallow individuals such as teachers, police officers, medical professionals, etc. who have the ability to identify problems to do so. It is a complicated situation, and over-reacting is not the answer, but neither is a lack of action." I asked if he had been approached by Vice President Biden to provide input to the Vice President's committee, but he has not.
Reed said he has sent five personal letters to the White House since his time in office, offering his hand and support; he has not received a response to even one of the letters. "This is not a partisan thing, I have spoken with my peers in the House on both sides of the aisle, and they have all said the same thing, the White House doesn't reach out to us." How very sad at a time when we, and all three branches of government, are in need of finding the middle ground in order to ultimately solve our nation's problems.
My thanks to "Tom" for the time he took to speak with me directly and candidly about some of our local issues and concerns.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident and author. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org