Showdown in the 20th
Two local politicians go head-to-head to claim the 20th Congressional District seat. Plus: local races
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Kirsten Gillibrand (continued)
You mention taxes. In your Web sites and your public statements, both you and your opponent, Sandy Treadwell, have said you want to extend the 2001 and 2003 middle-class tax cuts. How does your tax proposal differ from his, specifically?
I think he wants to extend all of Bush’s tax cuts. I don’t support extending them for families that earn more than a million dollars because I want to use those funds to give more tax cuts to the middle class. I’d rather enrich the tax-cut package and have more tax cuts for the middle class, and use the funds from the million-plus to pay for it. Mine is middle class-focused, and his isn’t.
According to a recent survey, unemployment in the Hudson Valley is up more than 20 percent from a year ago. If elected to another term, is there anything you can do as a congressperson to create more jobs in the region and attract new businesses?
Yes. When I came to Congress, I founded the bipartisan high-tech caucus to focus on how we can invest in the high-tech industry. What I hope to do for our district is create jobs in the high-tech sector in a couple of different disciplines. One is energy markets, because we have some of the best companies already developing new energy-efficient and conservation technologies. We just had an economic development summit in Saratoga Springs where we had energy-efficient and conservation technology businesses talk about their businesses. The main recommendation we made was to increase tax inducement credits and also production credits. We have this energy bill we just passed in the House, and I’m going to try to make those tax credits better and longer in term. Right now, the wind energy credit is only a year, solar is eight years, but geothermal and all the others — hydroelectric, biomass, waste energy, and marine — are three years. We want to make them all 10-year tax credits. Then a business could have a five-year plan and a 10-year plan and count all those credits. That would drive that market. And with a new administration, instead of just investing $15 billion, we’d invest $100-$150 billion on that project, and that would drive the new energy sector. I want upstate New York, and this district in particular, to be at the forefront of that. We’ve been getting into that energy market already. We have some of the best fuel cell producers in the world, two or three of them right in Albany. We’ve got wind energy throughout New York State. We’ve got solar technologies being developed at RPI, and GE is one of the biggest producers of solar and wind. We have IBM to the south, and we’re hoping to get AMD to the north, in Saratoga County. So we really have the beginnings of this high-tech corridor focused on the energy market. We’ve got the employees for it, great graduates coming out of all these schools, a history of both agriculture and manufacturing, a great quality of life, and really good transportation networks that can be extremely attractive to new businesses and can help grow existing businesses.
You’ve made supporting family farms one of the big themes of both your campaign and your time in office, including helping to pass the Farm Bill. What state do you think the region’s farms are in right now, and what is the outlook for them?
This Farm Bill was better than any Farm Bill in history for the Northeast. We shifted something like $60 billion away from commodities toward conservation and nutrition, so we have much more investment that will help upstate New York and the Northeast. In particular, we have more money for fruits and vegetables — we produce a lot of apples and other produce in our district. We also brought a very good safety net for dairy farmers, so when the price of milk goes down, the safety net kicks in.
We also got money in the Farm Bill for organics, which is important to upstate New York because we have such potential to have organic farms if we want to. The Farm Bill provides $20,000 grants per year for three years for farms that want to transition to organics, which basically gives them access to capital to make that transition.
The third thing in the Farm Bill that is really valuable is a “buy local” provision, which really helped our local economy. It gives incentives and preferences for federal money for those entities that have “buy local” programs. So if you’re a municipal building or a school and you buy locally, you’re eligible for more USDA funding. It helps our economy because it invests in companies and entities that do buy local, it’s good for our farmers, and it’s good for the cost of food — when you don’t transport food over long distances, it’s cheaper.
Where do you think the farms are now compared to when you took office two years ago?
Well, the problem for dairy farms is that the price of milk fluctuates quite a bit. It’s now coming below the cost of production, which is very dangerous. If it’s at $19 per 100-weight and it’s costing the farmers $19-$20 to produce it per 100-weight, they’re in the red. When I was running for office in ’06, the federal government was paying $12 for a 100-weight, and it was costing farmers $14-$16 to produce it. Today, it’s costing them $18-$20 to produce because of the [increased] feed and petroleum costs. I’m concerned that our farmers are in a very difficult spot, which is why I’ve spent so much time working on dairy. But the good news is the safety net we have in the Farm Bill will protect our farmers much more than they were protected before I took office. In terms of other crops, our apple crops suffered from some pretty bad hailstorms this spring, so some of our produce farms are in trouble because of the weather. But hopefully, because the Farm Bill had money in it for fruits and vegetables, they’ll have access to more funds to rebuild.
To view more information about Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, please visit www.gillibrand.house.gov