When he gives his first public address after just 18 days in office to a Kingston audience, U.S. Rep. John Faso said he will focus on tax reform and replacing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). But questions from the audience at the Wednesday, Jan. 18 Chamber of Commerce breakfast could range from Planned Parenthood funding and free college tuition to plans for shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant to hacking.
Faso, Republican of Kinderhook, defeated Democrat Zephyr Teachout of Clinton Corners in last year’s congressional election. He joins 53 other freshmen members (27 Democrats, 26 Republicans) in the new Congress.
Faso was one of five freshmen members appointed to a special budget committee that he says will have initial input on reforming and reshaping the ACA. “Like most members, I’d like to see a little more meat on this skeleton before we proceed with reforms,” Faso said in a telephone interview. “In order to come up with a reasonable replacement, we’ll need to negotiate with Democrats. I think the biggest mistake made in 2010 was that legislation was enacted without any bipartisanship participation.”
Since Congress did not enact a 2016 budget, Faso said the special committee would be the vehicle to begin work on budgets for the next two fiscal years.
He’s concerned about how ACA reform would affect New York’s Medicaid reimbursements. “There’s talk of block grants which would give more power to the states, but that might be unfavorable to New York. It depends on which base year they use,” he said. “As you know, I’ve always supported New York’s relieving counties of the [25 percent] Medicaid burden.”
While Faso says he finds Donald Trump unpredictable and unconventional, he expects the new president will be receptive to some of the tax reforms Faso and other Republicans advocated in the last election. A priority for Faso is advancing legislation to allow small businesses full write-offs of expenses on a yearly basis. “Hopefully, it results in greater investment, expansion, and of course more jobs,” he said.
Faso on other subjects:
Planned Parenthood defunding: “The Hyde Amendment, which I support, prohibits taxpayer support of abortions. I would support an organization as long as it is providing medical services [other than abortion].”
Free tuition: “We have to be looking at ways to stem the ever-increasing costs of colleges. College administrators I’ve talked to say they are increasingly burdened with a raft of federal and state regulations. I don’t think making college free is the path most prudent or fiscally responsible. I’m not sure a government with a $19 trillion debt makes it possible.”
Potential Indian Point closing: “What does it mean? Where does the power come from to replace Indian Point?” Faso asks. “You don’t replace 30 percent of power by waving a magic wand. People should be aware it is likely new transmission lines will be going through our region.”
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, a former chairman of the Assembly Energy Committee (2009-13), said any agreement to close Indian Point “deserves our detailed attention to assure that the facility does not transition from an operating power plant to a dormant nuclear waste dump.” Cahill also said there will be sufficient power to replace Indian Point through a combination of new power plants in the Hudson Valley, transmission of Canadian power, conservation and alternative power sources.
Cyber security: “There has been no evidence of tampering with the election in terms of voting results,” Faso said. “A lot of people have been misled. They have short memories. The Russians have had a longstanding desire to attempt to influence public opinion, as revealed by KGB records when the Soviet Union fell. That said, it is outrageous the Russians attempted to influence our election, but people should not have been terribly surprised. It’s been their pattern for decades.”
Other action: Faso announced he will retain Chris Gibson staffers at his Kingston office at 721 Broadway. George Christian will continue as district director, joined by case worker Kathy Fallon. Faso added Lorrie Morse of Esopus as a case worker.
The Chamber of Commerce breakfast will be held at the Best Western on Washington Avenue in Kingston, beginning at 7:45 a.m.