Growing Our Rural Economies: Protecting the Jobs We Have and Creating New Ones

The biggest issue we face here in the Southern Tier, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes is jobs. Time and again, Washington and the economy have left our rural communities behind. My top priority in Congress will be protecting the jobs we still have and building the conditions to create new ones. To do so, I will fight every day to prioritize the needs of our workers, while also making sure our entrepreneurs have the resources and conditions to make their business plans a reality.

I will start by opposing bad trade deals that disadvantage our region because any plan to grow our jobs must start by protecting the ones we have. I am proud to stand with our unions in fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Unions are the keepers of the middle class in America — fighting for good jobs and a living wage throughout our district and across New York.

We also need to make sure businesses and entrepreneurs see our region as an area worth taking a risk in. The areas that do best create environments that allow people to take risks. This means championing our region as a hotbed for the next economic wave of creating and installing renewable energy technologies, and making our rural communities more attractive for investments by upgrading infrastructure and promoting true high-speed internet and better cell phone coverage throughout our region. Securing a strong economic future also includes making college more affordable so our students can stay here and pursue new ventures without being chained to decades of debt.

At the same, we need to recognize a fundamental truth: that government is not designed to and is not capable of fixing all of our problems. And without proper research or oversight, government policies can cause as many or more economic problems than they prevent. There are many cases where unnecessary red tape or the passage of bad trade deals have been very harmful to our rural communities. That’s why one key component for boosting our rural economies is reevaluating regulations on a routine basis, cutting excessive interference where it exists, and reversing policies that have unintended negative consequences.

My approach of putting our people first to grow our economy comes from my 22 years of service as a U.S. Navy officer. However, in the military, I also learned that you need to take responsibility. That principle should extend to Congress when it comes to budgeting. If we are smarter about controlling our spending and our budget, investing in our rural communities can be done without passing the buck of increased debt on to our future generations.

I grew up in the Southern Tier. I know that our workers are the lifeblood of our communities and that our small businesses are innovative and resilient. I know that if we are given a fair shot, we can thrive again. That’s a challenging mission — but that is also why I’m running for Congress. Western New York and the Southern Tier have been my family’s home for four generations and I know we can do better with a new representative that puts our people first.

Key Priorities

Fight Bad Trade Deals: Fight against bad trade deals — like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — so we can put a stop to our jobs being shipped overseas.

Promote Renewable Energy and Upgrade Infrastructure: Champion renewable energy so our rural economies are a part of this growing economic wave, and upgrade our crumbling roads and bridges.

Create the Conditions for Entrepreneurs to Succeed: Eliminate damaging, unnecessary red tape and provide resources so our entrepreneurs have a better environment to make their business plans a reality.

Improve College Affordability: Help students finance and refinance their student loans at competitive rates or pay them back as a percentage of their income so they can afford to stay and work in our district and take risks while they’re young.

Promote True High-Speed Internet for Rural Communities: Connect our rural communities to the free flow of online commerce, customers, and clients with true high-speed internet and improved rural cell phone coverage.

Get Spending Under Control: Washington needs to get its spending under control so we can strengthen our economy today and in the future without continuing to pass the buck on to future generations.

Key Lines of Efforts to Protect Our Jobs and Create New Ones

We can boost our rural communities by prioritizing our workers and building the conditions for small businesses and entrepreneurs to create jobs throughout our entire region. We must start by fighting against bad trade deals so we can protect the jobs we still have. At the same time, we need to champion our district as a home for renewable energy, infrastructure projects, and high-speed internet. All of these investments — along with removing red tape and smart budgeting — will get our rural economies back on track by making it possible for our small businesses to grow and hire even more workers.

Fight Bad Trade Deals
 
Bad trade deals supported by Washington politicians have been shipping our jobs overseas for far too long. I will protect the jobs we have by fighting against bad trade deals — like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Research shows that foreign trade agreements do not help small businesses. In New York, only 9% of small and medium-sized businesses even export any products, compared to 54% of large corporations.[1] The nonpartisan and respected Peterson Institute for International Economics concludes that rural manufacturing areas like our district are often hardest hit by free trade deals.[2] This should not surprise any of us, as our state has lost over 360,000 manufacturing jobs since the implementation of NAFTA,[3] and trade with China cost us nearly 180,000 jobs between 2001 and 2013.[4] We all know that when a factory closes its doors in our district, another factory doesn’t spring up across the street to take its place. Too often the jobs simply go away. I will stand up against bad trade deals because our district cannot afford to lose any of the remaining good jobs we still have.

Promote Renewable Energy and Upgrade Infrastructure
 
Our rural communities deserve to receive our fair share of infrastructure and economic investment. My top focus will be securing the investments and policies needed for us to create good renewable energy jobs right here at home. We already have the land, sun, and wind required. Renewable energy is forecast by the Energy Information Administration to grow faster than any other source of power through 2040.[5] And in 2015, global investment in renewables hit a record $286 billion.[6] Our rural communities need to be part of this growing economic wave and I will be our district’s champion in Congress.

Additionally, we need to upgrade our crumbling roads and bridges. New York received only a C- overall in its 2015 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, while earning a D+ for bridges and a D- for roads.[7] Over 50% of our bridges were built more than 75 years ago and there are over 2,000 structurally-deficient bridges overall, while the ASCE found that poor roads disproportionately cause fatalities in rural areas at a rate three times higher than the rest of the state.[8] That’s unacceptable, and it’s both hurting our economic competitiveness and putting our rural communities in danger. Securing the investments needed to revitalize our infrastructure will make it easier for businesses to operate in our region, and will also create new opportunities for many of our men and women to get to work rebuilding the Southern Tier, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes.

Create the Conditions for Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses to Succeed
 
It is an incredibly challenging task to start a business in our region. CNBC currently ranks New York an abysmal 45th for business friendliness.[9] We need to encourage and make it easier for small business owners and entrepreneurs to take risks if they are willing — government should not get in the way. That means ensuring small businesses have access to the capital and the resources they need to create additional jobs. Too often, bureaucratic burdens make access to capital too cumbersome to be responsive, which hinders potential growth. Our entrepreneurs should have easier access to the small business loans that are available in the larger cities that surround us. There should also be a local and responsive agency that is available to guide newcomers through the process of starting a business.

In Congress, we must develop an oversight mechanism that routinely reevaluates the usefulness of regulations. That way, we can cut the red tape that is holding back our small businesses[10] and preserve the rules that are working to uphold the standards necessary for safety, while still holding big corporations and bad actors accountable for any wrongdoings.

Improve College Affordability
 
We need to be committed to improving college affordability. In New York, 61% of students graduate with debt, and those students struggle under an average debt load of nearly $28,000.[11] Too many of our college graduates are stuck in a position where they need to move away to find a job that earns enough for them to pay off their mountain of debt. If our students want to build a life here in our district they should have that opportunity. Students should be able to finance and refinance their student loans at competitive rates, and have the option of paying back their loans as a percentage of their income. That way, they can afford to be entrepreneurs and take risks when they are young, which will help ensure our economy will be strong in the future.

I will also work to protect the post-9/11 GI Bill which makes it affordable for millions of our veterans to earn a quality college education. The men and women that have served our country in our armed forces deserve the opportunity to learn the skills and information needed to succeed in our competitive job market and build a life for themselves after the military. This is especially important in our district, which is home to over 50,000 veterans of all ages.[12]
 
 Promote True High-Speed Internet for Our Rural Communities
 
For many up-and-coming businesses and industries, the traditional brick and mortar model just doesn’t cut it anymore. But when it comes to high-speed internet in our rural communities, the cards are stacked against us. Even though our country pioneered the internet, we are falling behind the rest of the world in offering high-speed broadband that is also affordable — 39% of Americans living in rural areas lack access to a benchmark broadband internet speed of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps,[13] including massive swaths of the 23rd district.[14] We need to bring true high-speed internet to our rural communities to leverage the free flow of online commerce, customers, and potential clients that other competitive areas have access to.

We also all know the frustration of poor cell phone coverage in our district. We need consistent, reliable cell phone coverage so businesses and workers can operate with confidence throughout our rural communities.

Get Spending Under Control
 There are many initiatives and incentives that will promote our rural economies. But part of implementing new policies in good conscious means that we need to start budgeting smarter and get Washington’s spending under control. Otherwise, we are just passing the buck and saddling our children and grandchildren with even more debt. To be clear, this does not mean that Congress should pass sequesters that blindly force spending cuts across the board — that only makes the problem worse. It also does not mean shutting the government down — that actually ends up costing more money than staying open. Our approach to budgeting needs to be smarter, with increased incentives for efficiency. We can start by allowing our government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices that we buy in bulk for Medicare — just like the Department of Veterans Affairs already does — which could save up to $16 billion each year.[15] We would also be wise to make sure every dollar spent on defense is done so based on the operational requirements of our military and the range of threats we face. Part of budgeting smarter also includes ending the repeated budget showdowns and crisis-by-crisis governing in Congress that have led to expensive government shutdowns.[16]

In Congress, I will be dedicated to working in good faith across the aisle to find solutions that help secure our country’s financial future, strengthen our economy, and provide opportunity for current and future generations in our region.

[1] “New York: Lost Jobs, Lagging Exports, Rising Inequality under “Free Trade” Deals.” Public Citizen

[2] “What Economic Models Tell Us about the TPP.” Peterson Institute for Economics, 2/18/15

[3] New York — Manufacturing Jobs, Bureau of Labor Statistics

[4] “China Trade, Outsourcing and Jobs.” Economic Policy Insitute, 12/11/14

[5] “Strong Future Forecast for Renewable Energy.” Benjamin Hulac, Scientific American, July 27, 2015.

[6] Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016, United Nations Environment Program.

[7] “Report Card for New York’s Infrastructure.” American Society of Civil Engineers, 9/15

[8] “Report Card for New York’s Infrastructure.” American Society of Civil Engineers, 9/15

[9] “America’s Top States for Business 2016.” CNBC, 7/12/16

[10] “Red Tape Rising 2016: Obama Regs Top $100 Billion Annually.” Heritage Foundation, 5/23/16

[11] New York — The Institute for College Access and Success

[12] NY-23, Census.Gov

[13] “2016 Broadband Progress Report.” FCC, 1/29/16

[14] Residential Fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps Broadband Deployment, 2016 Broadband Progress Report, FCC

[15] “U.S. Could Save up to $16B if Medicare Part D Prices are Negotiated: Paper.” Wall Street Journal, 7/23/15

[16] “How much did the shutdown cost the economy?” Washington Post, 10/18/13

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