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Stefanik touts business background in Malone campaign stop

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Republican 21st Congressional District hopeful Elise M. Stefanik touted her experience in her family’s business when she met with Malone business leaders during a visit to the Malone Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

“We feel first-hand the economic challenges that face businesses on Main Street in upstate New York,” the Willsboro Republican said, adding that upstate New York needs more jobs and career opportunities.

Ms. Stefanik noted that over the past 10 years, a million people have left the state in search of jobs elsewhere, taking away $40 billion of revenue.

She said one way to help is getting rid of the federal regulatory burdens that small businesses and local governments face.

“They’re getting in the way of creating jobs and they’re hindering our economic growth,” Ms. Stefanik said, adding one of those burdens is the Affordable Care Act, which she called Obamacare.

She noted how Obamacare hit home with her family’s business.

Forced to switch insurance programs because of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the small business is faced with a 30 percent premium increase, higher deductibles and higher co-payments, according to Stefanik.

“That’s a lose-lose choice for a business because we either absorb the costs and not hire additional people or we pass along those costs to the hard-working families,” Stefanik said. “We need to be focused on lowering costs, increasing quality and increasing accessibility with particular focus on our rural communities.”

Ms. Stefanik also noted she is against some programs for business growth that Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed for New York state.

“He picks and chooses which sectors and which geographic locations to incentivize small businesses,” she said in an apparent reference to Start-up NY, which provides tax incentives to businesses that locate near college campuses. She added that her frustration comes from personal experience with her family’s small business.

“Governor Cuomo’s proposals don’t help those businesses that have been footing the bill and working very, very hard to make ends meet,” she said.

She also said that the tax code needs to be reformed so small businesses can flourish.

Dan Clark, representing King Clark Insurance, asked how Franklin County can “attract the farming community” to increase agricultural business in the area.

Ms. Stefanik said New York state needs to be more “friendly” to businesses.

“If you look across the country, we are one of the least competitive states for businesses in terms of tax rates, in terms of property taxes, which would hurt farmers directly because of the amount of land they have to own,” she said.

Ms. Stefanik said she is in the process of building an agriculture advisory committee.

“I also think it’s part of going local,” she added. “We need to make sure that our local growers and our local farmers have the goods that our people want to buy in the community.”

Ms. Stefanik said she supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms and opposes the SAFE Act.

“It’s a way of life up in the north country and it shows Governor Cuomo’s lack of understanding of the culture up here, but also constitutional principals,” she said.

Ms. Stefanik acknowledged that Congress also needs to provide “fundamental welfare and social services.” But, she said, those services should be for those who need them, not those who make them a lifestyle.

“I think we should have simple requirements, like volunteer requirements, trainer requirements, or work requirements so someone who is reliant on social programs right now, there’s an incentive to get them out of that reliance and we’re giving them a hand up, rather than simply a handout,” she said.

Ms. Stefanik also touched on services for veterans.

“There’s no reason that a veteran from Franklin County should be forced to drive to Plattsburgh or to Albany,” she said. “Partnerships with private hospitals is the more effective way to go to help increase the quality for those veterans.”

Dean Chapman, who runs the North Star of the Adirondacks Foundation in Malone, noted his concern of the “gummed up” system of Congress that Ms. Stefanik could enter.

“The people that we elect don’t make these critical decisions and the people that make these critical decisions never come and talk to us,” Mr. Chapman said.

But Ms. Stefanik said that’s why she wants to be elected.

She noted that those Congress members under the age of 40 could easily solve budget issues.

“It’s in their own (interest) to do so because their generation’s going to have to foot the bill,” the 29-year-old said.

Ms. Stefanik also said that members of Congress should live by the same laws they pass and that they should read every inch of a bill before passing it.

Ms. Stefanik set herself a deadline for accomplishing her goals.

“I have term-limited myself even if there isn’t federal term limits,” she said. “I am taking a five-term limit pledge, that’s a total of 10 years. If I can’t get the job done, I think it’s someone else’s opportunity.”

Ms. Stefanik will face Matthew A. Doheny in the June 24 Republican primary.

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