December 12, 2010 -- Rep. Bill Owens, D-New York, joins Darren Perron and Matt Henson to discuss Northern New York issues and politics
Good morning I'm Darren Perron.
Today a full half hour with Congressman Bill Owens of New York.
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>> Our guest this morning is Congressman Bill Owens.
Thank you so much for joining us.
>> Thanks for having me.
>> And my colleague Matt Henson our chief reporter out of New York you get the first question.
Thank you for joining us Congressman.
Fir question what is your opinion of president Obama's tax compromise with Republicans?
>> Well, I was very happy to see that the president and the Republicans were able to come together to reach a compromise.
The compromise contains a number of issues that I was very supportive of.
From my perspective, I think first of all having compromise is very important.
I think that that's what the American people expect of us.
And I was very happy to see it evolve.
The particulars from, again from my perspective, certainly getting the middle class tax cuts in place I very important.
I think getting unemployment insurance benefits renewed for the long‑term unemployed also very important.
Getting capital gains rates extended, getting the dividend rates extended, all of those things I think are very important.
The ‑‑ the compromise they reached on the estate tax issue was something that I pushed for when I first came to Congress.
So I was very happy with that.
I think that it is important on a number of levels that we see consistency and that people have the ability to plan going forward.
I do have some concerns with regard to the impact on the the debt and the deficit.
But there are many economists I think who will say today that we have to be very careful with this fragile recovery not to do anything that disrupts the psychology of the recovery and I think that that is why a lot of people are supportive this compromise that the president has reached.
>> Vermont's congressional delegation has taken issue with this compromise.
The estate tax, there I a lost followex here we said at that time green mountains are graying.
Upstate New York a number of older folks there as well. Why support this?
a lot of people in your party saying this is something that they don't support.
That's why they can't back it.
>> From my perspective I'm very concerned with family farms and the ability of those to be transferred to the next generation.
We need to be able to do that.
I'm also concerned about small businesses.
So really this is driven in that direction.
And I am comfortable with this level that they have reached of 5 million dollars of personal in terms of the exemption or credit depending on how you look at it.
When you look at the rate that this he have applied.
That 35% rate is roughly what the current top income tax rate is.
And of course, this is getting a little into the weeds but in the estate tax when you file and pay that you get a steppedup basis in your assets, meaning if I have a piece of stock that I hold at $10 when I die and it is now worth $100 it is $100 in value now when I sell it, so the rates are roughly equivalent and that makes a great deal of sense to me.
>> Now another part of this tax cut deal compromise is that ‑‑ that higher income earners are also getting a tax break under it.
What's your position on that?
>> Well, I had proposed along with three other members of Congress a compromise.
That compromise would have capped the rates above which or below which the rates would be extended at $500,000.
I would be much more comfortable with 500 thousand dollars.
Senator Schumer proposed a million dollars.
I could have lived with a million as well. But you know when you reach compromise, everybody has to accept some things that they don't like.
And again, I think the American people are looking for us to act rationally if you will, act like adults, reach compromise, and move the country forward.
>> Now, talking about compromise, you know new Congress next year.
How is ‑‑ how do you feel that's going to impact your job and I mean you were only down for a year when democrats were in control.
How do you look at the new Congress?
>> I have worked with people in my community for 30, more than 30 years.
Who are democrats, Republicans, independents, blanks, if you will.
I think it is a question of how you approach it do.
why you approach people and say I have ‑‑ I'm prepared to negotiate with you and to reach compromise in order to move forward both at the national level and the district level.
I think I'm going to be effective in dealing with my colleagues in that way.
>> What do you thing you can get done?
do you think you can get anything done given that Republicans will control it?
>> Well, I think that one of those things you are going to see is the republicans have elected a significant number of new folks.
We don't know exactly how they will interact when they get to Congress.
Some of those folks have I think even more conservative views than the current members of Congress.
And I think that as the process plays out, I think that people are going to be needing to talk across the aisle in order to get legislation passed.
And I think that that is going to create some real opportunities for people who are willing to have those dialogues, had.
>> What should the focus be in Washington with the new Congress?
what needs to be done then?
>> Well you covered the campaign and this will come as a surprise to you, but jobs.
Clearly we did a telephone town hall, we did two this week.
In the first one, 64% of the people said that was their top priority.
And in the second one, it was 47 to 48%.
So ‑‑ and everything else paled by comparison percentagewise.
People are clearly focused on the need to create jobs and so that is what I think we should be doing in Congress.
>> And how does Congress go about doing that?
>> There are a couple of things that we can do and then some things that others have to do.
But number one, we need to have I think some certainty in the tax law.
We need to be doing targeted tax credits like the the R and D credit, the expanded section 179 deduction that allows people to expense rather than depreciate equipment, things like that.
So I think those are some policy things we can do.
another big issue we have to address is the Chinese currency.
Realistically if we are going to regrow manufacturing jobs in the United States, that is an area we need to attack viciously.
I voted for prior to Thanksgiving a bill that would impoles tariffs on the Chinese if them don't allow their currency to float upward.
Many economists believe it could create 500 thousand to a million jobs back in the United States if we were actually engaged in a fair trade arrangement with the Chinese.
Not one in which they are manipulating their currency so that they are ‑‑ their exports, imports to us are cheaper so those are some real critical things.
Then when you talk about other things, I think every community in my district needs to outline what it believes its resources to be.
And then it needs to market those resources.
And I have been telling each of the economic developers in those communities that I'm prepared to become if you will boots on the ground for them.
They need a phone call made to a prospective company that wants to move into the district, I want to be part of that process.
If they are going to Canada to solicit a company to come down I want to be part of that process.
I think doing those kinds of things are very practical and it will help to set the stage to help us economy in our region.
>> Another hot to be thick week is don't ask, don't tell.
It looked as though a repeal was dead but now a couple of democrats are coming forward saying perhaps a stand‑alone bill may be the way to get this through.
What's your position on don't ask, don't tell and do you think it is even feasible to get the repeal through?
>> Well, that is a very interesting question because of the way in which the senate operates ‑‑ and this is really a senate piece of legislation that you are talking about.
These are senators coming forward think was they can do something.
I would not venture a guess on whether or not they will be success: My position has been that I'm in favor of the repeal of don't ask, don't tell I voted for the house bill that accomplishes that subject to a certification from the secretary of defense and the president.
That will have no adverse impact on the mission.
Clearly the report that came out within the last two weeks indicates that the vast majority of the troops believe there will be no adverse impact on the mission.
>> Have you heard that from constituents, not far from you?
>> Don't hear very much about that subject at all.
Even in my visits to Fort drum and the surrounding community, occasionally you will find some retired older folks who will talk about that.
But you don't hear ‑‑ that's not a big topic of conversation.
That's something that usually people are coming up and staying the ‑‑ saying the first thing on their mind is don't ask, don't tell.
>> Other big news out of Plattsburgh this week, good economic news about ‑‑ how was this deal secured to bring up to about a thousand jobs and as we were talking about earlier, possibly more?
>> We as you know this started in 2006.
So it has been a long process.
And they ran into some factors that they could not control.
You know the credit crisis that occurred in 2008 was not something they had any control over and they were about ready to close at that time.
This has been a process, I was first involved because one of their vendors I represented before I went to Congress.
And that's the company that has the he ‑‑ the scaffolding that was talked about this morning.
It is a new product and it facilitates the quickerer ‑‑ quicker movement of the planes in and out.
So I have been involved at many levels in this.
since I have been in Congress I've been talking to them.
I wouldn't say weekly but certainly monthly.
Getting updates on a weekly basis.
And talking about how we can finance the project.
I've opened a number of doors for them in that process.
Talking to various entities that might provide funding.
And had many conversations about the structure of the deal with these folks.
I mean with the LORENCHEN folks, so I have been very much involved, talking to the local people, sometimes talking to the the folk in the state of New York so we kept their commitments on the table.
Just very involved in the process.
>> How is this going to change the look of the Plattsburgh area?
I mean a thousand jobs by them but there is obviously going to be other economic impacts
>> I think Andy Edwards today said that when they are fully staffed and he said it would take about 3 to 4 years ‑‑
>> That they would employ about 900 people.
Now, that is with one bay.
What he also talked about was the plan to potentially build other bays and something we have had a conversation about and Andy mentioned this morning, that the the military bay if you are going to do military aircraft then you would have to have a separate discreet bay that could only be used for military aircraft.
That's a conversation we will have going forward.
that's probably a year out before we start that discussion.
But when you talk about when I said we will change the face of Plattsburgh.
You bring 900 new jobs that are going to pay in that I think 50 to 75 thousand dollar range that, will dramatically change the economy in Plattsburgh.
It will create jobs both from the vendors who come to support them to additional services that need to be provided.
Dry cleaners, grocery stores, you know, restaurants, hotels, you are going to see an awful lot of those kinds of things growing and each time one of them comes into play, you add a few more jobs.
So I think this is going to have a tremendous impact but it will also cause people to invest in Plattsburgh.
You will see people coming over I think and coming over, coming down to invest.
Therefore you will see an upgrade of all the facilities.
>> Now do you think this could be you know a big push to get the rooftop highway built, now that people need to get to Plattsburgh?
>> That's very ‑‑ I think it is a very interesting question.
It certainly increases the likelihood.
For a number of reasons.
You know if you have goods that you are trying to move from the western part of the state, you are going to come up 81.
If you are going to come up 81, it is a tough road to get across to Plattsburgh.
So it could give a boost to I 98 and certainly we would be in favor of that.
>> So this is clearly the shot in the arm you think, then that Plattsburgh hats been looking for since the Air Force Base closed?
>> That's right.
It is the most dramatic evidence of that.
I think when we had Bombardier come n the bus coming in has been very help.
And a couple hundred Canadian companies that are in the Plattsburgh area that have helped to stabilize the economy in Plattsburgh.
The last report to the chamber of commerce did indicated that the economic impact from Canadian activities, about 11.6 billion, and if you look back to what the economic impact studies that were done in the bails closed, they ranged from about 80 million to about 120 million.
So the Canadian impact is very very significant.
This is going to add to that.
And it is going to create I think a higher level of stability in the community.
We've got the to take a quick break.
We have a commercial coming up to pay the bills here so we will see you in just a minute.
More with Congressman Bill Owens right after this.
>> We are back with Congressman Bill Owens this morning.
I guess you know there is a lot of talk about this border crossing, Canadian closing this side of the border and now also going to close the one at the Burke border crossing.
Your opinion about the closing of these border crossings.
>> Well, you know we have talked about this before a couple of times, Matt and the border crossings are important for a number of reasons.
There is commercial traffic that moves back and forth.
Obviously a lot of social interaction because these communities literally are around the block from one another.
Recently there was a situation where there is a need for mutual aid between fire departments and real concern that if the border crossing were closed that that mutual aid response could have been much delayed and might have resulted in a real tragedy in the community where it occurred.
So I think we have to be very careful with that.
Having said that, I think that there is some ‑‑ some processes, technologies that can be employed if the Canadian government or the U.S. government is concerned about cost.
Then we can look at technology as a way to complement this process and allow people to move back and forth across the border.
There may be some additional process that people have to go through.
But if that is what it takes in order to allow us to keep that border open so that we have people, goods and ‑‑ and emergency services moving back and forth across then that's the direction I think we need to go and the Canadian government has indicated a willingness to seriously look at that.
>> Do you think there is any likelihood that these border crossings will stay open and remain two‑way crossing?
>> I think there is a great likelihood they will but they may not be as we currently view them in our ‑‑ as we currently see them now.
I think you may see some technology added on the Canadian side to allow the movement of people back and forth across from the Canadian perspective.
>> What about the argument that we are paying too much for far too few cars and trucks going through these smaller border crossings?
>> I think that is a legitimate concern that people have and again, I think the way you solve that is by the institution of technology.
In place of if you will a manned facility.
If we determine that the cost is too great on a per car or a per truck basis, then I think we have to look at other ways to do it.
Do I think that when you weigh the economic and potentially social consequences of doing this, we need to look very carefully at this.
Because you know you really have a couple hundred year tradition of people moving back and forth across the Canadian border.
There was a time when people had their farms split by the border.
And they would have a portion of a farm on the Canadian side and a portion on the New York side or the Vermont side.
So this is something that predates sort of our concern with the border and we need to use technology in order to make sure that we keep it open and functioning.
>> Speaking of farming your sit on the AG committee in Washington.
What do you plan on doing to help farmers is special slice in the north country and all across the country?
>> One of the big issues that's out there obviously is the impact that the prices have had on dairy farmers and my conversations with Collin Peterson, the outgoing chair of AG, we are looking at trying to get the farm bill resolved actually in 2011 so that we are not doing a mad dash to December 31 on 2012.
And to include a system for dealing with the volatility in dairy prices.
There are two programs that are under discussion.
One is a production management program an the other is an insurance program.
As I have sat through a variety of meetings and listened to people, it strikes me that we may have to do this on a more regional basis and maybe not a national basis because what happens in northern New York or in Vermont, what happens in Wisconsin, what might be going object in Colorado, is different.
People have different climates, they have different costs associated with it.
They have different time or distance to their marketplaces so we need to take all those things into effect and try and come up with, in my view, a regionalized program that addresses these concerns.
>> Something like the northeast area compact?
Something like that.
But with probably an overall or an over arching federal concept like either production management or the insurance program or some combination of that.
>> Do you think that we need to leave it up to our farmers and some regards and not supplying to much for the market?
do you think there has been a couple of proposals about limiting the amount that each farm can produce so that thrills not this oversupply which then drives prices down?
>> And that is really the theory behind the the production management programs that people are talking about.
In essence what you are saying is, you are going to either do an average or take the the last year's production and to the extent that the demand declines, then if you exceed your last period's production, then you may have to pay a fee for that.
So that in effect you ar how long the farmer to make the decision, do I want to continue with the current rate of my production or do I want to draw it back so that I'm not paying that fee.
The insurance concept is a little bit different in that it really provides insurance if the price goes down.
I tend to like the idea of allowing the farmers to have that discretion to make that business decision, do I continue to produce or do I bring down my production.
I think that's a better way to go.
>> But you think then it should be regionalized, not a straight across the board milk price?
So that's where I'm leaning right now.
I clearly want to hear from a few more folks.
I would like to get some expertise from people who are aca dem nix that area and are consultants in that area but that is clearly where I'm going at this point.
And then what I'm hearing from farmers.
You know we also have other kinds of farms in the district and we have a lot of small shall a lot of small farms, specialty crop farms.
We have organic farms and we bead to be able to include those entities in our ‑‑ in the AG bill and we need to make sure that they can function at a very high ‑‑ very high level because many people are now calling for locally grown food and if they are, we need to facilitate that.
So that those folks have an opportunity to enter the marketplace.
>> Now you have helped farmers, you have also helped secure funding ‑‑ there is talk they may be leaving town.
How involved with you in trying to
>> Shall hey have had talks with people at Trudeau.
Right now what they are doing is going through a strategic planning process which almost every business does on a periodic basis.
I think it is good management.
I think that maybe it got portrayed as more likely than it should be.
I think they are going through this process.
We will continue to chat with them as they develop their strategic plan and hopefully be able to keep them in the lake.
>> What do you think needs to be done?
they are really push tock close tie larger medical center.
And that's one of the big ones for the long term.
>> Well I think that when you ‑‑ excuse me.
Again going back to the border crossing issue, we have a lot of technology now that we can use.
And I think that they need to look at technology advancements for their ability to interact with folks in other locations.
I don't know if you fellas use Skype but did I when had a daughter who was living overseas and we would get on the computer and talk to her through Skype.
I think that we people can do that.
you know telemedicine is something which is advancing in our community.
Very helpful in rural communities.
They need to be looking at some technology methodologies that are available so that they can stay in the lake area but yet be able to interact with folks in major medical centers.
>> Do you think they will stay or ‑‑ I wouldn't speculate on that now.
Clearly we will work very hard to help them stay and to encourage them to do that.
>> When you talk about working hard to help them stay, does this mean more money being what are you going to do?
>> I think that money is one possibility but I think we have to get involved and sort of listen to what their strategic plan is telling them they need to do and try and help them get options to accomplish those goals.
Sort of like I talked about before becoming involved in economic development by reaching out to companies that are thinking about relocating in the district.
We want to help do that.
You know we listen to people who have business interests in the district now.
When they have concerns, we are very quick to get back to them and have a conversation about it.
Because we need to keep those jobs in the 23rd.
>> In the TRUEDEAU institute for folks who don't know why important to the lake region?
>> Well, their level of employment, again, is quite high for that area but they also have very good paying jobs.
Many scientists, people who work in the labs.
Well educated folks.
So they provide to the community not only an economic base, but from a social perspective, they bring folks into the the community.
Many of their scientists are not from the area.
Some of them even coming in overseas.
So you bring a different social interaction to the community.
I think it is very important for the community's vibrancy.
We used to have this at Plattsburgh Air Force Base from.
my perspective that was one of the great losses we suffered, was the fact that folks who came and stayed a couple years, they may have come from overseas, may have come from Texas, may calve come from California, so they bring different ideas and that's very important to have those ideas washing through a community.
>> So heading back to D.C. here for just a couple minutes, you got a vote on a majority leader coming up.
Who are you going to choose, are you going to vote for Nancy Pelosi?
>> We voted in our caucus for minority leader about three weeks ago.
>> And are you a supporter of Nancy Pelosi is what I should say?
>> Well, I ‑‑ I have indicated that I voted in favor of her minority leader and based on some representations that her ‑‑ her staff made to me when I inquired and that was that she would govern from the center and she would focus on job creation.
And if you noticed when the speaker put out her statement regarding the tax proposal, one of the major lines in that was we can't support any ‑‑ any tax bill that doesn't create jobs.
So from my perspective, she is following along her representations to me.
And as long as she does that I can support her.
>> Because during the campaign your opponent in this race, had you practically married to Nancy Pelosi.
Seems as though you may have some reservations.
Is that not ‑‑
it is not.
My ‑‑ I came to Congress as somebody who spent their career helping businesses, helping bring businesses to the community.
So my focus is on economics and job creation.
I didn't feel that when I got the to Washington last November that anybody in Congress or the administration was focused on adequately focused on Jo job creation and I thought the country was trying to tell everybody that.
And I don't particularly fault Nancy Pelosi anymore than I fault ‑‑ than I would fault Mr. Bainer.
Nobody in Washington was listening.
And I think that they now are.
And they now get the idea that jobs is where it is at and ‑‑
>> And that is what you will be doing when you head back to washington?
I'm afraid we have got to wrap it up there.
Congressman bill Owen thank you for joining us.
We will see you soon.