fighting for

your priorities


  • Clean Air & Water

    Climate change is real, dangerous, and getting worse. Tackling it head on instead of protecting the interests of fossil fuel giants like Exxon and Shell makes good sense for both the planet and our economy. The creation and expansion of “green collar” jobs mean good jobs at every level here at home while making America more competitive in the global economy.

    It has been shown that for every million dollars spent for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency, more than three times the number of jobs are created than for the same spending on fossil fuel-related projects. Median wages are also 13 percent higher in green energy careers than in the general economy. And for every dollar invested in energy efficiency, families and businesses can enjoy $4 in energy savings.
    Wind and Solar Jobs
    We should be retooling old factories throughout the district to make wind turbines that will provide clean energy. Wind and solar power for electricity generation continue to hit new heights and are expected to continue their dramatic growth in the coming decades. New projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show that globally, wind and solar will make up 34% of global electricity generation by 2040. It’s just common sense to get in on this. It not only protects our air and water, it means good-paying careers today and for our children.

    Our district’s residents have been promised high-speed rail for decades but we still have an aging passenger and cargo rail system in which newly developed safety systems have yet to be installed. What makes this even more difficult to fathom is that Amtrak’s ridership has never been higher and we are moving more freight than ever. At a time when an increasing number of people are able to telecommute with minimal workdays spent downstate, speedy passenger rail would be life-changing for families. It would reduce carbon emissions and lead to added security when hazardous wastes are transported elsewhere through our communities.
    Green Banks
    I also support legislation like the Green Bank Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), which would create a United States Green Bank to support the creation of 21st-century energy infrastructure. This type of legislation would provide financing support to regional, state, and municipal public financing authorities to fund clean energy and energy efficient projects. Similar iterations of the bill were introduced in previous years but allowed to expire, which is a shame. Green banks already exist in New York and several other states.

    Sustainability now collectively represents 4 to 4.5 million jobs nationwide. These gains are a direct contradiction to the Trump Administration’s flailing support for fossil fuel production, attempts at coal industry revival, climate change denial, and the argument that renewable energy is a bad investment. We know better and you deserve a Congressman who will do something about it.
    The EPA
    We have to reverse the biased and harmful policy decisions at the EPA that have been handed down under the Trump Administration. They amount to an unlawful attempt to favor the fossil fuel industry and benefit big Republican donors. Republican-led cutbacks had already drained the agency in recent years. Now, disheartened by cutbacks and muzzled by their superiors, experienced scientists and environmental specialists of all kinds are leaving the agency in droves. While support for the environment once transcended politics, the current administration in Washington seems to have forgotten the decade prior to the EPA’s founding in 1970 when rivers caught on fire from the pollution streaming through them, smog made air unbreathable, and environmental disasters were the norm. Clean water and clean air are our birthright and need to be protected in a bipartisan fashion.
  • Education

    Universal Preschool and Pre-K
    Research has proven that early education is vital to our children’s cognitive development. I support universal preschool programs. NYC’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio recently launched a “3K for All” program, which expands an existing program for 4-year-olds, to offer free full-day preschool to any residents.

    I believe that we should follow this model and make free preschool programs accessible across New York State and nationally.
    Value Our Public Schools
    My wife, Karen, taught special education and elementary students in the public school system for 20 years, and I admired her ability to help every single one of her students graduate from class a stronger reader and thinker. My two children attended public schools in Kingston. I have faith in our public school system, but we must make supporting it a priority. Teachers should be valued, well paid and have access to unions and collective bargaining.

    Trump’s secretary of education Betsy DeVos’s efforts to undermine education include pushing vouchers and tax-free accounts for private schools (which largely benefit the very wealthy) over public funding and rescinding documentation that guided protections for LGBTQ students and students with disabilities.

    I will fight for smaller class sizes, better technology training, and support for students of all incomes, orientations, and backgrounds. As your congressperson, I will support the federal funding necessary for schools to receive Title I and Title IX.

    All students can learn and public schools teach all children. It is our job to make sure children have what they need intellectually, socially, morally, and physically to succeed in school. Parents and teachers need to be supported in their roles.
    Restorative Justice
    The vast majority of students, who are assigned detentions or expelled from schools, are of African American origin. This is due to the implicit bias that we all have, regardless of intent. Restorative justice is a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large. I helped implement a restorative justice program in the Kingston City School District. I will advocate implementing such a program in every school system in District 19.
    Student Loan, Not a Life Sentence
    The student loan burden has been crushing our graduates. It is ridiculous that student loan interest is higher than business interest. We must invest in our youth. I believe that we need to set a better rate for student loans that are below the business interest rate.

    I benefited greatly from serving in VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America). While there was not loan forgiveness built into my program, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to serve the public interest without the onerous burden of a mountain of loans. I will advocate for a loan forgiveness program that is based on a set amount of public service.
  • Health Care

    Medicare For All
    I will advocate Medicare for all. I support HR 676. We deserve freedom from worry—the ability to save for ourselves and our families without the fear that a catastrophic health event could destroy all our hopes for the future. A healthy community leads to healthy economic development and business growth.
    Big Pharma, Big Charges
    Congress must be able to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry, which currently has carte blanche in setting prices and keeping health care costs out of reach of many Americans.
    Mental Health and Addiction Treatment
    Too often support for mental health treatments is not valued as highly as that for “physical health.” In truth, both mental and physical health treatments deserve equal health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act took the important step of requiring coverage for mental health treatments (including addiction, depression, and other mental health concerns) under most plans. I believe we need to take this a step further and provide funding for more addiction centers that are accessible and with shorter wait times.
    Women’s Reproductive Health
    I fully support a woman’s right to choose. I will continue to support funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides invaluable services for women’s reproductive health at all stages. It is also important that we continue to require workplace health insurance to provide birth control free of charge.
    Veteran Care
    It is critical that Congress ensures that an adequate Veterans Administration system will minister to the millions of current and future veterans. I oppose all attempts at privatizing VA medical services.
  • Jobs

    Infrastructure
    With prudent leadership, the 19th Congressional District could be turning infrastructure investment into thousands of temporary construction jobs and hundreds of permanent maintenance jobs while improving our ailing roads and bridges and spurring private-sector investment in our communities. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-18th CD) has introduced a bill with bipartisan support called the Move America Act (H.R. 3912), which would allow states to issue tax-exempt “Move America” bonds to expand public-private partnerships and lower the borrowing costs that are often a barrier to infrastructure improvement. This is an example of the kind of legislation that could jump-start our regional economy immediately.
    Broadband
    Broadband is as essential to success in the 21st century economy as the need for electricity was to success in the 20th century economy. As a small business owner in the 19th Congressional District for 35 years, I know that progress for rural Americans is dependent on widespread and high-quality broadband access. It is being hampered, though, by the lack of a profit motive for broadband providers. That’s why I support the New Deal Broadband Act of 2017 (H.R. 800), which would amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to establish a rural broadband office within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This new office would authorize grants and loans for developing broadband in rural and underserved areas. In my first term in Congress, my top economic development priority will be the passage of this, or a similar, bill. The people of this district work every day to provide better futures for their children. It’s time that the government shows its people the same dedication and helps bring rural New York into the 21st Century economy.
    Farming
    Strong, viable local farms are beneficial not only to our economy but to the quality of life in our communities. They are also vital to our tourism industry and rural character. They provide high-quality, fresh, safe, local food. Farming creates thousands of jobs and brings millions of dollars to our communities. We should be supporting our small farms by ensuring farm subsidies are targeted to benefit family farms. Current farm subsidies mostly exclude small farms. The reality is that almost all farm subsidies go to huge corporate agribusinesses, which grow a small number of commodities; it is, in fact, American’s largest corporate welfare program. Small family farms, like those in the 19th CD, should be the recipients of farm subsidies, not agribusiness. Large, chemical-intensive monoculture farms are damaging our country’s environment, but the new — and often organic — small family farm movement nationwide is capturing the imagination and showing that farms can be good neighbors, a boon to a region’s economy, and key to preserving the rural quality of life we value here. With the New York metropolitan region serving as a huge market just to our south, we are well positioned to encourage small farms through programs that incentivize careers in farming, make land more accessible to new farmers, provide training, and support distribution.
    Green Collar Jobs
    The current leadership in Washington is forfeiting our economic superiority over green technology to China at a time when our nation and our region should be tapping into the “green collar” job markets of the future. The nation’s solar and wind industries are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy. Sustainability now collectively represents 4 to 4.5 million jobs in our nation. Twice as many Americans now work in the wind industry as in coal mining. These gains are a direct contradiction to the Trump Administration’s flailing support for fossil fuel production, attempted coal industry revival, climate change denial, and the argument that renewable energy is a bad investment. The Republican tax bill will dramatically undermine investment in wind and solar power while preserving billions in tax subsidies for fossil fuel energy. I fully support the Green Bank Act of 2017 (H.R. 2995/S. 1406), which would create American jobs and fight climate change by incentivizing large-scale private investment in clean-energy projects across the United States. Green banks already exist in New York and several other states.
  • Veterans

    Protect the Veterans Administration
    I oppose all attempts at privatizing Veterans Administration (VA) medical services, which Trump and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dave Shulkin have already threatened to do. Comprehensive health and retirement benefits are the backbones of all-volunteer armed services, and Congress must fully fund VA programs that guarantee veterans receive timely access to high quality, comprehensive, and veteran-centric care at no added cost to veterans.
    Suicide and Homelessness
    The risk for suicide is 22 percent higher among veterans compared to civilians. Every veteran has a story. It’s clear we need to start listening. We need to expand mental health services for veterans and their families. The VA already offers various services for veterans using family caregivers. This program can be expanded even further.

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 39,471 veterans are homeless on any given night. We need to support these men and women, who inordinately are also dealing with alcohol and other substance addictions. We must make a coordinated effort to provide secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, and personal development and empowerment. Congress must make it a priority to ensure that veterans can obtain meaningful employment after leaving military service by creating strong incentives for employers to hire veterans and providing additional training programs.

    We made a promise to the men and women who have served this country. We must honor it.
  • Human Rights

    All people have the inherent right to live free from discrimination because of sex, age, religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. We need to vigorously challenge and overcome discrimination in all its forms and this takes wise, thoughtful and compassionate leadership.

    As a trial attorney and through public service I have spent my entire adult life fighting to protect the civil rights of others. After graduating from law school at the top of my class and as editor of Law Review, I could have taken my pick of high-paying jobs; I chose, instead, to join Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) for $341 a month and represent Native Americans in Western Nebraska and South Dakota for 2 years. After that, I worked for two more years for Western Nebraska Legal Services as their lead litigation attorney. As part of my public service, I am now chairperson of the Ulster County Human Rights Commission, which has been tasked by the Ulster County Legislature with drafting a comprehensive human rights law for Ulster County.
    LGBT Rights
    LBGT persons deserve to be treated as equal citizens. In some states, it is still legal to fire individuals because they are gay and deny housing because an individual is transgender. That is unacceptable and must change. We need to end discrimination in all forms.

    I support legislation like the Equality Act that was introduced in Congress in 2015 but allowed to languish. Among its provisions, it would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in places of public accommodation. It would also have authorized the Department of Justice to bring civil actions, and revised public school desegregation standards so that students are assigned without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Students could not be barred from attending a public college for the same reasons. It would have provided government employees with protections and prohibited programs receiving federal funding from denying benefits to LGBT persons.
  • Women

    Planned Parenthood
    Planned Parenthood provides essential health care services to 2.7 million women, men and young people nationwide, the majority of whom are low-income or live in areas where health care is underserved. For many people, Planned Parenthood is their main or only source of primary care. Nearly four out of ten individuals who received health care services from Planned Parenthood report this constitutes their only health care. Particularly in rural areas, there may not be another option. Millions of women also rely on the agency’s other array of services, including those for cancer prevention and testing for sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

    I am unequivocally pro-choice and believe Congress must stop its attacks on the agency like the Defund Planned Parenthood Act (H.R. 354). Last year, Cong. John Faso (19th CD) voted with the Republican majority for a permanent ban on the use of federal funds for abortion or health coverage that includes abortion.
    Free Birth Control Under Insurance
    We need to restore the Obama-era rule requiring workplace health insurance to provide birth control free of charge. Fulfilling a campaign promise to religious supporters, President Trump has rolled back this rule requiring employer-provided health insurance policies to cover birth control methods at no cost to women. Although the purported goal of the rule reversal was to allow any company or nonprofit group to exclude contraception coverage based on religious or moral objections, many health policy analysts say the new rule creates a huge loophole that will now allow any employer to claim an exemption, leaving their female workers to pay the full cost of birth control out of pocket.
    Stopping Sexual Harassment
    There has been a nationwide wave of women coming out to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment, and finally, people are listening and holding these men accountable. This is an important first step. We need to put forward legislation that will protect women in all workplaces. I will advocate for an investigative process for elected officials accused of sexual harassment that involves independent review. I also support legislation that would ensure that House members would be financially responsible for any sexual harassment settlements – not taxpayers.
    Equal Pay For Equal Work
    All women deserve to receive the same pay as their male counterparts. Despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act more than 50 years ago under President John F. Kennedy, women still do not earn wages equal to those of their male peers. It is wrong that women working full-time only earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. We need to make sure we are advocating for all women. Black women are paid just 64 cents, and Latina women earn 56 cents, for every dollar earned by white men. I advocate for legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act that was introduced in a previous session of Congress but was not enacted. This Act would put the burden of justification on employers to explain why someone was not compensated equally. It would also provide funds to start programs that train women in workplace negotiation.
  • Seniors

    For too long, the Republicans in Congress have tried to balance the national budget on the backs of our seniors. This is morally reprehensible and I am prepared to fight for your interests to ensure that our seniors have peace of mind in their advanced years.
    Social Security Must Remain Sustainable For Future Generations
    Social Security is a promise to seniors that the money they have paid into the system all their working lives will be there to ensure dignity in their retirement. The Republicans have periodically tried to cut benefits, discuss privatization, or raise Part B costs. For many Americans, Social Security is a key source of income. Currently, approximately 54 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, including 38 million retirees and their family members, 10 million Americans with disabilities and their dependents, and 6 million survivors of deceased workers. For many of these Americans, Social Security means survival.

    Social Security should be strengthened not undermined and there are ways to do this. I support legislation like that introduced by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY’s 20th CD) in 2015 that would ensure that millionaires pay the same Social Security employment tax rate as hard-working families and individuals. This legislation called the Keeping Social Security Solvent Act would improve benefits and increase the viability of Social Security by removing the current income cap of $127,200 at which individuals pay into the program. In February 2015, anyone earning more than $1 million annually stopped contributing to the Social Security fund, meaning that as middle-class wages continue to stagnate and the highest levels of income continue to skyrocket, more and more dollars are avoiding the deduction. The current Social Security tax rate for both employer and employee is 6.2%, but for the highest income earners, that rate sinks to as low as 0.07%. This is unfair and needs to be changed to stabilize Social Security for the future.
    Medicare
    We are at a crossroads in our nation’s history in terms of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for 57 million people ages 65 and over and younger people with permanent disabilities. Medicare helps to pay for hospital and physician visits, prescription drugs, and other acute and post-acute care services. In 2016, spending on Medicare accounted for 15 percent of the federal budget. The Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) trust fund is projected to be depleted in 2029 and the Republicans are already at work undermining the program to see if they can’t ditch it even sooner. There is much that can be done to control healthcare prices and keep Medicare costs down but the system as it currently operates maximizes profits for the large insurance and pharmaceutical companies. In a September 13, 2017 OpEd piece in The New York Times, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stated a sad fact: “We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the healthcare industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need.”

    Medicare accounted for 20 percent of total national health spending in 2015, 29 percent of spending on retail sales of prescription drugs, 25 percent of spending on hospital care, and 23 percent of spending on physician services. All of these costs can be controlled until we are finally able to expand Medicare into a universal healthcare system like all of the major industrialized countries around the world have done. Instead, Congressman John Faso (R-19th CD and our current U.S. Representative) voted in tandem with President Trump and the House Republicans in 2017 to terminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which had been tasked under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with developing proposals to reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending. That does nothing to solve the real problem of why our healthcare system is so expensive: it is designed to provide huge profits to the medical industry.

    Medicare has proven to be an enormously successful program. Now is the time to expand it to cover all Americans regardless of the opposition from powerful interests that currently profit from the wasteful way the system is operating. Families would save thousands of dollars a year by eliminating their private insurance costs.

    I know, firsthand, what medical expenses can mean to a family. When I was a youth, my family almost lost their home because they did not have health insurance at a time when I needed to be hospitalized for appendicitis. No family should ever have to forgo essential medical care for their loved ones because of the costs, split pills in half to make them last longer, or say no to lifesaving treatments that now exist because of new discoveries in medical research. Healthcare is a fundamental right. Polls now indicate that 60 percent of the American people want to expand Medicare to provide health insurance to every American. We need a Congress willing to fight for the American people and take on the special interests that are controlling the way we provide healthcare and who receives it. We can and must do better.
    Prescription Drug Prices Need to Come Down
    Paying for medicine can be the most expensive out-of-pocket health cost for seniors because there are no measures or controls in place to establish ceilings that would keep drug prices low. Americans spend more on prescription medications than their counterparts in any other country in the world, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. And brand-name drug prices have been increasing at rates far beyond the consumer price index as pharmaceutical manufacturers are allowed to charge whatever they think the market will bear.

    Drug companies will argue that they have to cover their research and development costs to bring a drug to market, but according to an AARP cover story in the May 2017 issue of the AARP.org bulletin, drug companies remain among the most profitable businesses in America even after accounting for their research and development investments. An analysis from the research company Global Data also reveals that nine out of 10 large pharmaceutical companies routinely spend more on marketing than on research. Even the cost of older drugs can and do regularly rise astronomically.

    No senior should have to face the harsh reality of not being able to afford life-saving medications. I support the kinds of recommendations that have come from The Center for American Progress (CAP) recently to address the growing crisis of prescription drug costs. They include laws requiring more transparency in drug pricing so that the federal government and private payers can negotiate for lower prices with pharmaceutical companies. The CAP has recommended having drugmakers refund money to the federal government if they don’t spend a minimum amount on research and development. CAP’s proposals also include a system to categorize new drugs according to their effectiveness relative to existing medication. This, in turn, could then influence their pricing. At the same time, the government would also be able to license patents to competitors if a drugmaker does not charge reasonable prices for medication that has been developed as a result of federally funded research. There is also much that can be accomplished to bring drug prices down by simply enforcing regulations that already exist.

    Virtually every major pharmaceutical company has either been convicted of fraud or settled to charges of fraud out of court. It is unacceptable that the major drug companies are bilking the American people out of billions of dollars a year by their fraudulent practices.
    Funding Research to Cure Diseases
    We should be investing more money in research into cures and preventions for diseases. Research pays off. Remember the so-called “ice bucket challenge” that was a phenomenon in the summer of 2014? Celebrities dunked a bucket of iced water over their heads in order to solicit donations to the ALS Association before nominating others to do the same. The campaign raised more than $100 million in a 30-day period and was able to fully fund a number of research projects to tackle amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive and incurable neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The ALS Association now says money raised by the viral charity challenge has helped identify a new gene associated with the disease.

    I support bills like the so-called “Medical Innovation Prize” funds introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would eliminate all legal barriers to the manufacture and sale of generic versions of drugs and vaccines. Essentially, they would create prize funds from percentages of U.S. GDP with the federal government and private health insurance companies co-funding the prizes, according to formulas set out in the bills. The cost of the prize funds would be more than offset by the savings from the introduction of generic competition for brand-name drugs.
  • Opioid Epidemic

    We cannot expect to solve the opioid crisis without looking for its roots in today’s mental health crisis, which has been born from 50 years of systematically limiting access to needed psychiatric treatment. Congress and the White House should be authorizing meaningful mental health reform to fix our broken system, not undermining the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) at every opportunity. Cong. John Faso (R-19th CD) voted with the Republican majority to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the single greatest effort made to date to expand health insurance coverage for mental health and addiction services that help to tackle the opioid epidemic. This is absolutely the wrong direction. The Hudson Valley alone has seen more than 1,135 opioid-related deaths in the past decade.

    The human and financial costs resulting from our mental health crisis are unimaginably high: people with the most severe psychiatric diseases make up only three percent of the total population but are vastly overrepresented when it comes to violence, our jails and prisons, suicides, homelessness, emergency room visits, and the growing opioid epidemic, according to the not-for-profit Treatment Advocacy Center. As a result of Congress’ shortsightedness, we are failing to take a more thoughtful, prudent, and comprehensive approach.
    Recommendations
    This is why I recommend:

    • Decriminalizing mental illness.
    • Providing adequate program funding for proven underutilized programs and treatment.
    • Treating war-related causes of mental illness.
    • Enacting criminal justice reforms that focus on treatment.
    • Improving access to psychiatric beds.
    • Developing a system of proper and current data collection on the prevalence and effects of mental illness in our society.

    All of this would be possible if we did not have a Congress that is fixated on huge tax cuts for corporations and wealthy individuals. Make no mistake, the only reason John Faso voted against the Republican tax bill was because of the huge public opposition to it and because he represents one of many districts the Republican majority realizes it could lose. As a result, and when their votes are not needed, these members of Congress are being allowed to vote in ways that better reflect the attitudes of their constituents.
    We Need Effective Legislation
    I wholeheartedly support bipartisan legislation like the Keeping Communities Safe Through Treatment Act (H.R.1763) that is still before the House of Representatives and was introduced by Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (D-18th CD) and the recently retired Richard Hanna (R-22nd CD). This bill would create a Department of Justice (DOJ) grant program to fund pre-booking drug diversion programs in counties designated as high-intensity drug trafficking areas.

    Based on successful drug diversion programs in Seattle and Gloucester, the legislation would combat the opioid and heroin epidemic and stop mass incarceration of abusers and low-level drug offenders. The measure would allow police officers to use their discretion to divert individuals directly to treatment instead of booking them and processing them through the criminal justice system. Programs like this give police officers the flexibility they need to help curb the growing use of opioids, decrease low-level drug crime, and reduce the number of low-level drug-related arrests.

    I know from experience that humane solutions, patience and compassion work. Years ago, I represented a woman named Katie, who was addicted to heroin, cocaine and whatever else she could get her hands on. In all, I represented her five times and each time I had to fight to get her more treatment. Many years later, while I was visiting my mother-in-law at Benedictine Hospital, a nurse approached me and asked if I remembered her. It was Katie and she told me that I had helped to change her life. But I didn’t do it alone. I was able to do it with a criminal justice system and judges who were receptive and rehabilitative programs that were available back then.

    Together, and with the right leadership, we can fix the system.