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Sequester: NY Delegation Differs on Solutions

7:44 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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Courtesy: AP

BUFFALO, NY - Press secretaries for both of New York's two U.S. Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, said the two democrats were unavailable to speak with WGRZ-TV on Monday regarding the impending sequestration.

However, at a joint news conference in New York City that morning (announcing their bill to carve out an exemption from sequestration of health care funds for first responders who claim they became ill from working at ground zero following the 9-11 attacks) Schumer said sequestration would be a "disaster" but that there was a "simple answer".

"We propose that companies that send jobs overseas no longer get  tax breaks to do it. We propose that oil companies, which get huge subsidies and are making multi-billions of dollars, no longer get those subsidies. And we propose that those whose income is over a million dollars a year, pay the same (tax) rate as their secretaries. We do those three things, we don't have to do sequester," Schumer said.

Of course, such a solution may not be so readily adopted by the republican controlled House of Representatives, which has been battling with the President on those issues and more for several years.

"It sounds like nothing but a bunch of sound bites from someone who never created a job on his own," said Rep. Chris Collins ( R-NY 27th) in response to Schumer's solution.

Collins says the solution to the nation's fiscal woes can best be found in the reduction of what he calls "wasteful" spending, but he is also quick to note that as one of 435 members of the House, his power to do that is limited.

"Is it really too much to ask Washington to look inward, not unlike we did in Erie County when we stepped in with a financial crisis?" asked Collins, referring to his days as the Erie County Executive, a post to which he failed to be re-elected before winning a seat in Congress last year.

"I'll give you three examples. EPA doled out $100 million to foreign countries including China over the last decade. The IRS has a TV studio that costs us $4 million a year and recently the National Science Foundation paid $1.2 million to senior citizens to play the video game "World of Warcraft" so they could study the impact on their brain. Now, I understand these three examples don't equal $85 billion in sequester cuts, but they're just three simple examples of the waste in Washington that we should be dealing with," said Collins. 

(The claim regarding the video game study was originally made in a press release last week by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and has since been disputed.)

"I feel better that I am part of the debate and that I am part of the conversation...I am talking to other members of my party about the sequester, but frankly there isn't much to be done until the President shows some leadership," Collins said. 

"I'm trying to educate people that we need to grow this economy to reduce the deficit over the long term," said Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY 26th) when asked by Two On Your Side what he was doing individually to foster a solution. "The economic growth projected for this year is a mere two percent. With sequestration it would go down to one, or one-and-one-half percent and that's not helpful," Higgins said.

"I hope that in the remaining days, cooler heads will prevail and we will be able to replace the sequester with a more responsible balanced approach," said Sen. Gillibrand, and Schumer expressed optimism that might occur.

"Will it happen? Well I'm an optimist," said Schumer. "Things in Washington always happen in the last minute. A week before the fiscal cliff in December everyone said we were going over the fiscal cliff but we didn't. I am hopeful that both parties will rise to the occasion and avoid sequestration."

Collins does not share Schumer's optimism, predicting the sequestration will occur. At the same time, however, he believes such an occurrence would be far from the "disaster" extolled by Schumer, and may in fact be an important first step to take, if the nation is ever to get a grip on its deficit.

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2

WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com

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