KINGSTON - Free trade, reforming the federal tax code and helping consumers and businesses were topics raised by Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson and his Democratic opponent, Julian Schreibman, in recent interviews focusing on how they would create jobs and fix the economy.
Gibson, of Kinderhook, and Schreibman, of Stone Ridge, are running for the seat in New York's new 19th Congressional district - which includes all of Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties and most of Dutchess - and they have similar views in several areas.
Both men say President Barack Obama's economic stimulus initiative did not focus enough on infrastructure, that they prefer "fair trade" to "free trade" and that they support bringing back the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act - the banking reform legislation whose repeal in 1999 was blamed by many observers for helping set the stage for the collapse of the nation's financial sector in 2008.
More broadly, Schreibman proposes cutting payroll taxes in half for small businesses - arguing that those taxes can be real impediments to startups - and continuing tax credits for small businesses that have been successful.
Schreibman cited the Small Business Startup Savings Accounts Act, which sets up tax-preferred savings accounts for small businesses, and the Innovative Technologies Investment Incentives Act, which is designed to speed up innovation through a 25 percent tax credit for qualified equity investments in eligible high-technology and biotech small businesses.
Gibson outlined a comprehensive plan that he said is designed to put more money in the pockets of consumers and drive up demand. His plan would cut business costs that he said are impediments to growth, such as taxes, health care, energy, and regulations; upgrade the nation's infrastructure; and help businesses get access to capital and credit.
Gibson said small businesses can't afford to hire a team of lawyers to study the federal tax code, which he said needs to be simplified to eliminate deductions that do not contribute to economic growth but lower effective tax rates. He cited his support for the bipartisan Cooper-LaTourette budget, which did not muster enough support to pass, as a step in that direction.
Schreibman also emphasized reforming the tax code by eliminating tax breaks that do not encourage job creation. His point of focus was on closing loopholes he said reward companies for sending jobs overseas.
"That's not a decision that should be rewarded," Schreibman said.
Gibson cited his support for the REINS Act (an acronym for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny), which would require congressional approval over major new regulations from the executive branch, and, according to Gibson, save more than $100 million. He also cited efforts to trim health-care and energy costs.
Gibson also has proposed repealing the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, and replacing the legislation with reforms like allowing health-care companies to compete across state lines; limiting malpractice litigation that he said drives up expenses for doctors and hospitals; encouraging small businesses to collaborate to increase their power to negotiate better health-care prices; investing in technology to improve efficiency; sending medical staff to people's homes after surgery to limit costly readmissions; and encouraging the growth of urgent-care facilities that he said are less expensive than emergency rooms.
Schreibman has expressed support for the president's health-care overhaul, which prohibits people from being denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, allows young people to stay on their parents' plans until they turn 26, requires everyone to get health insurance to cut down on uninsured people using emergency rooms, creates nonprofit collectives to try to lower costs through competition and limits how much insurers can spend on marketing and administration.
On energy, Gibson said "we have to drive down current energy costs at the same time we look for ways to get off fossil fuels and become more energy-independent, and my record reflects both priorities." He cited his votes on legislation designed to lower home heating fuel prices and said he supports more domestic oil production by drilling in Alaska and expanding offshore drilling.
Schreibman said he would "work hard to grow our renewable-energy sector and push to modernize our electricity grid, which will create a new generation of green jobs." He said Gibson's approach to energy is "exactly why the Sierra Club has Congressman Gibson as one of only six (members of Congress) they are working to defeat."
Both candidates spoke of the need to build up infrastructure and education, with Schreibman advocating for greater access to Pell grants and suggesting tying the repayment of college loans to income after college so prospective students are not reluctant to "mortgage their futures" by investing in an education.
Schreibman said with most loans, like for cars and homes, people have collateral that can be sold to pay creditors back, but people cannot sell back their degrees.
Gibson, noting 3.4 American jobs are unfilled because companies cannot find people with the needed skills, said more local control of education to tailor schools to local economic needs and an emphasis on vocational training can help close that gap.
Gibson also said he was a leader in shaping the bipartisan transportation bill that will help New York state address 7,000 bridges that need work. Additionally, he said he opposed his own party's leaders to successfully keep alive a loan program that will help expand broadband Internet access, an area Schreibman also has emphasized.
New York's new 19th Congressional District comprises all of Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Delaware, Sullivan, Schoharie and Otsego counties; most of Dutchess and Rensselaer counties; and parts of Montgomery and Broome counties.
The district includes part of Gibson's current 20th District, which stretches from Northern Dutchess to the Adirondacks, and part of the current 22nd District, which reaches from the Mid-Hudson region to the Ithaca area. The 22nd is represented by Democrat Maurice Hinchey of Saugerties, who is retiring at the end of 2012 after serving for 20 years in the House.