By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Eight percent unemployment nationally and 10 percent in Clinton County is simply unacceptable, says congressional candidate Matt Doheny.
And so is the national debt, at $16 trillion and growing.
“You can’t grow when you are spending away your children’s and your grandchildren’s future,” Doheny told a crowd at the Plattsburgh/North Country Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs breakfast Friday morning at American Legion Post 20.
Doheny, a Republican from Watertown, is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Bill Owens of Plattsburgh in the 21st District.
At the chamber breakfast, he spoke about how government taxes, mandates and regulations are stunting business growth throughout the country and how Congress needs to find a way to encourage investment in businesses.
“We have policies coming out of Washington that don’t work,” he said, adding that the debt will grow by about $1 trillion per year if government spending patterns are not altered.
Owens, contacted after the breakfast, said bringing down the debt will take a bipartisan effort that should include a responsible mix of cuts and revenue that protects the middle class while making government work better.
“The Government Accountability Office has already identified $100 billion in waste and duplication in the government that we can end today without harming the economy or workers,” Owens said.
“By implementing the GAO’s proposals, we could help prevent sequestration with a small amount of additional revenue.”
The chamber will host a breakfast with Owens on Oct. 26.
Doheny also said that the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, is going to be costly and will not produce positive results for the nation’s health-care system. He particularly has a problem with the proposed 15-member advisory board that would make decisions on health-care issues under the president’s plan.
“It will fundamentally change the landscape of health-care delivery... I think it’s wrong for America, and I know it is wrong for the North Country, he said.
Owens, who voted for Obamacare, said it is a good first step in improving the system, but it still needs work.
“I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats to eliminate parts of the Affordable Care Act that don’t work for families or businesses, like eliminating the medical-device tax, while keeping the parts that improve care and reduce costs,” he said.
Doheny spent a decade on Wall Street working to turn around distressed companies. He said one of the main problems in Washington, D.C., is partisanship. When neither side is willing to compromise, nothing gets done.
“I am a businessperson, and I’ve learned that if you don’t compromise, you don’t eat,” he said.
“If you don’t compromise, you don’t accomplish anything, and that’s worse.”
Because of the gridlock, many investors are reluctant to spend capital when they don’t know what policies are going to be implemented by government, he said. And as a result, businesses will not grow, and they will not bring on more workers, which will not help lower the unemployment rate.
“If you change the rules every three months, you are not going to be productive,” he said.
“People (investors) will sit on the sidelines, and you need to have investment to grow the economy.”
Owens said the unemployment rate can be improved. He said there are 3,200 unfilled jobs in the district, and more training needs to be made available to get those positions filled.
“That takes people off the government rolls and puts them to work growing the local economy,” he said.
“By continuing to recruit companies from Canada, as I’ve done throughout my career, we can also help create new jobs and opportunities in the community.”
A DOZEN OFFICES
If elected, Doheny said, he will have an office in each of the 12 counties in the district instead of just one on each side of the massive territory it covers. He said he would pay for the offices with the funds Congress members are allowed to use to send out glossy mailers several times a year.
“You can save hundreds of thousands of dollars by not sending those out, and I don’t believe in them,” he said.
That money comes from Members Representational Allowances provided to members of Congress that can be as much as $1.4 million to $2 million per year based on a formula for each district, according to the House of Representatives website.
It pays for office expenses, staff salaries, travel from districts to Washington, mailings and other costs.
Owens said his constituents like the mailers and he will continue to send them as well as hold town hall meetings and mobile office hours.
He also said that he has returned money from his office budget each year since he was elected in 2009, including about $100,000 in 2011.
“I have always used every tool available to stay in touch with constituents, keep them up to date on what’s happening in Washington and make sure they know how to reach me for help or questions,” he said.
Doheny also said he would host a town hall meeting in every one of the 194 municipalities in the district every year.
“That will give people a chance to see me and get to know me and see that me and my staff are working hard for them,” he said.
Owens, a former Plattsburgh attorney, said he has been visible in the community throughout his career working with entities like the chamber to create jobs.
“I’ve taken on many of these same initiatives in Congress and will continue doing so in the years ahead,” he said.
Doheny trails Owens in most polls that have been done so far, but the race is expected to be close.
“This will come down to policies as well as who the person is, and people know that I am the hardest working guy out there,” Doheny said.
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