Residents of Chautauqua County were invited to meet their new choice for the House of Representatives on Friday.
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce held a federal congressional luncheon Friday with recently elected Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed of the new 23rd congressional district seat at Moon Brook Country Club in Jamestown.
"I appreciate the support because we had a great turnout here in Chautauqua County," said Reed. "That's why we wanted to come over here immediately after the election to send the message that it's not just about showing up during the campaign, but also showing up once you're in the office. Chautauqua County is a critical component of Western New York, and we're going to make sure that we're here and doing the work."
Pictured is Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed of the new 23rd congressional district seat having a discussion with Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the county Chamber of Commerce, on Friday at Moon Brook Country Club in Jamestown.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
The luncheon featured an interview between Reed and Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chamber, that touched on important issues such as the manufacturing industry in Chautauqua County, the risk of falling off a "fiscal cliff," the patient protection and affordable care act, hydraulic fracturing of gas wells, the cost of medicaid, the situation with NRG, the status of Chautauqua Lake, education, the national debt and more.
"The election was a great night, but we wanted to get up today and get right back to work," said Reed. "... I will tell you that I've been pleasantly surprised by the amount of manufacturing in Chautauqua County that we have been exposed to. And, what you're doing here, we need to duplicate across the 11 counties of the 23rd congressional district."
The discussion started with a question from Tranum about what Reed thinks need to happen in regard to the risk of falling off a "fiscal cliff" after raising tax rates on upper-income earners.
"I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to come together and solve these problems that face America," said Reed. "There is no hiding the fact of the problems we face. ... The 'fiscal cliff' is but one of the immediate issues that we need to take care of. The time of partisan bickering is long gone, and we need to get this taken care of. And, I'm optimistic that the 'fiscal cliff' will be avoided."
Tranum continued the discussion with a statement from a recent interview between Diane Sawyer of ABC News and John Boehner (R-Ohio) in which Boehner said, "It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected, Obamacare is the law of the land."
"... I think the people have spoken, and the affordable care act now will be fully implemented," said Reed. "We have some significant concerns with that implementation, so we have to be prepared to deal with any negative type of issues that arise."
Tranum then touched on an energy issue that is close to home for many Chautauqua County residents. He asked for Reed's stance on the exploration of the benefits of the Utica and Marcellus Shale formations, and the opportunity for horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Chautauqua County.
"We have been supportive of developing the shale formations," said Reed. "We started a Marcellus Shale caucus, which is a bipartisan caucus to get the best science and information out there so that people are making informed decisions. If we're ever going to have, and I believe we can, a manufacturing and industrial renaissance in America again, we're going to need a long-term supply of energy, and provide it on a low-cost stable basis. That's what natural gas represents."
Reed was also questioned on the status of the future of the NRG Dunkirk plant, the status of Chautauqua Lake and what needs to be done to bring a comprehensive energy policy to the state and to the country.
"The NRG facility is our top priority for Chautauqua County," said Reed. "We're going to be a strong advocate for making sure that conversion occurs ... and that facility is not mothballed. The other priority is that we are very interested in working across the county to make sure Chautauqua Lake is preserved.
"Another priority of our office is doing our part to make sure that we're developing a comprehensive energy policy. We're going to work hand in hand with (the federal government) in developing that comprehensive energy policy for the short-, mid- and long-term because we need it and we need to unite as a country to get behind it."
The issue of the role of the federal government in integrating science, technology, engineering and math into educational curriculums was also discussed.
"We've been a strong advocate of making sure that STEM is recognized as a key component of our educational policy," said Reed. "The lack of that skill set is a threat to that industrial and manufacturing renaissance that I envision for Western New York."
Reed also touched on the need for making the use of federal dollars used in the education system more effective.
"Calculations showed that 40 cents of every dollar they receive from the federal government went to administrative requirements," said Reed. "We have to make that much more effective, we have to get that number down to 10 or 15 cents, so the dollar is more deployed to the classroom and teachers."
Questions from the audience were also received that touched subjects such as: What the close race between Reed and the Democratic representative Nate Shinagawa means for future elections; where Reed stands on capping deductions versus raising rates; and local staffing and locations of offices.
"These are very precarious times ladies and gentlemen, and, it's time for us to get serious," said Reed. "The popular vote of 49-51 shows a real division in America, and we need to overcome that.
"When the former chief of staff, Admiral (Mike) Mullen, said that the biggest national security threat to America is our debt, we need to listen to those words."