Patch is providing election coverage with candidate profiles and Q&A's. Check in with Patch through Nov. 2 to read up on the candidates and the issues that affect our community.
The 5th congressional district of New York includes the Nassau County towns of Port Washington, Great Neck, Manhasset, Albertson, Roslyn and Sands Point, and the Queens neighborhoods of Bayside, Corona, Douglaston, Flushing, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck, and Whitestone.
- Gary Ackerman, Dr. James Milano and Elizabeth Berney are vying for U.S. Representative (5th congressional district).
- Ackerman is the (incumbent) Democratic candidate who will also appear on the Independence and Working Families party line. He has served in Congress since 1983. Ackerman is running on a platform of ending discrimination, improving public education while lowering costs to students, and advocating for consumer protection in the financial market. He believes in affordable and quality health-care coverage for all Americans and increased funding for all Americans. He is a graduate of Queens college. A former teacher, Ackerman is also the founder of a Queens newspaper. He resides in Roslyn Heights with his wife, and they have three grown children and four grandchildren.
- Milano is the Republican and Conservative candidate. He is running on a platform of repealing and replacing the current health care law and decreasing taxes. He believes that legal immigration has enhanced the nation, but illegal immigration strains its economy and social fabric. He attended Stony Brook University, and received his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. A resident of Oyster Bay, Milano is the father of four, and a practicing physician at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn.
- Berney is the Taxpayer Revolt Party candidate. She is running on a platform of tax relief, cutting wasteful spending, strengthening national security and fighting terrorism. She also aims to achieve energy independence and supports consumer and children's safety. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Chicago Law School. She has served as an attorney for more than 30 years. A Great Neck resident, she is the mother of three adult children, and grandmother of two.
Patch posed the following questions to each candidate.
Why are you running?
Ackerman: To continue our work in making sure the world is a better place for my grandchildren and everybody's children and grandchildren. It is essential that we continue to confront the immense challenges facing our nation in such critical areas as creating and retaining jobs, spurring economic growth, securing middle class tax cuts for those earning under $400,000, working to assist our veterans and senior citizens, helping small businesses, improving national security, obtaining funds for education, improving the environment and ensuring the security of Israel and peace in the Middle East. I will also build on recent accomplishments, which include passing financial reform; implementing new protections for credit cardholders; securing greater accountability from the SEC; working to expand protections for investors and innocent Ponzi scheme victims; changing key financial regulations – such as the uptick rule, mark-to-market accounting rules and credit ratings – to improve the economy; obtaining federal funds and other programs for the district and continuing the best constituent service in the nation.
Milano: It's time to change the way congress does business. We need to get back to representing our constituents unlike the the self-serving career politicians who presently reside in office.
Berney: Taxes, spending, national security, foreign policy, energy independence and safety issues impelled me to run in 2008 and 2010. At the University of Chicago Law School … I focused on tax policy – how to make the system fair, simple, and not onerous or discriminatory. Our current system discriminates against New Yorkers, particularly the AMT [alternative minimum tax]. New York sends $25 billion to other states. Losing the Bush tax rates, plus the 13 new taxes in the misguided health care law will make the situation even worse for New York. I will work for needed changes. I've also worked on well-known securities fraud, consumer safety and international legal cases – areas in which I will work for helpful legislation. I am committed to strong national security and understand that we cannot appease terrorists. Our current congressman supports appeasement policies in the Middle East, which do not work. History, including the Gaza withdrawal, [has] demonstrated that it is a disaster to make concessions to those who want to destroy America, Israel and our other allies. I am a leadership member of the Republican Jewish Coalition and frequently speak about pro-Israel and national security issues.
Where do you stand on government spending? Do you feel it should be cut, and if so, how?
Ackerman: The agenda of the previous administration – two unfunded wars, unaffordable tax-cuts for the richest 1 percent of Americans and an economic policy that led to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression – squandered the budget surplus left to us by President Clinton, and caused record deficits. In this Congress, I supported Pay-As-You-Go legislation, now law of the land that Republicans let expire in 2002. Simply put, PAYGO requires the bills that Congress passes be budget neutral: if a dollar gets spent, that spent dollar must be offset by a spending cut or a revenue increase. This is the same law that helped President Clinton balance the budget, and it is a critical step in restoring fiscal discipline.
Milano: We need [to] cut spending by curtailing waste, fraud and abuse.
Berney: Yes, government spending and debt are out of control, and need to be cut. Government bureaucracy is too big and often useless and wasteful. A prime example is the education department. Education requires good teachers at the local level who help students acquire skills and knowledge – not a huge federal government bureaucracy. Reagan's concept of 5 percent across-the-board cuts in government spending is also a good starting point – and then we should examine every department to see which ones can be cut further and which cuts may need to be restored. Congressional salaries should also be cut to pre-recession levels. It is outrageous that Congress voted itself raises during the current crisis. Pork projects such as the Murtha airport, which cost $8 million to benefit 30 air travelers per day, need to be stopped.
What is your position on the current health care law? If you support it why, and if you don't, what would you do alternatively?
Ackerman: I proudly voted for the new law, which finally ends the practice of insurance companies making health care decisions for Americans, and puts consumers in control of their coverage. No longer will insurance companies rip off Americans through their unscrupulous practices. It is not a government takeover of health insurance; it does not include death panels; it does not replace your doctor and it does not ration care. Rather, it affords those who do not have health insurance the opportunity to purchase coverage through new exchanges. It also requires insurance companies to implement new consumer protections such as not denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, prohibiting lifetime caps, banning plans from dropping those who get sick and allowing children to remain on the policies of their parents until age 26. The new law also improves coverage for seniors by expanding Medicare and extends provisions that target baby boomers.
Milano: Repeal Obamacare. Purchase health insurance across state lines. Tort reform. Require insurance companies to cover pre existing conditions from company to company and restoring funding to our senior citizens, Medicare program.
Berney: The misnamed "Affordable Health Care Choices Act" is mostly a disaster. However, there are a few positives. Certain consumer protections in the law, such as preventing insurance companies from cancelling existing policyholders' insurance after they become ill, are fair and worth keeping. These aspects of the law enjoyed widespread bi-partisan support. However, much of the rest of the law needs to be scrapped. The law's mandatory requirements on individuals to purchase insurance and accompanying penalties are unconstitutional. The 13 new taxes in the law are harmful to our economy. As a result of the new law, health insurance has already become more expensive, and insurers have already stopped writing certain types of needed policies. The new law limits and penalizes health savings accounts, "HAS[s]," – when HSAs should be encouraged as an efficient alternative. Alternatives to the health care law include: permitting the purchase of insurance across state lines to increase competition, encouraging HSAs, reducing mandates, insurance pools, making individual insurance purchases tax deductible, lowering the threshold for deducting individual medical expenses, smoking cessation efforts, using the state tobacco settlements for health care, as was intended, instead of for general budget items, product safety efforts including auto and toy safety – both of which are areas which I've worked in, and water and fire safety education.
How would you stimulate economic growth and job creation?
Ackerman: Small businesses are the engine of our economy. Providing incentives to them is critical to growing our economy. The Small Business Jobs Act passed last month by the House is designed to create 500,000 new jobs without adding to our nation's deficit. The measure offers $12 billion in tax cuts that will spur investment, growth, new starts, and hiring by expanding access to capital, doubling write-offs for capital investments, as well as doubling the tax deduction for start-up expenditures for entrepreneurs. Congress has also expanded Small Business Administration lending, tax credits for small businesses that hire unemployed workers, and long-term tax credits to help small businesses afford employee health insurance. On a broader scale, we should extend tax breaks to companies willing to bring jobs from overseas back to the United States, and introduce laws requiring businesses that accept public money to keep jobs in the U.S. I would also support another stimulus bill to build on the success of the last one. More stimulus equals more jobs. In addition, I will continue to secure funding and support programs that save and bring jobs to the region.
Milano: A common sense approach to cutting taxes so small companies can hire new employees which in turn will generate revenue for those needed government services.
Berney: 1. Lowering taxes is essential for stimulating job growth. Our business tax rates are among the highest in the world, which is one of the factors, which have caused jobs to flee overseas. 2. Pursuing energy independence policies – especially, the proposed Open Fuel Standards Act, which requires automobiles to be capable of using 'flex fuels,' any one of several fuel sources – will result in the creation of millions of private sector jobs here. In addition to vastly benefiting our economy, achieving independence from foreign oil is vital for our national security and will improve our environment. 3. Improved education opportunities. 4. Pro-active product safety laws, which keep unsafe imported products out of the country.