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New Principles, Common Goals

by Vito Fossella, Dec 06, 2004
 

The national election results this year are a reflection of what happened in New York about a dozen years ago, when New Yorkers chose a Republican governor and a Republican mayor. Since then, we have reelected the governor twice, and elected a second Republican mayor.

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Why has this happened? I believe it is because the people of New York fundamentally support the core Republican principles of keeping crime down, keeping welfare in check, and of course creating a good fiscal climate to attract and keep businesses here. We have had enough of a failed way of thinking, and have embraced new leadership.

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I think this change has worked to the benefit of New York, and now we are witnessing a similar reaction across the country. As long as those true governing principles stay in place I think you'll see those same benefits nationally.

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But what the people of New York really want are officials working for the public good, in a collective and bipartisan manner when possible. What happened three years ago on September 11 proved the point that while we may belong to different parties and have subtly different beliefs from time to time, at the end of the day we are really all Americans and all New Yorkers.

Much of what my Democratic colleagues want for New York, I'm sure I would agree with.

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY BUSINESS CLIMATE

We should be focused on maintaining New York as a viable place to do business -- not just to keep businesses here, but also to attract businesses from around the country and from around the world. And to a large extent we have succeeded, and much of that is a credit to those in the private sector. I say that as someone who came out of the private sector, who was born and raised in Staten Island, who has worked both downtown and in Midtown, and knows what it is like to commute, knows what it is like to miss an express bus, knows what it is like to work late if I have to. That is the heart and soul of New York City: the vibrant private sector based on the premise that if you can do it here you can do it anywhere.

My priorities as a Member of Congress - and I guess these were somewhat validated at the national level - is the notion that we are the engine of the world, and that when we provide the right incentives and the right beliefs, like the belief in opportunity - New York is, after all, the place where you can secure your dream wherever you come from - if you give those incentives, anything is possible. That means keeping taxes lower to provide the incentives for growth.

I think one of the orders of business we have is to make the federal tax reductions permanent to remove the uncertainty, whether it comes to savings, investment, or the reallocation of capital. We should move towards tax simplification that truly encourages growth and transparency and becomes the envy of the world.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Above all, without the notion of national and personal security, everything else is subordinate. We can have all the economic security we want, but without a strong, prosperous and free nation, we're nothing. The chaos that surrounded September 11 proved that everything else is irrelevant.

Homeland security will be an ongoing debate, with Secretary Tom Ridge stepping down and a new leader coming to replace him. That's still a work in progress. But one issue we must work together on is making sure that New York City gets the federal homeland security funding it needs and deserves. New York City is still Exhibit A when it comes to being a terrorist target -- not the middle of Montana -- with all due respect to the people there. We need to work to ensure that the funding flows through to the state and the city and our first responders who are working 24 hours a day to protect us have the tools and resources they need.

As far as homeland security, we are committed in a bipartisan way to ensure that the funding is distributed based on threat -- not on a per capita basis. We are seeing progress in that direction. Initially, it was almost a grab bag of money, with some of it allocated based on threat and the majority distributed to every state regardless of risk. We would like to see it all threat-based.

The President and secretary Ridge have embraced that formula, and we have a bill moving through Congress now to achieve our goal. We're working with the mayor, the governor, and of course the entire Congressional delegation.

TRANSPORTATION

Another thing we can agree on as Democrats and Republicans is the importance of not changing the funding formula as it relates to transit needs. Fifty years ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower had this vision to construct the federal highway system. I think we need a new vision as to how this funding formula should work, because for the most part that highway system has been built up. There are hundreds of billions of dollars that flow into this fund, and we have to start thinking about what the most effective way of using that fund is, as opposed to it serving as a grab bag for projects across the country.

There is an effort to shift funding away from mass transit - which we greatly rely upon here in New York - towards highway construction, which doesn't benefit New York. We have to ensure that the percentage dedicated to mass transit remains high. There's a good coalition of Democrats and Republicans who are working to do just that.

At the end of the day, there are no guarantees, but this is one issue where there is no Republican or Democratic label. We need to be working together, as well as working with the two senators from New York to ensure New York City gets its fair share.

That bill will be coming up in the next several months and it is our responsibility to fight and make sure New York gets the resources it needs.

Congressman Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, is the only Republican in the 13-member congressional delegation for New York City. This article was adapted from comments he made at a breakfast forum sponsored by Crain's New York Business on December 2, 2004.

 




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