Q&A with Rep. Stefanik: Her take on the issues of farming, environment, taxes and Puerto Rico

Candidate Elise Stefanik (R) speaks at a debate held by Spectrum News at its studio in Albany in October 2018. (Photo — Jenn March, Special to the Post-Star)

BEEKMANTOWN — During a 90-minute question-and-answer session Friday morning, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik discussed a wide range of issues, from farming to climate change to whether President Donald Trump should reveal his tax returns.

The Republican from Schuylerville pledged to the crowd of about 60 people at Thomas J. Duffy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1466 that she will fight to get better milk prices for dairy farmers, speedier benefits for veterans, a better environment and a stronger immigration policy.

“We need to make sure that all (agriculture) voices are able to make ends meet and support their families and their businesses,” Stefanik told Beekmantown town Supervisor Sam Dyer, when that dairy farmer said that farmers are struggling in large part because they cannot get fair prices for their products.

“I started in the ’80s, and I didn’t start with much, but I don’t want to give everything I’ve got away today,” he said.

Stefanik said she will continue to work in Congress to get better prices for farmers and to expand export opportunities.

“I hear from farmers who say, ‘We just want a fair playing field, and we want an opportunity to sell our products at fair market value.”’

Environment

On the environment, Stefanik said she does not support the Green New Deal being offered by freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York City.

Stefanik said the plan would bring about a $1 trillion tax hike and put unrealistic restrictions on many industries, including agriculture.

“It would have people stop drinking milk and eating meat, and I don’t support that,” she said.

Stefanik, 33, said she will continue to be a leader in working in a bipartisan fashion to protect the environment and look for alternative renewable energy solutions.

Wind, solar and hydro power are all areas that need to be further explored.

“There are huge opportunities for that in this district,” she said.

Borderlines

Since she has been in office, Stefanik has often described the differences between the southern border of the United States with Mexico and the northern border with Canada.

For the southern border, she supports exploring the need for more personnel, better technology and improvements to the court systems to speed up immigration case hearings.

She does not support amnesty for illegals and wants to make sure that agriculture businesses and can still get migrant workers without a hassle.

“That is very important for farmers,” she said.

For the northern border, Stefanik wants to ensure that trade with Canada can continue in a smooth fashion, which would benefit local businesses, especially agriculture.

Tax returns

Stefanik said she has released her own tax returns since she took office in 2015, and President Donald Trump should, too, as a matter of transparency.

“I think leading by example is important,” she said to a round of applause.

When asked about the president’s tax plan, which has taken criticism from those who believe large corporations got a huge break while middle class Americans did not, Stefanik said she did not support the plan.

“I voted no on the tax bill,” she said. “I was not part of the celebration at the White House.”

Stefanik also pledged to continue to help veterans as much as she can.

She noted that spending on the Veterans Administration has gone up from about $90 billion a decade ago to $200 billion in the last Congress.

“We will continue to invest in our veterans’ care,” she said.

“We should never be trying to balance the budget on the backs of our veterans.”

FEMA money

She was asked why the federal government has not provided enough help for Puerto Rico after devastating Hurricane Maria ripped through the island in September of 2017.

“FEMA funds haven’t gone to Puerto Rico fast enough,” Stefanik said. “It has been devastated by the hurricane, and we need to do more to make sure that those funds get to Puerto Rico.”

Stefanik also said she supports statehood for the Caribbean Island.

“They deserve to have a vote on the floor,” she said.

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