October 17, 2004

Congressional candidate Jeff Miller visits

Congressional candidate Jeff Miller came to Ithaca yesterday and spoke to a group of us from the 24th Congressional District. (At one point we'd considered having the event in Dryden, as he was going from an event in Cortland to one in Owego, but since the district goes across the lake to Trumansburg and Geneva, Ithaca made sense as a meeting place even though it's in the 22nd District.)

Jeffrey Miller speaks
Congressional candidate Jeffrey Miller speaks while County Legislator Martha Robertson and Tompkins County Democratic Chair Irene Stein listen.

After a brief introduction by County Legislator Martha Robertson, Miller took the stage, and spoke bluntly. While noting that his opponent, Sherwood Boehlert, "may once have been a moderate Rockefeller Republican," Miller argued that his votes over the last few years - on the environment, on Medicare, and on abortion - had all shifted to better match the more conservative elements of the Republican majority in Congress. Miller felt he would be in a better position to represent the district's interests.

Some of the ideas he had specific to the district included a heavy emphasis on transportation, especially the I-81 corridor coming down from Ottawa, the "Silicon Valley of Canada", and high-speed rail along the Thruway corridor. He wants to shift Medicare and Medicaid costs off of local government, funding them through the income tax basis rather than property taxes. He pointed out that Boehlert had sent out a flyer championing his support for making President Bush's tax cuts permanent at the same time that his local school district was facing a tax revolts against the burden of property taxes, and Boehlert didn't seem to realize there was any kind of connection. He was also concerned that plans to make Rome airport a regional hub didn't have much hope of economic success, but was heartened by recent planning in the Syracuse area (707KB PDF).

County Legislator Mike Lane asked about the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the electronic voting machines going into many states. Miller started with his concerns that "a company that builds ATMs that will give you a paper receipt can't seem to come up with a paper trail for voting machines.... In Florida, after the hurricanes, I'm not so worried about people hacking the machines as the power grid going down." Miller admitted that "I may be old-fashioned, but I like the idea of indelible ink and paper... certainly the Canadians have survived with such a system." (Despite all the time I've spent with computers, and my finding the New York mechanical voting booths fascinating, I'll admit that I too would much rather see paper and pen.)

On one of Boehlert's strong issues, science, Miller did credit Boehlert - "he has delivered science dollars, that we can't deny" - but felt that Boehlert hadn't done much about the "Bush adminstration manipulating data, hiding research, squashing research."

Peter Davies of Dryden asked Miller about the Senate's recent passage of a huge set of tax breaks, including an end to duties on ceiling fans from China (a favor to Home Depot) and a NASCAR track being classified as a "production facility." Miller wants to see these new loopholes stopped and old ones closed. He suggested that Boehlert's support for making Bush's tax cuts permanent was his "one point economic plan." He noted that his (and Boehlert's) home county is asking the state for permission to hike its sales tax 1.75%, to 9.75%, as costs have become more local. He said of the Republicans that "they act like they never heard of the income tax," and that while "one of the great things about America is that you can earn as much money as you want," those who have the most do best when times are good and suffer least when times are bad.

Dan Konowalo of Lansing asked Miller about his plans for farmers, suggesting that he'd do well to address the problem of farmers paying $1.30-$1.40 for every dollar of services they receive. Miller agreed that farmers have tax problems, along with increasing energy and healthcare costs. He also wanted to see better ways for farmers to take advantage of the benefits of incorporation without putting their farm - often their home - at risk.

Miller also argued that Boehlert's last four primaries had left him in debt to the conservative wing of the party, as Boehlert had scrambled to bring in luminaries, most notably Newt Gingrich, and raise money where he could.

At the end of the questions session, Miller extended his best wishes to Boehlert, who is recovering from a triple-bypass operation, while noting that it had made for a strange campaign, with Miller and Conservative David Walrath showing up at events without Boehlert - or even a surrogate. He's hoping to finally see Congressman Boehlert again at events in the closing week of the race.

Posted by simon at October 17, 2004 2:39 PM in , ,
Note on photos