MAGGIE BROOKS, COUNTY EXECUTIVE AND LOUISE SLAUGHTER, CONGRESSOWMAN
In what areas do you feel Rochester demonstrates the most room for economic growth?
MAGGIE: Once defined by a handful of large companies, Monroe County is now home to an exciting mix of small and mid-sized businesses showing electric growth in fields like optics, technology, healthcare, and education. Local leaders at all levels of government must work to partner strategically with private sector employers to identify and target similar areas that are ripe for growth. That strategy has empowered Monroe County to help local employers secure over 85,000 jobs in our community since 2004, and is one of the many reasons we were named a Top Ten Place Poised for Greatness in 2012.
LOUISE: We have to rebuild and retain our manufacturing base, and we do that by ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and using those incentives to reward companies who bring jobs back home. I’ve written legislation to make sure trade agreements are fair to American manufacturers, and that we’re not outsourcing critical national security manufacturing jobs to other countries. High-tech innovation is another bright spot for Rochester, which is why I’ve worked to bring home funds for innovative research at University of Rochester, RIT, and local companies so we can support the high-tech jobs of the future.
Small businesses are fast becoming the mainstay of this struggling economy, but are being threatened by big corporations, high taxes, and intimidating start-up fees. What is your plan to help support and encourage the growth of independent business owners?
MAGGIE: Small businesses are creating 70% of all new jobs in our country today and have the potential to do even more to put America back on the path to prosperity. Yet, our Federal Government continues to over-tax, over-regulate, and overburden the small businesses that are building successful communities and employing our friends and neighbors. I think that’s wrong. Here at home, we’ve held property taxes flat for eight straight years and, as a result, we continue to be a State leader in job growth and consumer confidence. I will use the same jobs-first approach as Monroe County’s Representative in Congress.
LOUISE: Small businesses are the engines of job creation in America, and we need to level the playing field so they can compete. Right now, big corporations benefit from loopholes in the tax code, while small businesses are stuck paying the full corporate tax rate, making it harder for them to compete. I support the President’s plan to lower the corporate tax rate across the board and pay for it by eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for big corporations that don’t need them. We also have to support tax relief for middle-class families so they have income to spend on the goods and services that small businesses provide.
Do you have any intentions of altering the present healthcare system, and if so, how would you go about improving it?
MAGGIE: I oppose the Federal Government’s health care overreach because it hikes costs for small businesses, puts a board of 15 unelected bureaucrats in charge of critical healthcare decisions, and dismantles Medicare as we know it. Our families and seniors deserve better. Instead, we must protect Medicare, restore the nearly $750 billion that’s been cut from the program, and craft real reform that helps families while protecting taxpayers. Our community knows it can be done. In 2010, Monroe County launched a groundbreaking prescription discount program that has saved local families more than $5 million, at no cost to taxpayers. I will seek similar innovative healthcare solutions in Congress.
LOUISE: We’ve taken some enormous strides in healthcare the last few years, especially women’s healthcare. We ended caps on coverage so if you get sick, your family won’t go broke. Now it is illegal for insurance companies to charge women more for their healthcare, and we’ve ended the insidious practice of treating domestic violence and pregnancy as pre-existing condidions. We still have to find ways to lower costs and expand coverage, but what we don’t need is Washington Republicans trying to repeal health care and turn Medicare into a voucher system, a move that would cost seniors an extra $6,400 for coverage and leave seniors on their own to negotiate with insurance companies.
Most people are fed up with partisan politics; how do you propose to increase cooperation and civility among parties?
MAGGIE: I’ve worked to make promoting a spirit of collaboration the hallmark of my time as County Executive. When I was sworn into this office in 2004, the County Executive and Mayor of Rochester could not sit in the same room together. I was proud to repair that relationship and have since established strong partnerships with three different Rochester Mayors. In fact, our spirit of collaboration is evident throughout all of Monroe County, which is likely home to more local shared service agreements than any other community in the State. I’ll be proud to continue promoting cooperation and civility in Congress.
LOUISE: I’m convinced that bipartisanship is still possible. This year, I passed the STOCK Act with widespread bipartisan support, criminalizing insider trading by members of Congress. Unfortunately, when leaders of one party make it clear that scoring political points is more important than creating jobs and growing the economy, it’s hard to get anything done. Republican leader Mitch McConnell recently said the GOP’s number one priority is “to deny President Obama a second term.” When one side roots for failure to improve their chances of winning elections, it creates a toxic atmosphere that makes collaboration very hard.
Sustainability and environmental protection is at the top of everyone’s minds. How crucial is the role of sustainability and the environment in your campaign?
MAGGIE: The issues of environmental protection and affordable energy affect every American and every sector of our economy. That’s why I believe in an “all of the above” energy policy to ensure America’s energy independence while reducing costs. Yet, we must simultaneously seek sustainable solutions for the future. We can find answers right here in Monroe County, where we launched Green Fleet to transform our entire fleet to alternative fuel models, three years before the federal government announced it would do the same. Our Regional Transportation Operations Center also helps save local commuters 480,000 gallons of gas and nearly $2 million per year.
LOUISE: The only path to a sustainable future is investing in clean, renewable alternative energy. That’s something I’ve done in Congress, securing millions in fuel cell research funding for local businesses like Delphi. I’m very concerned with the prospect of treating hydrofracking waste water in our community – I don’t think Monroe County families want their kids brushing their teeth with flammable water. Unfortunately, my opponent has refused to be forthright regarding the county’s hydrofracking wastewater treatment policies, leaving families in the dark about the prospect of bringing that waste water into our community. Monroe County families deserve an honest and open conversation about alternative energy.
Women’s reproductive rights have been a hot topic in the media lately. With the 40th anniversary of Roe vs Wade coming up next year, what is your stance on this issue and do you feel that a women’s rights in this area should be legislated?
MAGGIE: Much will be said during this increasingly negative campaign season, but the people who live and work in the birthplace of Susan B. Anthony already know the truth: as Monroe County’s first female County Executive, I’ve been a staunch advocate for women’s issues throughout my time in public service. Furthermore, as a mother to two young adult daughters and someone who has promoted the involvement of women in government for decades, I believe strongly in protecting women’s health. While I am personally pro-life, my record shows that I govern for all, and I will continue to do so in Congress.
LOUISE: As the co-founder of the Pro-Choice Caucus, I fully support a woman’s right to choose, but that right is under attack from Republican leadership in Congress. Todd Akin’s outrageous comments about “legitimate rape” were not surprising to me, because I hear and see outrageous proposals regarding choice on a regular basis. This Congress, Representative Paul Ryan and company introduced a bill that would redefine rape to make it easier for providers to deny women a choice. Not a single Republican voted against the bill. We need to focus on jobs, and the economy, not limiting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices.