Congressman makes good on pledge to visit every town he represents
ANCRAMDALE–In a mad dash to make good on his pledge to visit all 137 municipalities in the 20th Congressional District he serves, Congressman Scott Murphy’s last stop in Columbia County January 6 was the Ancramdale Presbyterian Church Hall, where he arrived in the bitter cold for a Congress-On-Your-Corner meet-and-greet at 7:10 p.m.
The congressman apologized for his slight tardiness to the 25 constituents waiting there for him, saying he had taken a few moments out from his tight schedule to call home, hoping to talk with each of his kids before they hit the sack, but found his 4-year-old was already asleep.
Newly elected Ancram Town Supervisor Art Bassin welcomed the congressman, who told everyone he wants to be accessible, involved and to get out into the local communities.
Mr. Murphy (D) said that he has spent most of the past eight months on his new job as congressman learning about the federal government and its $4 trillion budget. Serving on the Agriculture and Armed Services committees, the congressman said he has been working on the dairy crisis and military issues, such as trying to get veterans the help they need to start small businesses when they get back home. He has also seen to it that GI benefits provide for the job training veterans want or need to get back into the workforce.
On the subject of Wall Street reform, Mr. Murphy said, “Washington was asleep at the wheel when it came to regulating the financial industry, leaving Main Street to have to bail them out. That should never happen again.” New legislation sets up a fund to cover costs should large banks tank again.
The congressman listed health care reform as “the last big thing” he has been working on, saying while the bill does some good things, like giving people without health insurance access and getting rid of lifetime limits on coverage, it “does not do enough on the cost containment side.” He said both the access piece and the cost containment piece must be done now at the same time “while the whole industry is at the table.”
Asking for questions or comments from those who came out to see him, Congressman Murphy heard from:
*Jane Waters of Pine Plains, who wanted to know the congressman’s thoughts about keeping “the public option” in the health care reform bill. Mr. Murphy said he is a supporter of the public option “all the way.” He said what has got to change is the incentives or the “fee-for-service model,” which “pays more if providers do more tests.” He said health care in the U.S. costs twice as much as it does in the rest of the world.
*Larry Lampman of Ancramdale, a farmer of grass-fed beef, said he believes that soil is the most important resource and suggested that the congressman do something about the hefty corn subsidy and the lack of subsidies for farmers who grow fruits and vegetables. “I’d like to see the emphasis go toward promotion of fruits and vegetables and the dairy industry.” He noted that corn goes into the making of high fructose corn syrup, which contributes to the epidemics of childhood obesity and diabetes.
*Cindy Shea of Ancramdale, a veteran, wanted to know how many Fisher Houses the congressman had visited and said he was doing veterans a disservice if he does not visit them. Fisher Houses are homes built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes are for veterans’ family members to stay in during the veterans’ hospitalization for illness or injury.
*Jim Davenport, an Ancramdale dairy farmer, thanked the congressman for the Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment Program check he received, saying the check was not in his account for 12 hours before it was spent. He also told the congressman that the Alternative Minimum Tax was “a big mistake” and “should go.” Mr. Murphy agreed that the loophole should be eliminated and that the tax was hitting a different “audience” than intended.
*Robert Roth of Ancramdale, the town’s committee of one working to get cell phone service to the area, told the congressman that cell phone service “is what I am all about.” Mr. Roth said a law is already on the books, the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, that says “no small community shall be deprived of electric and telephone service.” While Mr. Roth has succeeded in getting AT&T to put the area on the company’s list of cell tower building projects in 2010, he has not been able to generate the same kind of interest from Verizon and told the congressman, “a push from you and the law” might do the trick.
He also asked for money from the federal government to support such projects.
“Over 50% of my district has no cell service and over 70% has no broadband,” said Congressman Murphy, who said cell phone and broadband access should be considered a “fundamental necessity,” just like rural electrification once was. The congressman said he has repeatedly heard from constituents who are small business owners that if only they had access to high speed Internet, they could expand.
The congressman wrapped up his 35-minute visit by presenting a flag that had flown over the Capitol to Ancram Fire Commissioner Terry Boyles, saying, “Thank you for your service, on behalf of the Congress.”
The congressman completed his every-municipality-visit pledge January 8, with a final stop in Stuyvesant.