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March 30, 2017 - 11:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, NY-27, news.

Press release:

The Democratic chairs from the eight counties which comprise New York's 27th Congressional District announce their new initiative "Turn 27 Blue": a joint effort with grassroots groups to identify and prepare candidates interested in running for Congress.

All people interested in becoming candidates for the Democratic nomination for this congressional seat in 2018 are invited to get in touch with them to learn more about the process and what is involved in running for Congress.

"There is just so much energy on the ground right now," said Genesee County Democratic Chair Michael Plitt, "so we want to make sure we can help people navigate all that's involved."

Because of unprecedented interest in next year's congressional election, the leaders of the Democratic party in the 27th District have decided to approach this election cycle differently from previous years.

"We are just getting inundated with people saying they want to run against Chris Collins," said Jeremy Zellner, the Erie County Democratic chair, who added, "We also want to work closely with the many different grassroots organizations that want to be involved in the 27th District."

Judith Hunter, the chair of the Livingston County Democratic Committee said, "We decided a systematic approach will help to make the process more accessible to all who might be interested and give our eventual nominee the greatest chance for success. Getting started now helps, too."

The county committees wish to include new groups that have sprung up organically since the November election, angered by Chris Collins' pattern of ignoring his constituents. Those groups have done a great deal of work already to educate voters about how little Collins has done to actually represent the people of NY 27, as opposed to his own bottom line or the interests of his party.

"From weekly rallies to protests to letter-writing efforts to billboard campaigns, ordinary people in this district are standing up and rejecting what Chris Collins has offered us. We're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to help those who are willing to stand up and become candidates. It's great to be part of this effort," said Michelle Johnston Schoeneman, of Citizens Against Collins.

Interested candidates are urged to send a resume and cover letter to Chair@livingstondemocrats.org, as Hunter will coordinate this effort on behalf of the larger group.

"I will take care of sharing all the materials with everyone, and we will decide, based on how many inquiries we get, whether it makes the most sense to meet with potential candidates individually or to hold larger workshops," she said. "Rep. Collins has just been so unresponsive to his constituents that everyone is eager to get started."

  • Judith Hunter, Livingston County Democratic Chair
  • Jeremy Zellner, Eric County Democratic Chair
  • Michael Plitt, Genesee County Democratic Chair
  • Jamie Romeo, Monroe County Democratic Chair
  • Cindy Appleton, Wyoming County Democratic Chair
  • Jeanne Crane, Orleans County Democratic Chair
  • John Hurley, Ontario County Democratic Chair
  • Nick Forster, Niagara County Democratic Chair
  • Michelle Johnston Schoeneman, Citizens Against Collins
  • Amber Hainey, GLOW Progressives
  • Renee Sutton, Indivisible NY 27th
  • Thomas White, Sister District for Western New York
March 24, 2017 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Health Care.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement regarding the American Health Care Act.

“I am extremely disappointed with today’s result,” Congressman Collins said. “This bill, while not perfect, was a solution that would have ended the Obamacare nightmare that Western New Yorkers have had to endure for too long.

"By increasing competition and giving people the power to make their own choices with their own health care, the American Health Care Act would have been a drastic improvement over the healthcare system Obamacare has left us with.

“Despite today’s result, this process has provided the opportunity to push for reforms vital to Western New York, specifically my amendment to force Albany to end its unfunded mandate on New York’s counties once and for all.

"I will continue advocating for that critical measure going forward and will remain resolute in my commitment to the taxpayers in my district.”

March 23, 2017 - 12:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Health Care, chris collins, kathy hochul, NY-27.

It might be nice to think that some bit of magic could just make the county share of Medicaid expense disappear, but somebody has to pay one way or another, said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul during an interview with The Batavian yesterday about the Collins Amendment to the GOP's health care coverage reform bill.

"It’s not a free gift," Hochul said. "You can’t say, 'oh, this is going to be great,' and have it work out. They have not thought through the ramifications for this."

Rep. Chris Collins convinced the House GOP leadership to allow his amendment to the American Health Care Act, ostensibly a replacement for the Affordable Health Care Act pushed through Congress by the Obama Administration in 2010. The amendment affects only New York and blocks the state from taking county money to provide Medicaid coverage to residents.

County leaders have long complained that this unfunded mandate is crippling local budgets and forcing counties to cut other services.

"Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs. Enough is enough," Collins said in a statement released when he announced the amendment. "This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families."

The cost shift won't lead to cuts in property taxes, Hochul predicted, but there would be other ramifications for New York's taxpayers. Those ramifications could include either the poor and middle-class families who rely on Medicaid having $2.3 billion in services cut or counties losing their share of sales tax collections.

"Here's what is going happen, and the counties need to be aware of this, there are going to be tough choices to compensate for the Collins scam and one of them is to re-examine the assistance we give to counties now," Hochul said.

According to Hochul, when Medicaid was created, the condition set up by the state was that counties would pay for 25 percent of Medicaid coverage and to compensate counties for the cost, counties could keep a portion of sales tax revenue.

County Manager Jay Gsell isn't sure that is exactly the history of sales tax in New York and said he's researching it. The threat to take money away from the counties if the amendment goes through is in line with Gsell's prediction in a story we published yesterday about the amendment.

"The state is not going to go quietly into the night," Gsell said.

We had trouble getting in touch with Hochul or staff members before yesterday's story, so yesterday Hochul had her staff reach out to The Batavian to arrange an interview so she could address local residents directly about her concerns with the Collins amendment.

"I want people to have a full perspective that if you take out the county’s share, there are still going to be consequences," Hochul said. "Either we cut services $2.3 billion or we raise taxes and it just comes from another pocket in the State of New York to the tune of $2.3 billion."

Hochul has long positioned herself as an advocate for local communities, and she said she is, but it's also her job as lieutenant governor now to look out for all the people of New York and the Collins Amendment, she said, will be devastating for the state.

"The governor and I are very much aware of this cost on counties and that’s why the governor cut that share down to 13 percent and so now NY state counties are paying less per person than they did back in the year 2000," Hochul said. "In addition, we did two more things: we capped the escalation of these costs, so the state is picking up any increases in the Medicaid costs. That has been in place the last five years and the governor also in 2011 created the Medicaid redesign team to squeeze out saving out of this program; $34 billion has been saved overall, and a large part of that was savings for the counties."

There is some dispute over the history of how we got in a position where county taxpayers are helping to foot the bill for a program that is billed as a "state and federal" benefit for people who can't otherwise afford healthcare. New York is one of only 16 states that pass some of the cost onto county taxpayers and New York's county share is the highest in the nation.

"What they’re proposing is the unraveling of a deal that was put in place in the 1960s when, at the time, counties were picking up 44 percent of their residents' health care costs," Hochul said. "Then when Medicaid and Medicare were in enacted in 1965 there was the thought we could reduce that down for the counties to 25 percent and also allow them -- again, allow them -- to collect some sales tax to offset that cost."

Gsell's version includes 1960 with the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a program called Medical Assistance for the Aged. It gave states the ability to create a medical coverage program and decide on the criteria for eligibility. The Federal government provided matching funds to cover the costs. The act was a precursor to Medicaid.

The prior 1950s program, Gsell said, provided matching funds for state payment to medical providers on behalf of people on public assistance.

"Nowhere did I find that NYS counties were voluntary partners in these pre-Medicaid funding programs," Gsell said. "The Hochul quote about counties paying pre-Medicaid, pre-1965, 44 percent of elderly indigent care, which NYS reduced our 'burden' to 25 percent, maybe 'accurate' in regards to then cost sharing, but this 1965 to 2017 Medicaid program is not the same in terms of benefits, entitlement, number of recipients, with counties having no say in size, eligibility and an open-ended entitlement as back 52-plus years ago."

The Cuomo Administration has been in full attack mode the past few days over the Collins Amendment. Yesterday, The Batavian received at least a half-dozen press releases from the governor's office about the amendment, plus statements funneled through the governor's press release database from hospitals in the region attacking the amendment.

"The radical conservative ideology in Washington has declared war on New York with legislation that will devastate hospitals across the state and hurt New Yorkers," Cuomo is quoted as saying in one press release. "These massive cuts will cripple our hospitals and ravage the health care services on which New Yorkers rely."

The other bit of history that came out in news reports yesterday over the Medicaid spat is that Andrew Cuomo's father, Mario, when he was governor pushed for years for the state to pick up the county's share of the Medicaid tab.

Both Andrew Cuomo and Hochul have accused Collins of political pandering to try and secure more Upstate congressional votes for the AHCA, which is far from guaranteed passage. The reform, pushed as part of President Donald Trump's promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, would scuttle direct subsidies to people who purchase insurance through health care exchanges, as well as end the individual mandate to buy health insurance, and replace it with a refundable tax credit for all qualifying Americans.

Critics contend the bill would drive up the cost of health insurance while conservatives argue the bill doesn't actually repeal Obamacare.

A poll commissioned by The Economist shows strong opposition to the AHCA in several rural Upstate districts, including the NY-24 (33 percent support / 51 percent oppose), NY-23 (38/45), NY-22 (38/45), NY-21 (37/45), as examples.

In the NY-19, the district of John Faso, the cosponsor of the Collins Amendment, 35 percent support and 48 percent oppose. The bill has a little stronger support in Collins' own district, the NY-27, with a split of 40/42.

"The reason that Representative Collins proposed this is to literally offer a bribe to on-the-fence Upstate Republicans who were starting to hear from constituents that decimating and destroying the Affordable Care Act, which benefits seven million New Yorkers now, is not something their constituents really want," Hochul said.

Cuomo has characterized the Collins Amendment as putting politics before people, and we asked Hochul about that statement, noting that really any decision about budgets, taxes, and spending is about people. For Genesee County, a cost savings of $9.4 million might not lead to much or any savings to taxpayers, but it could save critical programs.

This past year, the County Legislature went through a contentious budget debate that had some members of the Legislature even floating the idea of eliminating deputies from road patrols. The county will also likely be forced by the state to build a new jail in a few years, plus the county needs at least $15 million in road and bridge repairs. 

Meanwhile, New York's menu of Medicaid options is the most generous in the nation and the program leaves the perception of operating on an open checkbook. (Gsell provided this chart that shows county share of Medicaid expense across the nation and New York's is far and away the highest rate.)

"I disagree with your assessment that it’s an open checkbook," Hochul said. "The fact (is) that we shaved $34 billion off of it just in the last few years and the governor continues to have a Medicaid redesign team in place to make sure we’re cutting costs."

Hochul said if the ACA is repealed, it's just going to drive up costs for all New York taxpayers because the uninsured will be more likely to use emergency rooms for routine medical needs.

"They’re going to the ER and the cost is going to be dramatically higher," Hochul said. "Those costs are being picked up by taxpayers. People have to realize this is a united system and we’re going to continue as a state to cut those costs."

She said New York's costs are higher because we have a larger elderly, middle- and working-class population and our industrial past means we have higher rates of cancer. She recalled seeing as a child the pollution spewed by steel plants, for example, in Buffalo area.

"That is largely a way to explain why we have higher costs, not that we’re just throwing good money after bad," Hochul said. "We have a governor who is very tight-fisted with the state’s taxpayers' dollars. He’s very conscientious. That’s why we’ve cut middle-class taxes. We’ve cut business taxes. We continue to focus on creating jobs to put more money back into the local economy, more sales tax for the counties, more property tax revenue for house sales. It all works together. You can’t just pull out one piece of the puzzle and have that collapse and have the other part be picked up by everybody else."

She called the Collins amendment a betrayal of the people of New York.

"The number one rule for doctors is 'first do no harm,' " Hochul said. "I think that should also apply to members of Congress. What Chris Collins is proposing will inflict harm and pain on the people of the State of New York and we have to get pressure on him to take this back and put it on the sidelines and realize this is a horrible mistake."

Late yesterday, Collins, who won the NY-27 seat from Hochul three years ago, put out a press release that characterized the Cuomo Administration's response to his proposed amendment as "a complete meltdown."

“Governor Cuomo and his sidekick are using doomsday predictions to scare everyday New Yorkers into allowing Albany to continue taxing them to death," Collins said. "It’s absolutely disgusting the governor would threaten the middle class with a tax increase while holding a $14 billion taxpayer-funded slush fund in his back pocket. As I have said before, if this Governor can’t find 1.5 percent to save in his budget, I am more than willing to find it for him.”

March 21, 2017 - 7:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Medicaid, healthcare, chris collins, kathy hochul, NY-27, news.

A proposal to block New York from using county taxpayer money to pay for Medicaid sounds good on paper, but as always, the devil is in the details, says County Manager Jay Gsell.

Gsell's biggest fear is that even if the proposal is passed by Congress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office would just find a way to shift other expenses to the counties.

"My sense of the reaction from the governor and the lieutenant governor over the last week is that it is very likely how they would respond," Gsell said. "They’re still putting a state budget together. Things could change on a dime."

The proposal comes from Rep. Chris Collins, who is having it added as an amendment to the House GOP's health care bill aimed at replacing the Affordable Healthcare Act.

From a Collins press release put out earlier today:

The Medicaid Local Share Limitation, which was proposed by Congressmen Chris Collins and John Faso, would bar federal reimbursements for New York State Medicaid funds raised from local governments. The proposal would only apply to the $2.3 billion being raised from counties outside of New York City. New York State currently raises $7 billion from its local governments to fund its $27 billion Medicaid liability, which is the largest amount in the nation.

“This is a huge win for our constituents,” Congressman Collins said. “I want to thank President Trump, House leadership, Congressman Faso, and the rest of my fellow New Yorkers for getting this key provision included. Year after year, Albany’s leadership relies on counties to foot the bill for New York State’s out-of-control Medicaid costs. Enough is enough.

"This amendment will stop Albany from forcing its unfunded mandate down the throats of taxpayers, and help counties lower the property tax burden on hardworking families. We understand the devastating impact New York’s reckless spending is having on everyday New Yorkers, and I’m proud to join with members of our delegation to bring vital tax relief to our constituents.”

In a tweet today, Collins said his amendment to the bill, called "Ryancare" by some, and "Trumpcare" by others, would save Genesee County taxpayers $9.4 million that the county currently pays as a local share of Medicaid expense.

Gsell said it's more than $9.6 million of an overall $68 million expense, with the Federal government and state government picking up the balance of the cost. 

The proposal from Collins has brought forth blistering attacks from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Last week, Hochul said in a statement:

"What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins, is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability."

She said the Collins proposal would amount to a $4.7 billion tax increase on the people of New York.

According to a report in the Democrat and Chronicle, Cuomo ripped the bill as a "death trap" that would devastate hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Upstate New York.

"My greatest fear from last year’s election has actually come true, which is you have a rabid, conservative ideology in Washington that would tell New York to drop dead, and that is exactly what is going on," Cuomo said.

At $60 billion per year, New York is topped only by California (at $85 billion) in total Medicaid spending. In New York, counties cover $7 billion of the state's share of the Medicaid expense, by far the highest share of any state in the union.

This for a program that is defined by the Feds as a "Federal and state" (not county) medical coverage benefit for people with limited income.

In her statement last week, Hochul offered up a history of how counties came to help pay for Medicaid, saying the counties agreed to take on this expense, but Gsell said that's not his understanding of the history.

Gsell said the counties got roped in against their will in the 1960s when Congress created a long-term care program and ordered states to help pay for it and New York turned around and told counties they would share in the expense. Then when Medicaid was created a few years later, New York told the counties they would pick up 25 percent of the tab, though at the time, the program was a lot less expensive than it is today.

"I saw some comments by Ms. Hochul last week that said, ‘oh, the counties have nothing to be grousing about -- they've been funding Medicaid forever,' " Gsell said. "She alluded to this one- or two-year-old piece of Federal legislation from the early '60s and says, ‘yeah, the counties volunteered to do it.’ No, even then, the state told the counties, 'you will fund this program.' "

New York's Medicaid bill is so high, Gsell said, because the state covers the full smorgasbord of coverage. Whereas the Federal government has only about 15 services that are mandated, New York offers the full slate of available options, more than 30 altogether.

At no time, Gsell said, have states been given any opportunity to have a say in who is covered, how they are covered or what is offered. Everything is mandated by the Federal government or the state.

When Gsell became county manager 23 years ago, the county share of coverage was about $4 million, but the expense started increasing at 5 to 10 percent per year until the county share was capped a few years ago.

The Collins amendment is designed, in part, to help secure support from New York's congressional delegation. That overt political maneuver prompted another statement from Hochul today:

"Mr. Collins has perpetuated a political scam on New York. As Mr. Trump’s bag man he has had to buy votes to pass the Affordable Care Act and did it by promising counties relief from their share of Medicaid. He now wants New York State to pay his $2.3 billion political IOU.

"The state cannot and should not. If Mr. Collins wants to buy votes let the federal government pick up the share rather that the people of New York. Local county taxes or state taxes New Yorkers still pay. One way or another, it is still coming out of New York taxpayers’ pockets. Let Mr. Collins help New York State and his district by having the federal government pay – that is why he is in Washington.

"He could easily help pay by reducing the $150 billion tax cut to the richest 1 percent of Americans or buying one less tank from Trump’s record defense budget. Why make the people of his district pay for his politics. We do know Mr. Collins is adept at corrupt financial schemes but this is the ultimate insider trading scam."

Ryancare/Trumpcare is by no means assured of passing. It will obviously receive Democratic opposition, but a number of House conservatives also oppose it. It will also face a tough fight in the Senate.

Still, if it does pass, Gsell is far from certain it will lift the burden from Genesee County for unfunded mandates. He believes, based on the stern opposition to the cost shift from Cuomo and Hochul, that Albany will just pull the purse strings tighter on other programs with county-state cost shares, such as indigent defense, Safety-Net, Pre-K early intervention and probation assistance. The state share of a total of nine state-mandated programs exceeds the potential $9.6 million in cost savings offered by Collins amendment.

"The money that the state has to start absorbing could turn on our budgets in these other areas with less state aid," Gsell said. "The state is not going to go quietly into the night."

Michael McAdams, a spokesman for Collins, rejected this contention outright.

"That's an unfounded hypothetical," McAdams said. "There's no basis for thinking that would actually occur."

The ironic piece of this fight between Collins and Hochul (who lost the congressional seat to Collins after one term) is Hochul has long been a strong proponent of local communities, making a point to shop local every holiday, for example, even stopping in Batavia stores.

Through the governor's press office and on Twitter, we reached out to Hochul to ask her to address the seeming contradiction of supporting local communities while backing an unfunded mandate, but we haven't received a response.

Gsell thinks Hochul's position may not be entirely her own.

"It struck me as she was being instructed," Gsell said. "This didn’t sound like a Kathy Hochul thing. It mirrored very much what the governor’s thing is, which is, ‘counties, shut up. You’ve got your Medicaid cap. We’ve given you pension reform with Tier 6. You’ve gotten enough. Go away. We’re not going to cost shift from counties to the state.' ’’

March 17, 2017 - 10:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, Meals on Wheels.

UPDATE:  Some information just came to my attention that I didn't know about at the time I wrote this story, and apparently, Chris Collins didn't know about either.  The budget proposal doesn't directly cut Meals on Wheels at all.  It cuts a community block grant program that is used for a lot of things, and a tiny portion of that money sometimes goes to Meals on Wheels.  There are also other federal funding sources for Meals on Wheels. See this article from Reason Magazine.

------

During an appearance on CNN last night, Rep. Chris Collins vowed to support Meals on Wheels through the congressional budget process.

"It's a wonderful program," Collins said. "I would never even vote to cut $1 from that program."

Though she didn't directly hear Collins on TV last night, that's good news to Ruth Spink, director for Office of the Aging, which administers Meals on Wheels in Genesee County. She said the program has many benefits for the residents who participate, their families and the volunteers who help deliver meals.

A budget proposal put forward by President Donald Trump would cut all federal support for Meals on Wheels.

Spink said at the spur of the moment when we called this morning say how much of the funding for the local program comes from the federal government, but that the program is subsidized by federal and state money along with a county match, which makes up 90 percent of the funding for the program. Elderly participants who receive meals also have the option to pay for the meals, though that is not a requirement.

Spink said in the county, about 90 meals are delivered per day and another 30 are served at a community meal hosted at various locations.

The benefits of the program go beyond meal delivery, Spink said. The daily visits by volunteers can also serve to check on the welfare of elderly people, giving peace of mind to them and their family members, as well as give many of these people who are shut-ins a bit of social time with another person, and it allows older people to stay in their homes longer, which saves taxpayers money.

"Perhaps Trump doesn't understand that the more in-home service we can provide the longer we keep them out of residential care, which is significantly more costly than home delivered meals," Spink said.

There is a group of about 25 people who volunteer to deliver and serve meals, and groups such as the Kiwanis Club of Batavia provide more volunteers on a rotating basis.

Collins told Van Jones on CNN last night that his mother-in-law received Meals on Wheels before she died and that when he was county administrator in Erie County; he oversaw the program there and visited the community centers that ran the program, so he knows how important and valuable it is, he said.

Spink said she understands there is a whole budget process Congress must go through before the fate of Meals on Wheels is decided and support from Collins is great, but people need to speak out, she said.

"It's only a proposed budget, so we don't want people to panic, but we do want people to let their representatives know how important this program is to them," Spink said.

On the show, Collins said he also supported immigration reform that would make it easier for farmers to hire and retain immigrant labor and that he believes immigrants who came here without documentation but have been productive and stayed out of legal trouble otherwise should be allowed to stay in the country legally. He was addressing a young lady who is part of the Dream Act Program and Collins told her he welcomed her to our country and wished her a long and successful life in the United States. He said he didn't believe any undocumented workers who hadn't committed criminal acts once in the United States were being deported.

He reiterated his support for an NIH program he helped sponsor to help deal with the opioid epidemic, but when pressed by Van Jones on the issue, which Trump campaigned on, Collins said many of the issues around opioid addiction are really state-level issues.

Renee Sutton, of Canandaigua, one of his constituents, pressed Collins on why he hasn't held, and has refused to hold, a town hall meeting. Collins said he never held one while county executive in Erie County and hadn't held one before this became an explosive issue this year. He said he doesn't believe in them because they are not a productive way to hold meaningful conversations with constituents. He said he meets with constituents all the time and values small group discussions, such as those he regularly has with farmers and medical professionals. He said any constituent can request a meeting with him and he will meet with them.

March 16, 2017 - 7:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

The eight county Democratic chairs of New York’s 27th Congressional District wish to make it clear that Rep. Chris Collins’ decision to appear on CNN with Van Jones on Thursday evening in a televised town hall is an insult to the voters of this district.

While constituents have been gathering outside his offices on a weekly basis in good weather and bad to ask for a town hall, Mr. Collins has repeatedly insisted he has no intention of holding such a meeting, even calling town halls “useless.” But when invited to appear on a cable television program with a studio audience in New York City that will not represent his constituents, Rep. Collins jumped at the chance.

So he may find out what the concerns are of a New York City audience, but he’s still avoiding people in his own district. That is unacceptable, and that’s why we will support a vigorous campaign to replace Chris Collins in 2018 with someone who will actually represent New York’s 27th District.

  • Jeremy Zellner, Erie County Democratic chair
  • Jamie Romeo, Monroe County Democratic chair
  • Nick Forster, Niagara County Democratic chair
  • Jeanne Crane, Orleans County Democratic chair
  • Michael Plitt, Genesee County Democratic chair
  • Cynthia Appleton, Wyoming County Democratic chair
  • Judith Hunter, Livingston County Democratic chair
  • John Hurley, Ontario County Democratic chair
March 16, 2017 - 1:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) has released the following statement after President Trump unveiled his FY 18 Budget Request.

“President Trump’s budget delivered a clear vision for the role the federal government should play,” Congressman Collins said. “It demonstrates that President Trump is committed to keeping the promises he made to the American people. He will rebuild our military. The budget’s $54 billion increase in defense spending is much needed, and I fully support the increase in military funding. Additionally, President Trump promised to secure our borders, and this budget lays the groundwork for building a wall and taking the necessary steps to ensure our nation’s border security.

“However, I have several concerns about significant cuts to local programs, which I believe go too far. I worked for more than two years to help write and pass the 21st Century Cures Initiative, and I fully believe that the funding guidelines established in that legislation must be followed. The $5.8 billion cut to NIH is drastic. I will do whatever I can to ensure that the Appropriations Committee recognizes how crucial medical research is to Western New York and the millions of Americans whose lives could be saved with better medical research.

“The Great Lakes are a crucial part of Western New York’s economy. I have always fought to protect them and have voted to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at every opportunity. I will do the same this time around. Western New Yorkers can rest assured I will be fighting tooth and nail to restore the program’s funding.”

“Agriculture plays a significant role in Western New York’s economy. This budget eliminates the water and wastewater loan and grant program, which helps rural areas alleviate the financial burden of maintaining wastewater programs. I have always fought hard to support this program and this year will be no different.

“Over the next few months, I will continue to evaluate this budget. Ultimately, it is up to the Appropriations Committee to fund these programs and I will be strongly advocating for Western New York’s best interests.”

March 10, 2017 - 11:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, chris collins, NY-27, Medicaid.

Press release from Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat:

“Our Founding Fathers warned us this day would come. Partisan politics would overtake good government for the people. The Medicaid changes being proposed in Washington would cut taxes for wealthy special interests while devastating New York State’s finances and all but eliminating health care for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

“What’s worse, a New York Republican Congressman, Chris Collins, is offering an amendment that would wreak havoc on the state. While I understand that the Democrats in Washington are attacking Collins on ethics issues and are having a heated political fight, they shouldn’t be played out at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.

“Here are the facts: The overall Medicaid plan would cost the state billions of dollars of lost federal funds and jeopardize hospital stability. As if that were not enough, Rep. Collins would have the state assume the counties’ share of Medicaid expenses outside of New York City. The current breakdown is 13 percent county, 36 percent state, and 51 percent federal. This ill-conceived plan would cost his home state approximately $2.3 billion. Unbelievably, that’s on top of the cost of the Republican Affordable Care Act repeal plan – another $2.4 billion.

“Translation: Rep. Collins is proposing a tax increase on New Yorkers to the tune of $4.7 billion. This one-two punch would destroy all the hard work the Governor and Legislature have accomplished in the last six years to lower taxes across the board and achieve the lowest spending increases in recorded history. New Yorkers will be at risk of losing their healthcare, hospitals will be forced to lay off workers, and our vulnerable elderly will find it much harder to afford nursing home care.

“On the merits, the counties have no right to claim this is an undue burden. They paid a percentage of health care costs even before Medicaid – and in fact, currently have a more favorable agreement than in decades.

“In 1960 – well before New York State and most counties had any sales tax revenue to pay for it – Congress passed the Kerr-Mills Act, which created a national role in funding health care for the elderly. Under this program, the counties in New York paid approximately 44 percent of the cost of care, the state paid about 38 percent, and the federal government paid around 18 percent. 

“In 1965, Medicaid replaced that program and the counties paid 25 percent. That same year, the state began giving counties the option of collecting sales tax on their behalf. Every county in New York has subsequently agreed to this option. Many counties in the nation don’t get sales tax, and most of those receive less than our counties. Moreover, the state recently agreed to give the counties additional help – after hearing the counties’ complaints of the growing Medicaid costs, the state has held them harmless for any increases since 2011. 

“As a result, the counties’ share for Medicaid is down from 25 percent to 13 percent, and the state assumed this cost while still living within the 2 percent spending cap, and all while cutting taxes. The state is not asking the counties to do anything more than we have done ourselves. In fact, the state has done far more. If the Collins amendment passed, the state would need to raise income taxes or the counties would have to forego their share of sales tax in exchange for the state picking up the additional Medicaid costs.

“In short, Rep. Collins’ amendment and the Affordable Care Act repeal would transfer $4.7 billion in costs to the state which would translate into a new tax for New Yorkers. I know firsthand that the people of the 27th Congressional District face enough challenges in their lives – they don’t need to worry about increasing health care costs or new taxes. 

“Rep. Collins should stop prioritizing his wealthy friends and start helping his home state by protecting the most vulnerable from losing their healthcare and not putting the state budget at risk. Remember, as my mentor Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to always point out, New York is a donor state – we pay more in federal taxes than we receive back.

“Mr. Collins, try practicing good government rather than partisan politics.” 

Through a spokesman, Collins responded in a story in the Buffalo News.

March 1, 2017 - 9:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) has released the following statement after President Trump’s address to Congress.

“Americans across the country tonight witnessed a leader committed to restoring American greatness,” Congressman Collins said. “This past November, voters elected a change agent. In his first 40 days in office, President Trump is already delivering the results Americans, especially those in my district of Western New York, have demanded. Whether it’s fighting to return American jobs stolen by countries like Mexico and China, or securing our porous borders, President Trump has shown the world he is a president of action.

“If we are going to restore the hope of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren, tough choices need to be made. Unlike our last president, President Trump acknowledged that reality, and outlined a clear vision for us to overcome the challenges we will face. We are going to fight for the American worker, respect the rule of law, and harness the endless potential all Americans possess.

“I look forward to President Trump implementing the change Western New Yorkers voted for, and will continue to fight here in Congress for policies that improve the lives of my constituents.”

February 28, 2017 - 8:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) has released the following statement on President Trump’s executive action regarding the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

“President Trump is delivering on his promises to end the crippling regulations that have devastated Western New York’s farming communities,” Congressman Collins said. “The waters of the United States rule is a prime example of harmful federal government overreach. I applaud the Trump Administration’s decision to review this harmful rule and fully expect them to free our nation’s farmers from this onerous regulation once and for all.”

UPDATE: The word "overturn" has been removed from the headline because that word turns out to have been inaccurate. The executive order requires the EPA to review the rule.

February 11, 2017 - 4:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire services, Town of Batavia Fire, batavia, chris collins, NY-27, news.

collinstobfdfeb112017.jpg

Research released last year concluded that firefighters suffer incidents of cancer at a higher rate than the general population and Congressman Chris Collins thinks more data needs to be gathered to help researchers figure out why.

Collins is sponsoring legislation that will task the Department of Health and Human Services with creating a nationwide database to track and retain information on the emergency responses of firefighters, both career and volunteer. 

"I like to call this good common-sense legislation," Collins said during an announcement event at the Town of Batavia Fire Hall on Lewiston Road. "We know Congress is very divided these days, but this is a piece of legislation that will be bipartisan. There is no difficulty whatsoever in getting both Republicans and Democrats to step forward something that is very commonsense and very low cost."

The legislation is backed by firefighter groups both in New York and across the nation. It is in response to a CDC report (pdf) based on a study of 30,000 career firefighters in three large metro departments who served from 1950 to 2010 as well as data from 18,000 current firefighters. The six-year study found a greater number of cancer diagnoses and more cancer-related deaths among the cohort. These were mostly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers. Firefighters may also be exposed more frequently to asbestos, increasing the rate of malignant mesothelioma.

Firefighters tend to respond to many instances where not only asbestos might be present, but a whole range of hazardous materials.

Dan Coffey, Town of Batavia's fire chief, said helping HHS gather the data may not be much of a burden on volunteer chiefs. Currently, every firefighter who responds on every call is logged and if there is suspected exposure to something hazardous, that is also logged and kept on file forever. If there are additional data points HHS requires, that may mean a little more work, but he said he would just have to wait and see about any additional burden, if any. 

He thinks the effort is worth it, he said. 

"It is very important and something that hits near and dear to us," Coffey said. "There has been a lot of discussion about higher cancer rates in this profession and certainly that would lead to a little more comfort knowing why we have higher rates and hopefully that leads to better equipment and protection and reduces the rate among firefighters."

February 1, 2017 - 7:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court:

“President Trump showed America his commitment to conservative principles with tonight’s Supreme Court nomination,” Congressman Collins said. “Judge Neil Gorsuch will be a strong voice on the Court for years to come.

"I fully anticipate that he will continue interpreting laws as they are written and defend the constitutionally protected rights all Americans hold dear. I urge my Democrat colleagues in the Senate to recognize the clear message American voters sent on Election Day and quickly confirm Judge Gorsuch.”

January 30, 2017 - 12:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following statement addressing President Trump’s Executive Order on immigration.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our communities here in Western New York,” Congressman Collins said. “Temporarily suspending the admittance of refugees and individuals from high-risk countries until we can guarantee they are properly vetted is a common-sense measure focused on protecting Americans. President Trump promised to make America safe again and his executive order aims to ensure we know who is entering our country.”

January 13, 2017 - 1:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) released the following after reintroducing three legislative items to help improve our nation’s Medicaid system. The legislative items include the Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Americans Act (formerly H.R. 6462), Better Accounting for Medicaid Costs Act of 2017 (formerly H.R. 5021), and the Improving Oversight and Accountability in Medicaid Non-DSH Supplemental Payments Act (formerly H.R. 2151). These bills will lower costs, increase oversight, and give patients better access to Medicaid coverage.

“We need to improve Medicaid in order to expand coverage for those who need it most and lower costs that are increasing at an unsustainable rate,” Congressman Collins said. “These legislative items will raise accountability standards and ensure Medicaid supports the most vulnerable Americans, which is what it was designed to accomplish.”

Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Americans Act (formerly H.R. 6462)

Requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in approving Medicaid demonstration projects to:

  • Prioritize projects that have been proven effective in improving care and outcomes with respect to uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, or low-income individuals;
  • Require participating states to make publicly available data regarding the health outcomes for individuals it serves;
  • Ensure that projects are not duplicative of any federal program or funding opportunity;
  • Require participating states to make publicly available an analysis of the degree to which such projects preclude private and charitable sector efforts to improve care and outcomes with respect to uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, or low-income individuals.

Better Accounting for Medicaid Costs Act of 2017 (formerly H.R. 5021)

  • Requires CMS to follow regular notice and comment rulemaking procedures when issuing sub-regulatory guidance that is estimated to cost the federal government more than $100 million or states more than $50 million.

Improving Oversight and Accountability in Medicaid Non-DSH Supplemental Payments Act (formerly H.R. 2151)

Requires the Secretary of HHS to:

  • Establish annual reporting requirements for non-DSH supplemental Medicaid payments to providers;
  • Issue guidance to states that identifies permissible methods for calculation of non-DSH supplemental payments;
  • Establish requirements for state making non-DSH supplemental payments to conduct an annual independent audit of these payments.

Each of these legislative items is cosponsored by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Medicaid Task Force. The Task Force was established during the 114th Congress by former Chairman Fred Upton and is led by Congressman Brett Guthrie. Members of the Task Force were charged with devising ways to strengthen and sustain Medicaid for the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

January 11, 2017 - 3:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21) have introduced the Family Farm Relief Act of 2017, legislation to move the H-2A Agricultural Visa program from the Department of Labor to the Department of Agriculture to better meet the unique labor needs of farmers and agricultural businesses.

“The last thing our farmers need is for the federal government to make it harder for them to make ends meet,” Congressman Collins said. “Access to a willing and available labor force is absolutely critical for Western New York’s agriculture community, particularly our dairy farmers. I am proud to join my colleague Congresswoman Stefanik in introducing this common-sense legislation to streamline and improve the H-2A visa program.”

“Agriculture is the backbone of our North Country economy and I am pleased to introduce this important bill to address the labor shortages facing our farmers,” Congresswoman Stefanik said. “When I travel the district speaking with our farmers, I often hear about how unnecessary delays in worker visas lead to difficulty meeting production goals. This common-sense legislation simply puts the H-2A agricultural visa program in the hands of those who best understand the specific needs of our farms.”

“Immigration reform that allows for both seasonal and year-round farm labor has been a longtime priority for New York Farm Bureau. For too long, the federal H2A guest visa program has been cumbersome, prone to delays and too rigid to fit the needs of both farmers and their employees. We thank Congresswoman Stefanik for taking the lead on The Family Farm Relief Act that will provide real reform and address a critical issue in New York's diverse agricultural community,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president.

The Family Farm Relief Act of 2017 takes practical measures such as allowing visa applicants to fill out H-2A applications on paper or online, requiring a user-friendly online system, and ending burdensome requirements on advertising and prevailing practice surveys.

The current H-2A visa program is unworkable, especially for the dairy farms across our nation. The H-2A visa program does not currently provide a category for year-round livestock workers, including dairy. This has caused difficulties for dairy farms that need employees year-round. This legislation addresses this oversight, by creating an H-2A category for these workers.

Additionally, the legislation also allows farm cooperatives and other agricultural associations to apply for workers for their members, makes the program more workable for dairy and other livestock operations, and requires reporting to Congress if delays occur in the H-2A visa application process.

November 15, 2016 - 12:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement after Speaker Paul Ryan announced Congressman Collins will serve as Congressional Liaison to the Trump Administration’s transition team.

“I am honored and humbled to serve President-elect Trump in this capacity,” Congressman Collins said. “Throughout the campaign I have worked very closely with President-elect Trump and Speaker Ryan, and I look forward to continuing that work as we look to put forth an agenda that will make America great again for all Americans.”

In his role as Congressional Liaison, Congressman Collins will work with the Republican Conference membership and relay their ideas on legislation, staffing and any additional concerns to the Trump transition team. Congressman Collins was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for President and was recently named as a member of the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee. 

November 11, 2016 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Rep. Chris Collins, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president, has been named to the executive committee of the Trump transition team, according to NBC journalist Frank Thorp.

Thorp posted a screen shot of a memo on Twitter.

The team is comprised of elected officials, business leaders and family members.

October 25, 2016 - 2:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement after reports found that premiums for Obamacare’s benchmark plans are set to increase by an average of 25 percent. Additionally, consumers' coverage choices will be drastically reduced in many areas.

“The implosion of this failed law was to be expected,” Collins said. “Congressional Democrats and President Obama forced this program into law, despite knowing full and well that the initial rates were artificially low and unsustainable for insurers. Families must now either find 25 percent more income to pay for these increased premiums or opt for significantly reduced health coverage for their loved ones.

“Unfortunately, this latest price increase is another slap in the face to hardworking New Yorkers that Obamacare has failed time and again. Last year, more than 200,000 New Yorkers were kicked off their health care plans after Health Republic overpromised benefits to its consumers, and left New York taxpayers with the double whammy of having to pay for the its $265 million in losses.”

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, premiums and deductibles have increased substantially, the largest private health insurers in the nation have attempted to merge due to crippling losses, and more Americans are on taxpayer-funded Medicaid than ever before, according to Collins.

The collapse of CO-OPs across a variety of states has cost taxpayers more than $1.2 billion. Congressional Republicans have repeatedly proposed and voted to keep certain safeguards of the Affordable Care Act, while increasing plan flexibility and making insurance more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

Congressman Collins has been an outspoken advocate against this failed healthcare program since being elected to Congress. He currently serves on the Health Subcommittee for the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over many aspects of Obamacare and has continuously worked to replace this flawed law.

October 20, 2016 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Diana Kastenbaum, chris collins, NY-27, politics, news.

Press release:

Diana Kastenbaum, the Democratic Congressional Candidate for NY-27, has called upon Rep. Chris Collins to step forward and declaratively disavow Trump’s recent statements that the election is rigged. As a an elected official himself, Mr. Collins should persuade Mr. Trump that he should accept the outcome of the election if Secretary Clinton wins. That is what we know in this country as a peaceful transfer of power. That “peaceful” transfer of power is the very essence of what a democracy is all about.

“There used to be civility amongst opponents running for public office. However, the tone the Trump campaign and all of its surrogates have set forth, including Mr. Collins, is anything but civil. The time has come for all patriotic Republicans to speak out against this unprecedented attack on our core beliefs and our fair election process.”

October 11, 2016 - 6:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, news.

Press release:

The eight Democratic county chairs of New York's 27th Congressional District unite to denounce Donald Trump's demonstrated sexist and vulgar attitudes toward women and Rep. Chris Collins' continued support of Trump's candidacy in the face of blatant proof that Trump's attitudes are demeaning and derogatory toward 51 percent of this country and this district.

While Republican leaders and elected officials throughout the nation are abandoning Trump in droves, Chris Collins has asserted, "There is no change in my support of Mr. Trump as our nominee."

To be clear, Mr. Trump bragged about repeatedly committing sexual assault without consequence because he was a "star." That Collins did not join his colleagues who have concluded that Trump is unfit and unqualified to be president casts grave doubt on Collins' judgment and ability to represent all of the voters, especially the women, of the 27th District.

We hope that the many people offended by Mr. Collins' lack of spine in standing up to his party's nominee will join us in supporting Diana Kastenbaum for Congress.

Jeremy Zellner
Erie County Democratic Chair

Nick Forster
Niagara County Democratic Chair

Jeanne Crane
Orleans County Democratic Chair

Michael Plitt
Genesee County Democratic Chair

Cynthia Appleton
Wyoming County Democratic Chair

Judith Hunter
Livingston County Democratic Chair

Jamie Romeo
Monroe County Democratic Chair

John Hurley
Ontario County Democratic Chair

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