Congressman Murphy visits area constituents
By Julia Green
Congressman Scott Murphy, who represents New York’s 20th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was once again in Delaware County last week, when he had lunch with a number of area business people at the Quarter Moon Café in Delhi.
The Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce joined forces to present the opportunity to members to meet with the congressman to discuss issues important to the region. A number of local business owners and professionals were on hand to address concerns about a number of challenges with Murphy, who also visited businesses in Sidney, Walton, Hobart and Stamford.
During his brief appearance, Murphy reiterated a number of ideas he presented during his appearance at the Delaware & Ulster Railroad in Arkville in January; namely, those related to health care, gas drilling and agricultural issues.
During his opening remarks, Murphy highlighted the importance of growing small businesses in order to keep young professionals in the area.
“That’s going to happen with small businesses,” he said. “We’re not going to create jobs – we only create the infrastructure. We set the table.”
In that vein, he also touched on the importance of widening the accessibility to broadband access and cell phone service in more rural areas, which he identified as paramount to the next generation of jobs.
Murphy pointed to the ION Upstate New York Rural Broadband Initiative, a project that will enable high-speed Internet access to underserved communities and which incorporates 12 independent rural telephone companies in New York. To date, the project has received roughly $40 million in funding.
Margaretville Telephone Company President Glen Faulkner thanked Murphy for his support of the ION funding, and added that MTC is looking to submit a request for a second round of funding and is seeking Murphy’s support, to which the Congressman responded, “Absolutely.”
Fielding a question regarding federal resources for wellness programs, Murphy waded into the health care issue, reiterating that he voted against the House health care bill because while he felt it did a good job increasing coverage and addressing insurance reform, he was not satisfied with its effort of fixing broken incentives and getting money out of the system.
He added that one of the points of the senate bill that he did like was its focus on the responsibility of individuals to maintain health, and referred to President Obama’s televised health care summit as “one of the best things I’ve seen in politics in a long time.”
He added that he likes the British parliament’s institution of “Question Time,” wherein members of the parliament ask questions of government ministers, including the prime minister, which they are required to answer. Question Time is a daily occurrence, save exceptional circumstances.
“It’s good for democracy, and it’s good for debate and dialogue,” Murphy said of the practice, adding that the general consensus both before and after the summit was that “we’ve got problems and we need reform.”
“I was more hopeful that we’d get more progress out of the summit in terms of coming together,” he admitted. “But once I see the actual language in the legislation, I will look at the bill and decide if it would make us better or worse than we are today.”
He also touched briefly on the dangers of Medicare fraud and abuse, citing the $60 billion to $100 billion a year that is paid in fraudulent bills.
Murphy once again addressed the hot-button issue of gas drilling within the watershed, and repeated his message from January: “Obviously, none of us want to see our watershed polluted,” he said. “I’m not in favor of any drilling that pollutes; it has to be done in a way that protects our water supply.
“I’m not a science expert – I rely on science experts,” he said, adding that U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu asserts that there is a way to do hydrofracking that poses no threat to drinking water. “Polluting sight lines, noise, tearing up roads, these are all issues, but they all sound solvable. If you can drill without polluting our drinking water, I can imagine rules in New York that I would be comfortable with. I’m willing to investigate it more.”
In closing, Murphy referenced the current state of the economy, referring to the surplus enjoyed in the year 2000 as a time “when we had rules that made sense” and adding that, without change, “we will drive the currency into the tank.”