The race for the 3rd Congressional District is heating up as Election Day approaches. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, an attorney and certified public accountant, would like to continue to pursue his goals for constituents using his membership on the House Ways and Means Committee and as vice-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. George Santos, a private equity fundraiser and newcomer to the political arena, would like to use his talents to secure a fiscally sound New York. It is up to voters who will win. We asked the candidates a few questions to help when voters go to the polls.
Herald Gazette: The coronavirus pandemic has devastated our local economy and caused businesses to shut down or see steep losses in revenue. What could you do to help small local businesses and help the local economy recover?
Tom Suozzi: The Congress did a lot of things working together in the early part of coronavirus. The Democrats proposed a comprehensive package in May, calling it the Heroes Act, but we saw no action from the White House or Senate Republicans. Then we heard the Republicans were offering a trillion dollars verses our $3.5 trillion that we had offered a month ago. I’m on the Problem Solvers Caucus, which is bipartisan, and we came up with a compromise of $1.5 trillion. The conversation was going again. We were closer to a deal with Democrats now asking for $2.2 trillion and the Republicans asking for $1.6 trillion. And then in the middle of it, Pelosi got a call to stop the negotiations from the president.
We need another PPP program to provide specific relief to the restaurants based on their 2019 revenues verses their 2020 revenues. We need another package for independent entertainment venues based on their net operating costs. There are a million things we can do. We just need for the Democrats and Republicans to work together. I believe we can get a deal done.
George Santos: I believe in small business. It is the engine keeping the economy going. But instead of writing more bills that we cannot afford in the federal government, there is $6 trillion in dry powder in the private sector today. This is the money that is standing by idly in firms like Goldman Sachs and others. They are not investing because of the climate volatility. So instead of us going to the federal government and digging ourselves into a hole, I say give some kind of incentive for corporations sitting on trillions of dollars of private money and let’s create a program for small business owners to apply for small percentage loans in exchange for the federal government getting some sort of write off for these bigger corporations for fiscal year 2020 to 2021. I believe the tax revenue we would lose from a mega corporation we would gain in some wealth and job creations in smaller sectors as we grow our economy bottom up, and it would resolve the issue of digging oneself into more debt. This would be fiscally a responsible approach for future generations to not have to dig themselves out of an absolutely atrocious debt.
Any financial issues prior to the coronavirus should not be the federal government’s responsibility. The problem with Congress is there are a lot of lawyers. I don’t think they understand the financial factor as much as they think they do. I’m sure if this is introduced properly in committee, it would be taken into consideration.
Herald Gazette: School officials are worried about possible cuts from the state coming later in the year. How can you help local schools get the funding they need?
TS: The biggest expenditure is school aid. If schools don’t get the money they need, they will be crushed. They won’t raise taxes now so they will have to lay people off. It would be devastating. We are bailing out every state because we send more income taxes to the federal government then we get back in federal air or federal programs.
Schools are funded from state aid and property taxes, which are stable. If a school district is in a heavily commercial area — a big benefit for some communities — they could be in trouble because the businesses are in so much trouble.
The problem is that the state has lost so much in sales tax revenues and doesn’t have money to pay schools all the state aid. When the state passed its budget and the schools passed their budget, they did so as though the money was available. Everyone figured the federal government would help, but it’s all in the remain willing to work across party lines.
GS: Our schools should be running on lower, leaner budgets since in the majority of schools there is a hybrid model, meaning they need less for the staff. The overhead has dropped drastically too. I don’t think the fear is that they won’t receive any funds. I think it is that they won’t receive as much. I think the funding will be adjusted to the overhead the schools have now, not what it was prior to the pandemic.
I was a public school student and I depended on that system and wouldn’t want anyone else to not have access to a good decent quality education. I’d fight to secure funds for schools but I’d like to know the real facts and numbers. Budgets can’t be one size fits all. They need to be adjusted.
Herald Guardian: The Black Lives Matter movement has become the largest civil right movement in the country, with protests against systemic racism springing up all across Long Island. What do you think could be done to address the issue of systemic racism?
TS: I’m one of the original co-sponsors of the Justice and Policing Act passed to reform our police across the country and certain federal standards like eliminating choke holds. I believe racism is real in our country, but you can be pro-reform and say support the police. Legal changes need to be made at the local level to enhance your community policing. This way cops will know the community and they will know them. They can work together. Then the resources need to be put where the problem areas are. We need to set up an accountability system based upon the use of force, where it is needed and how often. Are there more people pulled over in a certain area? If you monitor it statistically you can hold your officers accountable. This is all very doable.
GS: I believe that Black lives matter absolutely. I come from a biracial family, but white lives and Asian lives, everyone matters. As far as systematic racism, I have a hard time agreeing with that being a factor in America today. I see so many people of so many different races extremely successful today. If it is a truly systematic racist society, we would never have had people in high offices. I see the problem as more of an education issue. Inner cities are deprived of the same benefits that a suburban area has been given the privilege of. Inner city kids grow up with unflattering influences around them and they have an education that lacks quality.
Do I believe all police are bad? I don’t. Do I believe the officer who caused George Floyd’s death is wrong? I do. Police are not properly funded for training. Bail reform is a disaster and has put lives of all New Yorkers at risk.
Herald Gazette: What are your goals if elected?
TS: I have to bring money back to New York. We are having less and less influence because our population is not growing. I want to get an infrastructure deal to address water quality in Nassau and Suffolk counties focused on green energy. The biggest wars in future won’t be based on oil, money or land. It will be based on water.
GS: Law and order is most important to me and reestablishing that trust in our community with the police. I want to boost small businesses to where they were before the coronavirus, and I’m tired of losing electricity every time we get a storm with over 30 miles per hour winds. I would have a massive appropriation within the $20 to $30 billion range to secure for an upgrade of the electrical grid as a whole, and I would get the funding from the federal government.