Plant closing is campaign fodder in 23rd District - Olean Times Herald: Editorial - Plant closing is campaign fodder in 23rd District: Editorial

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Plant closing is campaign fodder in 23rd District

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Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 9:22 am

News that a military helicopter manufacturer is closing its operations near Elmira — meaning the loss of 570 jobs — spilled into the congressional campaign between incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Reed and challenger Nate Shinagawa.

Mr. Shinagawa, a Democrat from Ithaca, swipes at the congressman, suggesting that the unemployed workers could have a harder time because of the agenda he has supported.

“We need to prevent losses like this, and get the workers laid off this afternoon back to work as soon as possible,” Mr. Shinagawa says. “Congressman Reed only wants to make it more difficult for these workers who just lost their jobs to be able to get back to work. He has voted twice for the Ryan budget, which will encourage companies to send more jobs overseas, according to the Tax Policy Center.”

Citing cuts in the federal defense budget and a continuing weakness in its military helicopter business, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced Monday it will close its military completions center in Big Flats at the end of the year.

The Connecticut-based company’s decision means the loss of 570 jobs at the five-year-old facility on Kahler Road, where workers would customize Black Hawk and Naval Hawk helicopters sold to foreign governments. The decision also brings to an end Sikorsky’s high-profile history in Chemung County, and county officials say it will be hard to replace the lost jobs.

Mr. Shinagawa warns of similar job losses across the district due to the pending across the board cuts, or sequester, that is set to take place in January unless there is congressional action.

“If the status quo remains in Congress, and if they fail to come to an agreement on the across the board spending cuts set to take place in January, defense contractors like Sikorsky will see more jobs losses just like this, along with cuts to teachers and our schools,” he says.

Rep. Reed, who believes other companies will recognize the well-educated work force and work ethic in the Southern Tier, supports policies that help make American businesses more competitive, according to campaign spokesman Tim Kolpien.

“The U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world,” Mr. Kolpien tells the Elmira Gazette. “Tom supports comprehensive tax reform a including a more competitive tax policy. More competitive tax rates and lower energy costs are what will protect and create manufacturing jobs in the United States.”

REP. REED has been named among a bipartisan group of 38 House members as winners of the Paul E. Tsongas Economic Patriot Award given by the non-partisan Concord Coalition. The Concord Coalition is co-chaired by two former U.S. senators, Republican Warren B. Rudman and Democrat Sam Nunn.

The Concord Coalition honored the group, comprised of 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats, for “standing up to pressure from colleagues and special interests” in support of the compromise budget introduced by Reps. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, and Steve LaTourette, a Republican.

Rep. Reed called the award an acknowledgment of the bipartisan approach he has taken to governing.

“My opinions on how to deal with debt and economy are well-documented and I remain frustrated at inaction and those who are all about short-term politics and gimmicks,” he says. “However, no matter what happens on Election Day, we are going to have to come together and work out solutions to debt, spending and deficit problems that get worse with every passing day.”

SEVERAL DAYS since a video of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking at a fundraiser was released by Mother Jones magazine, Mr. Shinagawa rebukes Rep. Reed for neither denouncing nor commenting on the “clearer message of embracing a style of government that overlooks the interests of almost half of the country, including the elderly on Social Security and Medicare.”

Mr. Shinagawa points out that many prominent Republicans immediately distanced themselves from the Romney campaign’s “embrace of this messaging,” including Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

“It has been almost a week, and it’s become clearer that Congressman Reed is willing to ignore half of the people he hopes to represent,” Mr. Shinagawa says. “He is willing to put the interests of the wealthy ahead of seniors who have spent their entire lives expecting they could rely on Medicare and Social Security.”

Looking to clarify the claims that almost half of Americans don’t pay taxes, he adds, “If you look at the facts, the 47 percent aren’t living off government hand-outs like Republicans are claiming. Over half are working and paying payroll taxes, and the rest are either seniors who are living off of Medicare and Social Security, or people like students and recent grads who are struggling to find jobs in our economy.”

New York GOP Chairman Ed Cox goes after U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s first television advertisement released by her re-election campaign this week. The ad focuses on the virtues of creating manufacturing jobs in New York state and touts her work keeping jobs in New York.

“In three years, Kirsten Gillibrand has not authored a single piece of substantive legislation that has passed the Senate,” Mr. Cox says. “Among her failed initiatives are nearly a dozen jobs bills, each of which was trumpeted to her constituents as the solution to New York’s economic woes only to die in committee.

He points out that while “Kirsten Gillibrand spent three years striking out in Washington,” the unemployment rate in New York state rose from 2011 to 2012 and remains “a full point above the national rate.”

Sen. Gillibrand faces a challenge from Republican Wendy Long, a Manhattan attorney.

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