Congressman Brian Higgins addressed some of the nation's problems and answered questions at the annual Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce's Federal Congressional Lunch at Shorewood Country Club Thursday.
Community and business members were invited to write questions and concerns for Higgins to answer. The mediator, Chamber President Todd Tranum, thanked Higgins for coming to the annual event.
Higgins began with a speech on the budget super committee and the politics in Washington, D.C.
He said that he hopes the super committee will work but politics may stand in the way.
"We are in a situation right now where we have 14 million people out of work, we have an unemployment rate of 9 percent and our economy is projected to grow about 2 percent over the next two years. That level of growth is not enough to sustain the current level of unemployment," he said.
He said he believes the nation is still in a recession and it is necessary to grow the economy, which he said cannot be done just through spending cuts, but through strategic investment.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Congressman Brian Higgins addressed community and business leaders at the Chaut-auqua County Chamber of Commerce’s Federal Congressional Lunch Thursday.
Higgins said that a fundamental way to build the economy is to get people back to work. He remarked that today's politics is overshadowing doing what is good for America.
He recommended the way out of the economic slump is an investment in infrastructure.
"What we need in this nation is a combination of spending cuts and spending increases. We should be spending money on infrastructure. You know the World Economic Forum says the U.S. is 25th in the entire world in terms of quality of infrastructure," he said.
He added that equipment and labor costs are down as well as interest rates on loans, which makes now a favorable time to improve infrastructure and it will create jobs. He said $1.2 trillion increase spending in infrastructure would create 27 million jobs over the next 5 years. He cited a study that said by holding off on infrastructure improvements for 2 years it will end up costing 5 times as much.
He said that the U.S. has been building roads and bridges in Iraq and Afghanistan and now needs do this at home. He said that the world is different today and cited many books saying that small countries can now compete and the U.S. is falling behind by not nation building at home.
"The strongest America, the strongest nation that we can have is one that is prosperous. One that is the leader in education, in infrastructure, in scientific research. You know we live in a very different world today where the two greatest forces are youth and technology," he said.
The first question was about infrastructure projects in western New York like the Peace Bridge and clean coal project in Jamestown. He answered that widening the Peace Bridge will allow easier access to western New York for southern Ontario residents which has 8 million people and is projected to grow. He said that by building a greater capacity, Canadian residents will be more attracted by the reliability of the travel.
"It is fundamentally important to economic survival of western New York including Chautauqua County," he added.
He said that clean coal is not the way the energy is going and said alternate energy resources are important for national security.
Another question was asked about the moratorium on hydrofracking in New York State. Higgins said he is intrigued by natural gas drilling but the risks have to be assessed against the benefits. He added that it has the potential to lessen America's dependence on foreign oil which would have positive impacts on the economy, the environment as well as national security.
He also mentioned that the higher education system must change to adapt to the new times and make America competitive once again.
Other questions were asked about social security and the economy, which Higgins responded similarly as there is no lack of ideas, just a lack of consensus in Congress as to the answers.
He finished by thanking all for coming and the Chamber for organizing the event.
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