Stefanik hosts tele-town hall, takes heat for voting against tax reform bill

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U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, fielded questions from constituents during a tele-town hall meeting Thursday night, with a few callers voicing concerns about her vote against the tax reform bill last year.

President Donald J. Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law Dec. 22 following weeks of House and Senate negotiations over the bill’s provisions, which include doubling the standard deduction for taxpayers, setting the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and allowing for a 20 percent deduction of pass-through business income.

Ms. Stefanik said that while she was in favor of a number of the bill’s provisions, she did not support the full elimination of state and local tax deductions. The new law allows individuals to choose how to use their state and local tax deduction, giving them the ability to write off up to $10,000 in property taxes, income or sales taxes paid or a combination of property and sales or property and income taxes.

Questioned by callers as to why she voted against a bill designed to lower taxes and help business, Ms. Stefanik argued that New York state is too highly taxed to give up state and local tax deductions that families in her district rely on.

Lessening the tax burden, she said, should be up to the state government.

“I think New York needs to get serious about cutting taxes and reining in spending,” she said.

Another caller criticized Ms. Stefanik for her support of a bill that would make it easier for concealed carry permit holders to carry guns across state lines, saying it could contribute to gun violence.

Ms. Stefanik argued that gun holders should be legally allowed to carry guns state-to-state under the Second Amendment. She noted that the bill also updates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with harsher penalties for those who do not comply with background check requirements.

Other callers praised her advocacy for climate change solutions, and she touted her recent efforts to rally lawmakers against Mr. Trump’s exclusion of climate change from his National Security Strategy. Ms. Stefanik is a member of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

Prior to the event, NY-21 Democratic candidate Tedra L. Cobb, Canton, called out Ms. Stefanik for holding a town hall meeting via telephone rather than in-person.

“Today’s ‘tele-town hall’ proves Elise Stefanik is still too afraid to face constituents and explain her votes to strip healthcare from thousands of North Country families,” Ms. Cobb said in an emailed statement.

The only health care-related questions asked during the tele-town hall pertained to the medical expense deduction (which was expanded in the finalized tax reform bill) and the opioid epidemic. Ms. Stefanik said she will continue to support increased funding for addiction treatment and prevention services, having recently cosponsored a handful of bills to help do so.

Ms. Cobb has been considered a top contender among the eight Democrats vying for their party’s nomination.

Also running are Democrats Tanya Boone, Granville; Don Boyajian, Cambridge; Sara Idleman, Greenwich; Ronald Kim, Queensbury; Emily Martz, Saranac Lake; Patrick Nelson, Stillwater and Katie Wilson, Keene.

The Democratic nominee will go on to face Ms. Stefanik in the 2018 general election, unless she is defeated by Republican challenger Russell J. Finley, Lisbon, in a Republican primary.

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