The Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce held its third annual Legislative Breakfast on Friday, September 13, 2013, at Houghton College. Elected officials from county- and state-level governments were invited to participate in a moderated panel discussion to address opportunities and challenges facing Allegany County residents and businesses.
Featured panelists for the event included, Congressman Tom Reed, William Heaney, New York State Sen. Cathy Young, state Assemblyman Joe Giglio, and Allegany County Board of Legislators Chairman Curt Crandall.
Those attending the event were representatives from Allegany County’s industrial and small businesses, non-profit organizations, local citizens and local press.
Dr. Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College, opened the event with welcoming remarks followed by a quote from I.F. McLeister, former president of the board of trustees for Houghton College.
"The outstanding contribution of the life work of President Luckey, it seems to me, is in the field of bringing the advantages of higher education into the lives of ambitious young men and women who seem to be confronted with insurmountable difficulties.”
President Mullen paralleled the over 70 year old quote to the Houghton College of today and the current climate in America and specifically Allegany County.
Rick Melson, vice president for advancement at Houghton, was the moderator of the event with key questions that were supplied anonymously and in advance by attendees.
The Q&A format covered various topics which included economic development, public education, health care, taxes, energy efficiency, law and policy, and international relations.
In regard to education, the panel unanimously agreed that governments, both state and federal, need to allow the local school districts to have more local control of educational policy. All agreed that “one-size-fits-all” policies hurt rural communities and negatively impact rural education systems.
On the topic of health care, the panel as a whole agreed that Obama-Care possesses too many unknowns. It was pointed out that while there are some very good parts of Obama-Care that the general public as a whole can gather around and support, such as removing pre-existing condition clauses, there are also destructive policies that will inevitably affect local communities in a negative way.
Chairman Crandall pointed out that ultimately the costs of Obama-Care will trickle down to the county level. Congressman Reed stated that he is already aware of businesses who are moving employees to part-time or limiting growth to less than 50 employees to avoid the health coverage mandate for businesses with more than 50 employees.
Chairman Crandall addressed the majority of questions that dealt with the tax rate in Allegany County. “The county tax rate has been down 3 years in a row,” said Crandall. “The County has a healthy fund balance and an A+ rating from Standard & Poor’s.”
The final topic of discussion from the panel was international relations, the imposing threat from Syria, and specifically how our government is currently reacting to this situation. Congressman Reed fielded the majority of these questions, stating that he voted against a U.S. strike on Syria.
Reed addressed his vote of no by saying that there was not a confident plan to address any counteraction by Syria that may result from an American lead strike. Without a plan, he could not confidently vote to take action.
Reed ended with, “We [U.S. government] need to be more focused on America and our national security interests…not get involved with civil war.”
Throughout the event, the panel also fielded various questions and comments from those in attendance.