ROXBURY — The national political divide over the future of health care was visible Friday morning in Roxbury.
Ten demonstrators stood in a light rain across the street from the Roxbury Arts Center protesting Rep. John Faso’s vote supporting the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. The House plan would undo the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
“Faso voted twice to repeal Obamacare with no replacement,” said protest spokeswoman Laura McClure. “The Congressional Budget Office says 22 million people will lose their health care as a result of that,” said McClure.
Faso, R-Columbia County, was in Roxbury to speak to the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting held in the Art Center. About 60 people attended the event.
Before addressing the Chamber, Faso mingled with protesters. The dialogue was civil but no minds were changed.
“He gave us a lot of technocratic arguments about how it wasn’t as bad as it sounds,” McClure said. “But we’re concerned about people who will not have health care anymore.”
Faso addressed the issued during his speech to the Chamber saying, “the legislation I supported increases Medicaid spending every single year.”
“It doesn’t increase it as much as under current law,” said Faso because the cost of the program is growing at an unsustainable rate.
The congressman devoted about a third of his speech explaining his controversial amendment to the bill that that will end county taxpayer’s obligation to finance a portion of the state’s share of Medicaid.
Faso said property taxpayers in the 19th Congressional District shell out $224 million for Medicaid. Under his amendment that burden will be shifted to the state.
He said his plan ends an unfunded state mandate.
“That should result in lower property taxes,” Faso said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposes Faso’s amendment, saying it will gut Medicaid and upend the state budget.
Faso said he doesn’t know if Congress will get the votes to pass health care reform.
“If they don’t, I think what we have to do is find the pieces where we can get Democrats and Republicans to agree on how to fix the flaws that are roiling the insurance market,” Faso said.
Faso addressed several other issues during his nearly hourlong presentation.
Regarding the budget, Faso said “we are in a fix financially.” He said the national debt is $19 trillion and is on track to grow to $29 trillion in a decade.
“We are now working through a budget resolution that will increase military spending, as the president has requested,” Faso said.
He said the money to pay for a boost in Pentagon spending would come from cuts to environmental programs, community development grants, agriculture, education, diplomacy, and medical research.
“So, I can tell you, from a political and policy standpoint, we are going to reject the president’s proposal,” Faso said.
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, Faso said he supports a plan to privatize air traffic control using the Canadian model.
“Right now, our air traffic control system, while it’s very safe, it is technologically backward,” he said. He said the air traffic control union supports privatization.
And commenting on the situation in Washington, “it’s a contentious and controversial time,” Faso said. “I have personally never seen a political environment as polarized as this.”
He characterized the budget committee as “daggers and pistols.”
Faso added that he doesn’t personally tweet, doesn’t know how to tweet and doesn’t want to learn how to tweet.
After speaking in Roxbury, he was scheduled to participate in a roundtable discussion at Hartwick College hosted by the Otsego Chamber of Commerce.