POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- U.S. Congressmen John Faso (R) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D), whose districts both include parts of Dutchess and the Hudson Valley, put aside partisan differences to engage in an exchange of ideas on issues confronting the Hudson Valley during a time of political change in Washington at Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress' annual Across the Aisle discussion Friday in Poughkeepsie.
Speaking to a capacity audience at Marist College, the lawmakers agreed on several issues, such as the critical need to upgrade the Hudson Valley's infrastructure, the importance of addressing the student-debt crisis, water quality and encouraging more women to enter politics.
While Faso and Maloney agreed on the need to reform the way New York State finances Medicaid, they differed on the solution.
New York is one of the only states that require counties to contribute a significant share of Medicaid funds, a mandate that adds to the property tax burden faced by local residents.
During recent negotiations on repealing and replacing The Affordable Care Act, Faso proposed an amendment that would have prohibited New York State from passing Medicaid costs to counties, but Maloney argued that without getting buy-in from the State Legislature, New York State would simply find other ways to shift costs to local governments.
On health care, Maloney argued that the Republican plan to replace "Obamacare" would gut the health care system while giving big tax breaks to richer Americans. Faso agreed that the GOP's Affordable Health Care Act needs revisions but said that the health care status quo was not working for many of his constituents, who have seen insurance premiums rise in recent years.
The two men pledged to work together on protecting federal investment in the Community Development Block Grant program, a source of dollars that benefit many Hudson Valley cities and towns. They also shared a goal of steering federal agriculture policy in directions that will benefit the region's farmers and rural communities.
Faso, a Republican from Kinderhook representing the 19th Congressional District, is in his first term. Maloney, a three-term Democrat from Cold Spring, represents the 18th District. Both serve on the House of Representatives' Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as the Agriculture Committee. There were about 170 attendees. Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin moderated the 90-minute long discussion.
"Across The Aisle" is a bipartisan discussion that demystifies the inner workings of Congress and provides insights on the most pressing issues legislators face. This is the fifth year Pattern has hosted the popular event. Drapkin said, "This effort at collaboration, we have found, informs our federal officials of issues concerning the Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley is better served by bringing together our congressmen from opposing parties to examine the issues we're facing."