Maffei and Buerkle differ on trade, jobs
If one thing is very clear headed into this election season, it's the fact that Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle and former congressman Dan Maffei agree on very little. YNN's Bill Carey says their latest disagreement in the battle for Congress in the new 24th District centers on the issue of trade and jobs.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It once had thousands of workers and a weekly payroll in the millions. Now, New Process Gear has a skeleton staff preparing it for a final closing.
Former democratic congressman Dan Maffei blames the job losses and shutdown on NAFTA, the North American Free Trade agreement. A deal he says opened the door to an exodus of manufacturing.
Maffei said, “Our congresswoman, Ann Marie Buerkle, has voted now for three similar, unfair, NAFTA-style trade agreements. She also supports the tax loopholes that continue to benefit companies that ship our jobs overseas.”
Buerkle says her votes have benefited the region where companies are hungry for new markets for exports.
“How out of touch can you be with the district that you would not be in favor of these free trade agreements. The creation of jobs. The creation of new businesses,” Buerkle said.
Maffei admits there is little either he or his successor could have done to head off the closing of New Process Gear. The key question, he says, is what was done or wasn't done to cushion the blow of that closing. In particular, he points to efforts to extend retraining funds for displaced workers. A bill that won nearly unanimous support from New York democrats and republicans in the House.
“Ann Marie Buerkle's the only one who voted against that. So she votes for the job-killing trading agreements, but she votes against retraining our workers so they can continue to be productive and have their families here in Central New York,” Maffei said.
Out of work autoworkers said Buerkle joined with conservatives in the House to undermine a program designed to help.
“Want to defund the trade act a hundred percent. The Job Corps program, a hundred percent. Back to zero, because that was part of their deficit reduction. And we just can't have that,” said John O’Hara, former New Process Gear worker.
The congresswoman rejects the criticism. She says the bill she opposed would not have benefited displaced workers in central New York.
Buerkle said, “Dan's big on policy, but what he is not big on is what's good for Upstate New York. And he continues to vote for what's not good for Upstate New York. And that's never a good representative.”
In a region rocked by factory shutdowns, Maffei is still hoping the issue of closings, like New Process Gear, will be a major factor as voters decide a very close congressional race.