In their final debate, Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop called for new infrastructure investment to spur the economy, while Republican State Sen. Lee Zeldin said he would seek to cut costs for businesses.-
A standing room-only crowd of more than 150 attended the hourlong debate between the 1st Congressional District contenders at Suffolk Community College's eastern campus near Riverhead Tuesday, while a live feed was streamed to students on the Selden campus.
"We have to reduce the cost of doing business and the cost of living," he said. "For a lot of people graduating from college, they cannot even afford to start a family here on Long Island." He said he favors safe hydrofracking for natural gas and backs the Keystone pipeline as ways to reduce energy costs. He also would look to allow small companies to pool with larger ones to create health insurance savings.
Despite 55 months of private sector job growth, Bishop said more needs to be done to reduce the "slack in the economy" by investing more on the national's aging infrastructure. "What business needs more than anything else is more customers to make more money so they can spend more money," said Bishop. "One of the reasons we're struggling is that we are trying to run a 21st-century economy with a 20th-century infrastructure."
He added that more investment is needed in education because "there a mismatch between the jobs that are needed and the skills that people have."
Bishop assailed Zeldin for signing a pledge never to vote for a tax increase, saying new revenue has to be part of the equation for reducing the national deficit so that crucial needs, such as research at Brookhaven National Laboratory and college aid, can continue.
Zeldin, however, defended his stand, saying, "I took a pledge to the voters of the First District to say enough is enough," noting he has opposed red-light camera legislation in the State Legislature because its aim was to generate revenue, not ensure safety.
The two men also split on the handling of immigrant children who are illegally crossing the border from Central America. Zeldin said youngsters should be sent home as soon as humanely possible because the nation does not have the money to absorb them. Bishop said the law must be obeyed, which allows youngsters hearings on their status. He added, however, the cost of educating such children while here should be a federal responsibility.
One area of agreement was the need to keep open the Plum Island Animal Disease Center and its 300 jobs instead of moving it to Kansas.
Bishop said that moving it to "a tornado ally and cattle country . . . is a very dumb decision." He added that should the complex be moved, the federal government should put the property to another use to save the jobs.
Zeldin agreed, saying no matter who is elected Tuesday, "it is a cause worth fighting for. There should be nothing partisan about it."