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Katko and Maffei debate infrastructure, Wayne County jobs

Sarah Jean Condon
The Citizen
Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Syracuse) and Republican John Katko in their debate Monday. (file photo)

A week busy with debates for the 24th Congressional District candidates continued last night with their first live televised debate.

The Democratic incumbent and Republican challenger fielded questions on infrastructure, and cuts to carbon emissions, taxes and the Affordable Care Act.

Gas tax

In the Syracuse Media Group/WCNY debate aired live, neither Rep. Dan Maffei nor Republican challenger John Katko supported raising the gas tax, which the federal government uses to fund bridge and road repair.

Maffei said he’d like to see a public-private infrastructure bank to pay for transportation projects. He has long promoted funding high speed rail projects in upstate New York. But Katko says investing in grand projects is irresponsible.

"You can’t have a steak and lobster dinner when you can only afford a hamburger," he said. "And right now, with our budget constraints and the debt that we have in this country, it’s hamburger, it’s the meat and potatoes. It’s getting the roads fixed."

The highway trust fund shouldn’t be used to pay for mass transit, but instead roads, Katko said, or at least mass transit authorities should pay in too.

Maffei counters fixing roads and bridges is important, but he harkened back to the building of the Erie Canal, which transformed upstate’s economy.

"You’re not just spending, you’re building something. You’re building something that’s going to be an investment in our country," he said. 

Wayne County jobs

The candidates were asked about job creation in one of the district’s less-paid attention to counties. Maffei and John Katko fielded a question on how they would boost employment in rural Wayne County.

Agriculture and tourism are the keys to that county's economy, Maffei said.

"It’s a big part of Wayne County’s economy," he said. "And helping small business and after all, a farm is a small business. I still think it’s the best, single thing we can do to improve the economy."

Katko first talked broadly of his jobs plan and says he wants to focus on the entire county, but when pressed, he said manufacturers in Wayne County need help.

"We can’t look askance to the fact that there’s many manufacturers in Wayne County that need help," said Katko. 

Maffei accused Katko’s economic plan of basically being his, but with fewer details. 

The candidates will face each other in two more debates before Election Day on Tuesday.