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Katko weighs in on GOP budget, tax overhaul, gun control

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Central New York Rep. John Kato (R-Camillus) opposed Republican Party bosses last week by voting against the proposed budget in the House. He was one of 18 Republican members of Congress who voted against the plan that passed on Thursday.

Katko says it ultimately shifts more costs to New Yorkers, and that’s not fair. He says those cuts that would hurt the state include reductions in Medicaid and SNAP programs, as well as transportation spending.

"We give much more tax revenue to the government than we get back,” Katko said. “About 80 cents on the dollar, I think, is what we get back. And they’re contemplating more major cuts for states like New York? It’s not right.”

The region's other Republican representatives, Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro), Tom Reed (R-Corning) and Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford), all voted for the plan. Stefanik and Tenney released statements after their votes, saying the budget will help the country balance its books. 

“The passage of today’s budget is a step in the right direction toward paying down our $20 trillion national debt, cutting wasteful out-of-control Washington spending, growing our economy and putting the taxpayers first," Tenney said in a statement. "The budget will save the taxpayers $203 billion, while paving the way for comprehensive pro-growth tax reform. Within the next ten years, our budget will balance and our deficit will be reduced by $6.5 trillion."

Katko says he would be more likely to support a spending plan if the cuts were spread across states evenly.

Reed has also expressed concern recently about how the plan could have an outsized impact on New York, largely because of the proposed removal of the state and local tax deduction in the GOP's tax overhaul package. Katko and other House Republicans from New York and New Jersey met with party leadership last week to make their case that eliminating the federal tax deduction for state and local income and property taxes would break the budgets of many New Yorkers. 

"I think we are going to work out a compromise that everyone is going to feel a little pain," Katko said. "We want to make sure it's tax breaks for everyone in the end, a net tax break. We’ve got to get toward that. We’re working on it and I think we’re going to find a compromise.”

High-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California would be hurt the most if the deduction goes away. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has estimated on average, New Yorkers would pay $5,300 more in taxes every year without that deduction. 

Katko says it’s too early to say how he would vote on the tax plan if no compromise is worked out, but he believes a tax overhaul will jumpstart the economy.

As for the larger budget, Katko says this plan won’t be the final word on federal spending.

"Keep in mind, this was more of a messaging budget than reality because what’s going to come back from the Senate for a final vote is going to look dramatically different,” he said. “And I’m going to take a fresh look at that and see where that goes."

Katko says he plans to reassess the bill when a Senate version merges with the House legislation.

Gun Control

Katko is joining the Republicans who are okay with one aspect of gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting that killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others. He says eliminating access to “bump stocks” is doable legislation.

"I think there’s a growing consensus amongst the NRA, both sides of the aisle in Congress and the White House that they should be treated the way you should an automatic weapon - have the similar restrictions," Katko said. "That’s the right way to go. I’m confident in the next couple of weeks we’re going to work that out in Congress.”

Bump stocks modify semi-automatic weapons, allowing them to shoot faster. It’s one reason authorities say the gunman in the Las Vegas massacre was able to shoot so many people.

Katko says he continues to support the Second Amendment that protects the rights of individual to own a firearm.

“We’ve got acknowledge the fact that the Second Amendment is a constitutional right," he said. "It’s not something that's picked out of the air. We can’t chip away at constitutional rights like that.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.