While serving in New York state government, John Faso helped draft a new state budget that sought to close a $5 billion deficit while also cutting taxes. He helped pass Jenna’s Law, which ended parole for violent felons, over the objection of Sheldon Silver, the former New York Assembly Speaker who is currently serving time in prison on corruption charges. Faso was also one of first proponents of charter schools in New York’s 19th congressional district, where last month he clinched the Republican nomination for Congress.
Faso said the biggest problem facing his district is slow economic growth, which has resulted in population decline. He said tax and regulatory reform are the best ways to inspire more private sector economic growth.
“The top priority is definitely getting our economy back on track,” Faso told Opportunity Lives. “National debt is $19 trillion and counting, and that doesn’t account for all of the unfunded liabilities we have for healthcare and retirement security. And what I think the key here is to restrain and reform spending, but again create more economic growth in the country.”
America’s statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent is too high, Faso said; he’d like to cut it to somewhere between 22 and 25 percent. He also wants to reduce the complexity of the corporate tax code and eliminate some deductions that would be offset by the reduced topline rate. Faso said too often small businesses are hit the most by the tax code’s complexity, unlike larger firms, which have an army of accountants. Faso also called for repatriation of corporate funds.
“I think that we should have a simpler, less complex tax system, both individually and for the corporate side,” Faso said. “We’ve got to fix this situation where U.S. multinational corporations are double taxed when they build foreign earnings at home. And I think that’s why we’ve got such a signification number of some $2.7 trillion worth of foreign earnings that are stashed abroad because it’s a unitary and not a tax system.”
Faso said Dodd-Frank financial regulations created the unintended consequence of reducing the number of community or small and medium-sized banks, which are the predominant drivers of economic development in his district.
“None of them were the systemic risk,” he said, yet these small banks are the ones unable to bear the burden of “tens of thousands of dollars or more for compliance for employees to produce reports that nobody reads.”
These small banks are the ones unable to bear the burden of “tens of thousands of dollars or more for compliance for employees to produce reports that nobody reads”
Faso said many small businesses have told him they aren’t going to grow above 50 employees because of the Affordable Care Act, or are shifting toward more part-time employment.
“That’s not a desirable goal, either,” Faso said. “While most of the regulation springs from good intention, much of it in practice acts as a disadvantage to economic activity.”
Faso said that New York now ranks 50th in business climate, in part due to regulations on everything from housing to automobile lending imposed by a bevy of federal agencies. He’s also concerned about executive overreach on the Affordable Care Act and immigration.
“These are examples of regulatory overreach we’ve seen this in the Obama administration,” Faso said. “It’s something that I think the Congress needs to step in and assert its prerogative. It’s unfortunate that the president has attempted to dramatically expand his authority through executive action where I don’t think he has it. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice grind slow. Whoever the next president is, I really hope the next Congress will act as co-equals and act as a check to the balance of power.”
Faso called 2016, “a unique year politically,” given the historic unpopularity of both major parties’ presidential candidates. But he doesn’t think this will hurt his chances in winning a seat in Congress.
“I think voters are able to distinguish between the office that they’ll be voting on and the candidate that they’ll be voting on,” Faso said. “I don’t see the decision for the presidential race affecting the decision for Congress in this district. I’m certainly hoping that the voters will pay attention to what I’m saying as opposed to what somebody else is saying.”
“While most of the regulation springs from good intention, much of it in practice acts as a disadvantage to economic activity”
Faso said the political climate and rhetoric this presidential cycle is responding to some legitimate concerns.
“We’ve got to get more economic growth because that will resolve much of this anxieties that people are feeling,” Faso said. “What they are tapping into in terms of that anxiety is real. Now what is often not reflected in a lot of their rhetoric, or not reflected at all, just manufacturing just like agriculture, only a fraction but we produce so much more in terms of agriculture commodities and product.”
Faso said he was concerned about much of the rhetoric this presidential election cycle around the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“We have to be really careful about that in New York,” Faso said of the anti-NAFTA sentiment. “If there are aspects that need to be addressed, we should also recognize that there are more than 600,000 jobs dependent on trade with Canada. A lot of the rhetoric we hear is focused on Mexico. It’s often ignored that Canada is our largest trading partner. We have a healthy interaction with Canada, and that means a lot of New York jobs. Because it’s a success story, by and large, it doesn’t get commented on.”
During the GOP primary, Faso won in a two-man race with 68 percent of vote. He’s also received the backing from the Conservative, Independent and Reform parties. Faso has has the endorsement of Rep. Chris Gibson, the popular incumbent congressman who is leaving after a self-imposed limit of three terms.
“Chris is a great model,” Faso said. “He shows that working across party lines we can solve the problems that this country faces. The country is polarized, and in order to get the economy going and to solve the Medicare and Medicaid crises, we have to work on a bi-partisan basis to ensure that those programs are protected for the current recipients but also that they are solvent in the future.”
Carrie Sheffield is a senior contributor for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @carriesheffield and on Facebook.