Apr 10th - 12:36 am
On the eve of President Obama’s budget presentation, a Western New York Republican joined the AARP in criticizing an expected decrease in the amount paid out in Social Security benefits by restructuring cost of living adjustments. Chris Collins says the move would hurt seniors and veterans.
“If you change the calculation of the consumer price index and how you calculate inflation, that’s going to continue to pinch our seniors who, come the end of the month, the stories I hear, are having trouble putting food on the table,” Collins said.
According to the AARP, changing the way the consumer price index is calculated would cost seniors and veteran pension recipients in Erie County $476 Million in future benefits. An AARP representative told YNN’s Ryan Whalen Tuesday, the “Chained CPI” expected in the President’s budget would hit Erie County harder than originally expected.
“It does not take into account the fixed costs that the seniors or all of us have, such as utilities, your healthcare costs, prescription drugs, gasoline. You can’t make a substitution for those. So that will make it even more difficult, particularly for those who are struggling to begin with,” AARP advocate Dave Hollen said.
Collins says this proposal impacts Western New York more than other parts of the country because there are more seniors.
“We’re not a wealthy community. So many of our seniors, I think the number is 75 percent of the average senior’s lifestyle, is supported by Social Security. They don’t have pensions and other savings,” Collins said.
The Clarence Republican is one of only a handful of GOP lawmakers criticizing the “chained CPI.” The inclusion in the President’s budget is seen as an olive branch to Republicans, many of whom seem optimistic about the plan.
“I’m frankly very disappointed that he (Obama) is focusing on seniors,” Collins said.
Collins says there are other, more obvious cuts in spending that could be made. Collins expects his GOP colleagues to join him in opposing an expected call from the President for increased tax revenue and spending.
“He doesn’t think we have a spending problem. He thinks we have a revenue problem and the cuts he’s making are on the backs of our seniors,” Collins said.
The AARP recently polled its members in New Yorkand found most oppose benefit decreases. In this case, Collins agrees.
“If you look at what you would call the Ryan Budget; that budget was balanced without taking things away from seniors,” Collins added.
Mar 22nd - 11:30 pm
Just days after the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, Western New York Congressman Chris Collins said the Federal agency created to help veterans needs a complete overhaul.
“The V.A. needs to have a top to bottom look at what’s wrong. They’re just not serving the veterans. They deserve better,” Collins said.
Since taking over New York’s 27thCongressional District in January, the Clarence Republican hasn’t exactly been impressed with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He said the national attention over the hundreds of thousands of unprocessed medical claims is just one of several problems.
“The bureaucratic system has broken down. They’re in my office, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, just begging for more assistance from Congress to force the issue for the V.A. to just process the claims on time,” Collins said.
This is not the first time Collins has called on his colleagues to hold the V.A. “accountable.” Collins called for Congressional hearings after the FDA announced that more than 700 patients from the V.A. Western New York hospital in Buffalo could have been infected with hepatitis and HIV. In January, the V.A. released a memo that said some insulin pens at the location were misused.
“It’s the fact that they did reuse pens at the VA locally. It’s the fact that many of the patients were veterans that served our country at great risk. Because really some bureaucrat wasn’t following the proper procedures,” Collins said.
This week, two new developments in Western New York have only fueled Collins’ call for reform. Tuesday, Collins said he learned about what he called a stalled project at the V.A. Medical Center in Canandaigua. It’s a biomass steam generation system that was funded with $15 million in Federal stimulus money. Collins said the project now sits half finished.
“That would save millions of dollars in energy and that’s all come to a screeching halt, and no one at the V.A. really wants to answer for that,” said Collins.
To cap things off, on Wednesday, the V.A. announced it was postponing a sports and recreation competition for veterans scheduled for later this spring in Buffalo. Buffalo was awarded the 27th annual National Veterans Golden Age games in 2011. Organizers have been planning for the event since 2007.
“Hotel rooms have been sold the Buffalo-Niagara convention center has been blocked out. People’s livelihoods are depending on it. They just shrug their shoulders and with weeks to go they pull the plug on it?”
Fellow Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins estimated the games would have had a $2.2 million impact on the local economy. The V.A. blamed the “fiscal climate” for the postponement. Collins says it’s just another sign of dysfunction.
“We’ve spoken to them we’ve written them letters. We’ve had other members of Congress sign onto our letters.”
And while Collins admits Congress hasn’t had much luck pressuring the V.A. to change its ways, he says he’ll keep trying.
“We really need to hold them accountable, because quite frankly they’re not serving the veterans,” Collins added.
Feb 17th - 6:21 pm
It’s said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” The famous quote from Albert Einstein was repeated several times in Washington last week as the families of the victims of flight 3407 marked the four year anniversary of the crash that killed 50 people in Western New York. It was a somber anniversary some observed by expressing their frustration.
“There were a lot of emotions in the room and I think you saw that on display,” said Republican Congressman Tom Reed of Corning.
Reed stood with the family of the victims and several members of New York’s Congressional Delegation during a joint press conference at the Capitol Tuesday. After pledging his support for the continued push to implement new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash, Reed introduced Western New York’s newest Congressman Chris Collins.
“Chris was one of the first people on the scene. He shares a commitment, along with the families of the victims, to make sure we get the new safety regulations implemented,” Reed said.
Collins was the Erie County Executive on February 12th, 2009. Fighting back tears, Collins said the images of the crash in Clarence Center will remain etched in his memory forever.
“I was in charge of the emergency response. I am overwhelmed right now. Cause I remember that night like it was yesterday,” said Collins.
Collins isn’t known for public displays of emotion. During his campaign for New York’s newly formed 27th Congressional District, Collins joked about how some people told him he needed to smile more.
Standing in front of those who lost loved ones, and the assembled National and Western New Yorkmedia, the Freshman Republican gave a fiery speech calling for a change in strategy.
“The loss of those 50 souls never should have happened. And we should not be standing here now asking the FAA to do a job. And I’m sorry. But a new deadline is unacceptable. To say, and I’m sorry Senator Schumer, to say that they’re going to meet the deadline; they’ve missed the deadline again, and again, and again. That is unacceptable. Words are unacceptable” Collins said.
Just minutes earlier New York’s Senior Senator was speaking at the very same podium. He acknowledged that two and half years after safety regulations were passed though Congress, the airline industry had not yet implemented some of the most important ones.
“It’s a long process,” Schumer said.
Schumer said the Federal Aviation Administration is still not enforcing rules that require all pilots, not just captains, to have 15-hundred hours of flight time before they’re certified. Schumer also said the FAA has not adopted enhancements to traditional training programs that would require the use of flight simulation training devices for flight crew members, and additional training in areas that are critical to safety.
“What we’ve all come to do is to tell the FAA to implement these rules by August and October 2013 deadline respectively. But to also make sure these rules are enforced on day one. The good news is we spoke to the FAA this morning and they’ve assured us that they are on track to meet both the August deadline for pilot certification and the October deadline for crew member training. They told us they will meet those deadlines,” Schumer said.
Eleven minutes after leaving the room to cast a vote on the Senate floor, a visibly annoyed Schumer retook the podium.
“I have something else I want to say,” Schumer said.
And in a rare misstep, the Brooklyn Democrat responded to remarks made by “Senator Collins.”
“I heard when I was out of the room that Senator Collins said we shouldn’t be tricked by the FAA. We’ve had a long experience of four years with the FAA. And we are going to watch them like hawks. As we have, and when they falter we get on their case and we make sure they do the job.”
Schumer said if the FAA failed to meet the new deadlines:
“They will be hearing from us to make sure it happens we are all on the same team here. And we’re all going to get this done together.”
The remarks by Collins and response by Schumer seemed unusual in a press conference that was otherwise well-choreographed. Afterward, Congressman Reed quickly stepped in to play peacemaker.
“I talked to the Senator afterwards, and we both agree we need to stay united. We need to send one loud unified voice. Chuck has been a very strong supporter of the efforts to get these new safety regulations though congress and implemented by the FAA. And I applaud him,” Reed said.
Reed was also quick to defend Collins. When asked to describe Collins’ remarks, Reed had a simple explanation.
“I don’t think it was an attack. It was just an emotional response to see what needs to get done, gets done,” Reed said.
A spokesperson for Collins declined to comment specifically on the incident.
“The focus should be the effort by Flight 3407 families and Congress to press the FAA to implement the new regulations that were passed by Congress. Congressman Collins was expressing his frustration that the FAA has yet to implement the new regulations,” said Grant Loomis, Collins’ Communications Director.
Tuesday, FAA representatives told 3407 family members that work to put the new regulations in place wouldn’t be completed until 2014. Loomis suggested the fact the FAA would miss another deadline, proved Collins’ frustrations were “founded.”
A day after the anniversary of the crash Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand clarifying the FAA’s position. Huerta said he hoped to complete work on the pilot qualifications rule by August and the flight crew member training rule by October.
As uncomfortable as the Collins-Schumer moment may have seemed for those watching, it certainly was a different approach.
“But I can promise the families now that I’m in this position that I’m not going to just listen to words. Words are not enough. And the airlines that have been fighting us are unconscionable,” Collins said.
Jan 27th - 2:41 pm
U.S. Rep. Chris Collins will not run for governor in 2014, saying that he’s focused on his first term as a newly elected congressman from western New York.
Collins, who spoke at the Conservative Party’s annual convention here at the Holiday Inn in Colonie outside of Albany, said in an interview afterword that a statewide run isn’t a possibility.
“I can assure you that’s off the table,” he said in an interview.
Collins, the former Erie County executive, was considered a rising star in the Republican Party and a likely candidate for governor in 2010.
But a well-publicized gaffe in which he compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to the anti-Christ (it was an ill-advised joke that Collins said he later regretted).
Ultimately, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino challenged Democrat Andrew Cuomo. Collins pushed Paladino’s candidacy, and while Cuomo won in a landslide, western New York counties went to the Republican.
In 2011, Collins’ political career took a hit when he lost re-election for county executive to Democrat Mark Poloncarz, who won the last-minute endorsement of Cuomo.
Collins in 2012 then launched a successful campaign for the House seat held by Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul, who had won a hotly contested special election against Assemblywoman Jane Corwin in one of the most Republican districts of the state.
Despite ruling out a run, his appearance and speech at the first day of the two-day conference is a sign that he’s more than pleased to keep his profile up among Conservative Party leaders and advocates across New York.
Attendees at the convention tend to be both on-the-ground chairmen, political consultants and those who mobilize a small, but very politically active voter base.
Introduced as one of the “bright spots” of the 2012 election season, Collins told attendees at the Conservative Party confab that the House GOP is trying to the hold line on debt and spending issues, even if they’re out numbered by President Obama and a Democratic-led U.S. Senate.
“We just went through another debt limit crisis and I hate to tell you they’re going to keep coming,” Collins said, noting that the House Republicans are trying to corner the Senate into passing a budget for the first time in years.
He said that eliminating trillion-dollar plus deficits is “attainable” in about a decade, but can’t be accomplished overnight.
“We deserved a deflated federal bureaucracy… instead we’ve entered the twilight zone of big government,” he said.
Oct 23rd - 8:05 am
The AFSCME and SEIU/1199 have teamed up again in another of New York’s competitive House races, this time launching a withering attack on GOP NY-27 candidate Chris Collins’ record of job creation in the private sector.
The spot, part of what AFSCME is describing as a “significant, six-figure” buy, accuses the former Erie County executive of using stimulus cash to open factories and hire workers overseas rather than investing it here at home.
(A union source said the cost of this buy is $250,000, split evenly between AFSCME and SEIU. According to OpenSecrets.org, outside spending in NY-27 has surpassed the $3 million mark).
“”When Chris Collins had a chance to create jobs for New York workers, he decided to do his hiring in China and South Korea instead,” said AFSCME’s political director Seth Johnson.
“Collins’ priorities are clear: Protect big business with harmful trade deals and use taxpayer money to outsource jobs.”
“The hard working men and women of the Empire State deserve a leader like Kathy Hochul who work to create jobs in New York.”
Although this ad is part of an independent expenditure that is, by law, not cooperating with Hochul’s campaign, the argument it makes is one the congresswoman has also employed.
The Buffalo News deemed the claims in Hochul’s ad and a corresponding website, which focus on a small company Collins started that sells products made in China and elsewhere, “somewhat misleading.”
A separate fact-check by WGRZ reached a similar conclusion.
So far, AFSCME and SEIU are assisting the Democratic candidates with TV ads, mailers and phone banks in three competitive House races: NY-18 (Sean Patrick Maloney vs. Rep. Nan Hayworth), NY-19 (Julian Schreibman vs. Rep. Chris Gibson) and NY-27.
Here’s the script of the latest anti-Collins ad:
“Free trade deals like NAFTA, hurting New York manufacturing and New York families.”
“Chris Collins had a chance to help. He expanded his company, opening factories and hiring workers.”
“But in China and South Korea, Collins built his businesses with taxpayer-funded stimulus money and government contracts. But then Collins created jobs in other countries.”
“Chris Collins supports trade deals that send jobs overseas, leaving New York families behind.”
Oct 3rd - 1:11 pm
Rep. Kathy Hochul is trumpeted her endorsement from the National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund today, noting she’s one of just two New York Democrats to receive the organization’s support.
“Kathy Hochul has a proven record of defending the Second Amendment,” Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF, said in a statement released by the congresswoman’s campaign. “Because of her strong support of our rights, Hochul has earned an ‘A’ rating and endorsement from the NRA-PVF.”
Hochul’s campaign says this endorsement is consistent with her record on Second Amendment issues, noting that during her time as Erie county clerk, she streamlined the government’s permit application process and provided gun shows with the staff and technology needed to ensure that sales went through quickly and safely.
While in Congress, the statement maintains, Hochul has fought to strengthen the rights of gun owners traveling from state to state and to open public lands to hunting and fishing.
This is the first time the NRA has backed Hochul. It supported her GOP opponent, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, in the 2011 special election in which Hochul won an upset victory for the seat vacated by ex-GOP Rep. Chris Lee.
The other NRA-backed New York Democrat is Rep. Bill Owens in NY-23. He received an “A+” rating.
Both Matt Doheny, the Republican facing Owens, and former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, the Republican challenging Hochul, received “AQ” ratings, which, according to the NRA’s website, means they’re “pro-gun” candidates, but don’t have voting records to back up their respective responses on the organization’s candidate questionnaire.
It probably didn’t help Collins’ case with the NRA that he was a founding member of an anti-illegal gun group of couty executives formed by Mayor Bloomberg back in 2008.
Collins claimed he was “snookered” into signing onto the group, and quickly removed his name from its membership list and disavowed the organization once he figured out what it was all about.
Something else Owens and Hochul have in common, aside from being Democrats seeking re-election in GOP-dominated districts: They both bucked their own party and voted with the Republicans in favor of holding US AG Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the “Fast and Furious” investigation.
All told, 17 Democrats voted with the Republicans against Holder back in June. Most of the conference walked out of the chamber rather than cast a vote.
Since we’re focused on endorsements today, Collins is touting his backing by the Credit Union Association of New York, the official state trade association for New York State’s credit unions.
He has also been backed by the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors.
Sep 19th - 3:27 pm
I’m getting around to this a bit late, but here’s the fundraising invite for the event being held for Republican Congressional candidate Chris Collins with featured guest Speaker John Boehner.
The event is being held on Oct. 6.
Boehner previously did a fundraising swing through upstate New York for several GOP House candidates, including Matt Doheny, Maggie Brooks and incumbent Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle.
Collins, the former Erie County executive, is locked in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul in one of the most Republican-leaning districts in New York.
Aug 22nd - 12:37 pm
Rep. Kathy Hochul’s campaign on Tuesday was quick to respond to a “negative” ad from her Republican opponent Chris Collins.
The Democratic freshman’s response was so rapid in fact that Collins’ people hadn’t even blasted it out yet to the press outside of western New York.
The response included a lengthy fact check of the ad, which, among other claims, took Collins to task for allegedly taking over a company in Niagara and then firing more than 100 workers.
Now Collins is out this morning with his own response calling the layoff claim false — and based on a 2004 story from The Buffalo News that Hochul’s campaign cites, he’s got a point. The claim that Collins laid off workers from the plant doesn’t hold up.
Hochul’s campaign says in its fact sheet that after Collins and a business partner took over Niagara Ceramics “right away the new company fired 115 workers, cut wages and reduced benefits.”
Collins and a business partner have no connection to the old company, Buffalo China, which folded and laid everyone off. Collins then bought the building where the old company was and began a new one christened Niagara Ceramics, hiring back some workers from Buffalo China.
Update: Hochul’s campaign says firing is firing, no matter how you slice it. In an email, campaign spokesman Frank Thomas notes that Collins was of one of the purchasers for the plant in 2004 that reopened under a different name with fewer employees than it had under the old company. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the facility did re-open, albeit with lower wages. Regardless, the BN story says the plant was targeted for closure and includes a vintage-era quote from then-Gov. George Pataki saying the $2.1 million in tax credits the new company received will ensure the factory stays open. You can read the story here.
“I realize that as a public sector millionaire and someone who has never created a job in the private sector, Kathy may not understand what it takes to create jobs. I hope she’ll join me on a personal tour of every one of my companies to have her talk to the folks whose jobs were saved or created because of what we built in the private sector,” said Collins in a statement.
If anything can be taken away from this, it’s that job creation is central to Collins’ platform and that Hochul’s campaign is eager to dilute any of those business credentials as quickly as possible.
The ad from Collins and Hochul’s fact check are below.
Aug 19th - 9:24 am
A Siena poll commissioned by The Buffalo News and WGRZ-TV found one of New York’s most competitive House races – the showdown between Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul and former GOP Erie County Executive Chris Collins in the state’s most Republican leaning congressional district – is almost a tie.
Collins leads Hochul by a mere two percentage points, 47-45, with just seven percent of voters undecided. The margin of error for the poll is 3.9 percent.
Four in 10 votes in NY-27 said jobs and the economy is the most important issue facing their congressional representative, while 25 percent said the federal budget deficit is their top issue.
Thirteen percent of voters chose health care as their top priority, 7 percent said education and 6 percent each said taxes and the war in Afghanistan.
In other words, it doesn’t appear likely at this point that the Rep. Paul Ryan budget/Medicare voucher issue is going to turn this race in Hochul’s favor the way it did in the special election last spring.
This poll was conducted Aug. 12-14, just as the news of Mitt Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate was dominating the political news cycle.
Asked who would do a better job representing them in Washington and these key issues, poll respondents gave Collins an edge over Hochul (between seven and 17 percentage points) on jobs, taxes and the deficit.
They gave Hochul a 10-point edge on education and a five-point edge on Afghanastan.
The candidates were virtually tied – 42 percent for her, 44 percent for him – on health care.
Two other key data nuggets:
- NY-27 voters favor repealing the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) 56-40.
- Mitt Romney leads President Obama in the district by 12 percentage points, including a 13-point lead among independents, a key swing voting block.
Nearly 9 in 10 Collins voters are with Romney, while three-quarters of Hochul voters are supporting Obama.
However, nearly 1 in 5 Hochul voters currently supports Romney for president, which means she has crossover appeal – a necessary trait if she’s to have any hope of holding this +7 GOP district.
- Voters are divided along party lines on whether to extend or eliminate the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000. Independents are almost evenly split.
Neither candidate’s campaign seemed particularly surprised by Siena’s results, even though it did not mirror a recently released GOP poll that showed Collins far out in front of Hochul, 47-34.
Collins told the Buffalo News he had always expected this race to be a “dog fight,” and expects to be up on the air “very soon” with TV ads aimed at improving his name recognition outside Erie County.
Hochul’s campaign manager Frank Thomas said he considered it a positive development that the candidates are within spitting distance of one another despite the district’s GOP enrollment edge.
He also continued to stress Hochul’s independence from the Obama White House, while Collins continued to try to tie her ever tighter to the unpopular (in NY-27, anyway) president.
Aug 14th - 12:35 pm
Rep. Kathy Hochul released three years worth of tax returns earlier today and challenged her Republican opponent Chris Collins to do the same.
“At a time when our nation is debating critical policy issues including whether to extend middle class tax relief or give more tax breaks to millionaires and companies that ship jobs overseas, voters deserve to know how their elected officials make their money and how much they pay in taxes,” said her campaign manager, Frank Thomas. “In a commitment to transparency, Congresswoman Hochul has made the last three years of her tax returns public.”
Hochul, seeking a full, two-year term, is running in one of the most competitive House races in the state, if not the country.
Collins previously mocked Hochul as a “public sector millionaire” though her tax returns don’t seem to indicate as such.
Hochul, who filed jointly with her husband William, made around $250,000 over those years. In 2009, the Hochuls reported making $247,638; in 2010, $236,224 and in 2011 they made 259,879. Though that is pretty good for western New York, it is far short of being a millionaire.
They also reported more than $12,000 in cash charitable contributions last year, along with donations of clothes and a stereo to Goodwill.
Hochul’s campaign points out that Collins has so far been unwilling to release his tax returns. It was actually Collins’ primary opponent David Bellavia who pushed him to release the information, but Collins said it would provide too much information to his business’ competitors.
Added Thomas, the campaign manager: “Given Chris Collins’ unwillingness to discuss his support for policies that gut Medicare to pay for additional tax cuts for the rich and lingering questions about the business he does with China so he can better line his pockets, we call on him to give voters the clarity they deserve and be candid with his tax returns.”