SARANAC LAKE — Tanya Boone, one of eight Democratic contenders for New York’s 21st Congressional District seat, is one of the latest entries into a packed race, bringing small business know-how and a desire to work for working families.
Boone, a Granville resident, said she joined the race because she saw working families getting a raw deal for the past 40 years. It is more difficult to work hard and earn a middle class wage today than it was for her grandparents, she said.
Boone said the biggest need she sees in the North Country is for more good jobs.
“I think that a good job is one that can support a family,” Boone said. “People that work hard should be able to make a decent living.”
A former union organizer who worked across the nation in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, Boone said she is accustomed to listening to people who need a representative, developing plans to organize their requests and fighting for them in negotiations.
“I found that people were frustrated and they wanted to make improvements, and they saw having a voice through a union as a way to do that,” Boone said. “I saw that by working together, people could make a difference.
Jobs and taxes
Boone has a common theme in her message: using public investment to spur economic development. Whether it be infrastructure, education or the environment, Boone believes the best way to improve the lives, careers and finances of North Country residents is to spend state and federal dollars, funded through taxes, on things like road improvements, skilled labor programs and alternative energy systems.
Though it is not often favored by fiscal conservatives and Republicans, Boone believes infrastructure investment is a bipartisan solution, citing major building projects from two Republican presidents: Abraham Lincoln’s railroad construction during the Civil War and Dwight Eisenhower’s highway investment.
“Infrastructure investment would provide immediate jobs,” Boone said. “When you have immediate good jobs in the community, people can go to local businesses, they can go out to dinner, they can go shopping in the local community. It generates more economic activity.”
Job creation should not be the only change in the workforce, Boone said. When talking with Steven Frederick, a Start-UP NY representative from the Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Clinton Community College, she learned that there are 271 skills-based jobs in Clinton County that employers cannot fill. The AMI looks at growing industries within the county and trains students in the specialized practices employers in those industries are looking for.
She said schools should start talking to students earlier in their education about what kinds of jobs are available and not always push for a four-year degree.
On top of road and bridge projects, Boone believes that public investment in colleges can help the next generation of employees and employers leave higher education with less debt, that broadband investment can increase tourism and that retrofitting schools with energy-efficient features can save utility costs and create hundreds of jobs.
“It’s about priorities, and Congress just passed a $1.5 trillion reduction. What we should have done was invested that money into infrastructure,” Boone said. “Not all of it. We did need to make things simpler, and I think the standard deduction increase for individuals is fine. But $1.5 trillion? The vast majority of that is going to go to corporations that are already doing well. There’s record corporate profits and the stock market is up; corporations don’t need more help.”
Boone said though she supports the increase in standard deduction taxes, she is disappointed it is only a temporary increase. She was also disappointed the tax bill removed both the teacher deduction and the state and local tax deductions. Teachers currently are allowed to deduct when they purchase supplies for their classroom, whether they itemize their taxes or not.
“I think teachers need to make more money, not less,” Boone said. “I think it’s outrageous that this deduction could be taken away from teachers that reach into their own pockets.”
Boone believes that broadening the middle class and reducing wealth inequality are universally supported movements that have been hindered because the rules of the economy have shifted over time to favor the very wealthy and corporations. She said she wants to make it easier for small businesses to get off the ground, focusing on changes that can be agreed upon and not attaching too many riders to bills.
Buying a British-owned slate roofing company in Granville with her brother on the brink of recession in 2007, Boone saw firsthand the efforts and challenges facing new business owners. She hopes to make it easier for small businesses to access capital at a good rate, something she said was critical to their survival.
Boone was shocked that the bank loan process for Hilltop Slate took a year, saying banks should be highly regulated without those regulations stifling businesses.
Boone said there is a need to make sure everyone has access to health care.
“Part of the problem in rural areas is that the cost of health care continues to go up with limited options,” Boone said. “We need to have an option for people to pay into a Medicare plan. I see that as an option when you’re on the exchanges and you have private options for insurance, there also should be a Medicare buy-in option.”
Boone said she has seen what she calls a nationwide effort to weaken unions damaging the middle-class over the past three or four decades. She said the working class is much larger when unions are stronger.
A Supreme Court decision will be delivered on Feb. 26, settling the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case and drawing significant conclusions about how unions will be funded. Currently, whether one is a union member or not, if they work in the public sector, they are required to pay a fee for representation by a union. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus, employees would be able to be represented free of charge.
“It’s a way to weaken unions so that you have free riders, folks that benefit from the union but they don’t have to pay for it,” Boone said. “It takes money away from what can be done in the workplace to make sure that employees have a voice.”
Boone, who said she may be a direct descendant of American pioneer Daniel Boone, said she supports the Second Amendment in New York, but wants further regulation to keep unnecessary weapons out of the hands of irresponsible owners.
“This is a culture where people hunt a lot, they have guns, they’re responsible gun owners,” Boone said, “It’s important that we make sure that responsible gun owners can keep guns.”
She said she would support making bump stocks illegal as well as closing background check loopholes. Bump stocks are an attachment that turns semi-automatic guns into fully-automatic ones, such as those used in the October mass-shooting at a Las Vegas concert.
Boone said she would serve in Congress like she did in labor unions, by listening to all parties and taking solutions from the people they would impact.
“People have great ideas about how to make improvements and I would say the biggest resource is the employees of a company,” Boone said.