FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2009
SCHUMER COMPLETES 62 COUNTY TOUR FOR RECORD 11th YEAR-IN-A-ROW WITH VISIT TO SCHENECTADY COUNTY'S PROCTORS THEATRE
With his visit to the Schenectady County Proctors Theatre today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer completes his 62 County tour of New York for the eleventh year-in-a-row – a feat that makes him the first New York state public official to visit every single county in New York every year he has been in office. Schumer today highlighted some of the year’s biggest accomplishments including: Authoring a provision included in the stimulus package that sent billions of dollars directly to New York’s county governments to stave off layoffs and property tax increases; Enacting into law his legislation to provide middle class families with a $2,500 college tuition tax credit; Securing millions of dollars for New York families devastated by this year’s storms; Saving thousands of NY jobs by convincing General Motors to repurchase two Delphi Automotive parts plants; Securing almost $300 million in direct aid for the nation’s dairy farmers who are struggling through one of the worst crisis in recent memory; and keeping open the iconographic Hickey Freeman franchise in Rochester and saving hundreds of jobs in the process.
Schumer's 2009 tour of New York included 13 trips to Albany; 16 to Erie; 17 to Monroe; 14 to Onondaga; and 22 to Westchester and Rockland counties. He also made a total of 11 trips to the North Country, 12 trips to the Southern Tier, 25 trips to the Capital Region, 25 trips to Western New York, 47 trips to the Hudson Valley, 26 trips to Central New York, and 25 trips to the Rochester-Finger Lakes.
“As a state and nation, we all worked hard this year to make our way through tough times. This year certainly had as many challenges as it did milestones, but without a doubt my highest accomplishment is visiting all 62 counties in New York for the eleventh year straight,” Schumer said. “What I am able to achieve in Washington is directly related to my county visits. Meeting the people and seeing firsthand what they're going through is a vital part of how I go about working to solve problems in their communities. Next year will be a great year and I can’t wait to kick off the 12th annual tour in 2010.”
Even while spearheading a nationwide health care bill, Schumer continued to deliver for the people of New York, with many of his accomplishments and efforts the direct result of visits to New York communities, upstate and down, large and small.
In January, Schumer fought to protect renters living in foreclosed homes. He led the charge in the Senate to pass the Helping Families Save their Homes Act of 2009. As homes across the country have gone into foreclosure, tenants have found themselves particularly vulnerable, without any rights and oftentimes forced to leave the homes and apartments they’ve lived in for years. Schumer’s bill expands the Making Home Affordable program, protects renters living in foreclosed homes, and establishes the homeowner’s right to know who owns their mortgage.
In February, Schumer saved thousands of struggling middle class families struggling to pay college tuition thousands of dollars by providing them a $2,500 college tuition tax credit. The Schumer-sponsored tax credit was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. People taking advantage of this tax credit were able to claim it on their 2009 tax returns, and will be able to claim it again in 2010.
In March, Schumer secured almost ten billion dollars in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the New York State county governments and school districts. Schumer authored the provision enacted into law as part of the stimulus bill that sent billions of dollars directly to county governments, thereby avoiding crushing property tax hikes and layoffs of cops and firefighters. The Recovery Act also sent billions of dollars to local school districts to avoid teacher layoffs and bridge massive budget gaps.
In April, in response to the series of Ponzi-schemes revealed in the wake of the financial crises, Schumer drafted the Supplemental Anti-Fraud Enforcement for our Market Act (or SAFE Markets Act), a bill that paved the way for the hiring of an additional 500 FBI agents, 50 Assistant US Attorneys, and 100 SEC enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute violations of law relating to financial markets. Several provisions of the SAFE Markets Act were later incorporated into the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), which improved enforcement of mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, financial institution fraud, and other white collar crimes.
Schumer also officially recommended that President Obama nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor from New York to serve as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court in April. Schumer was among the first in the Senate to outline Sotomayor’s distinguished legal career and history of public service formally to the President. Of her many outstanding qualifications for the position, Schumer noted that her moderation, intellectual excellence, and diverse background made her an exceptional choice to serve on the Supreme Court.
Also in April, Schumer successfully worked to kill a Canadian company’s transmission project that would have decimated neighborhoods, condemned private property, and destroyed the quality of life of New Yorkers from Utica to New Windsor. Schumer put a full court press on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deny NYRI’s applications to advance the project and introduced legislation that would have restricted NYRI’s ability to get around state siting processes and use eminent domain. Investors were forced to abandon the project in the face major opposition from Schumer, other officials, and local advocacy groups.
In May, Schumer authored and passed legislation to reform America’s gift card system. Consumers will no longer face hidden fees and will be able to use the full value of the cards. This provision was included in the Credit CARD Act of 2009.
Also in May, Schumer provided rural communities with badly-needed dentists and physicians by securing $300 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). This is a program that recruits physicians and dentists to work in underserved communities across the country by offering scholarships to current students, competitive pay to doctors willing to relocate, and loan repayment assistance for doctors who work in areas with physician shortages. This new infusion in funding is triple the amount that was available through the program last year.
In June, Schumer helped the Walkway Celebration get off without a hitch and delivered close to $1 million for the project. When it became clear that legal negotiations between Dutchess County and CSX Railway had the potential to upset the grand opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson Bridge, Schumer personally called CSX CEO, Michael Ward, to urge the company to provide an easement for land on the east side of the Walkway, so that necessary construction could be completed before the grand opening. Without the easement, construction would have been stalled and pedestrian access uncertain. Schumer also secured a total of $950,000 in the FY2009 federal budget to help complete the project.
Also in June, Schumer helped crack down on drug trafficking in the North Country. He fought for Clinton, Franklin, and St. Lawrence Counties to be formally designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and successfully secured this status for these counties, as well as funding that will provide for needed resources to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking along New York’s northern border.
In July, Schumer worked with General Motors and the auto task force to secure the repurchase of the Delphi Corporation plants in Lockport and Rochester. GM’s purchase preserved thousands of local jobs and ensures that the company has an affordable, reliable supply chain far into the future. The continued operation of Lockport and Rochester’s Delphi plants is an economic imperative for the entire region. Many local businesses, like restaurants, stores, and other auto-related businesses such as rubber and steel manufacturers, depend on the Delphi plants and closing the plants would have had economic ripple-effects throughout the region.
In August, Schumer helped to save Rochester icon Hickey Freeman from closure. Over the course of 2009, Schumer worked tirelessly to keep Hickey Freeman, and its 600 Rochester-based employees, from going out of business. Schumer worked throughout 2008 and 2009 with Wells Fargo & Company and Hartmarx, the parent company of Rochester business icon Hickey Freeman, to keep the manufacturer open and operating. Schumer urged the bank to only accept a bid that would allow Hickey Freeman to come out of bankruptcy intact and operational, preserving 600 or more jobs in Rochester and scores more in Buffalo. There was a grave concern that Wells Fargo, Hartmarx’s main creditor, would choose a bid that would liquidate Hartmarx, thereby throwing hundreds of employees out of work. After the company was forced to declare bankruptcy, Schumer worked with its creditors to give Hartmarx the time it needs to reorganize and to solicit bids to allow it to stay open and avoid liquidation. In the end Schumer helped secure a buyer that would preserve jobs in Rochester and keep Hartmarx open for years to come.
Also in August, Schumer Schumer succeeded in his efforts to help bring Yahoo! to Niagara County. After personally speaking with Yahoo! officials, the company announced that they would be locating their new $150 million data center to Lockport. Schumer was critical in breaking an impasse between Yahoo! and Verizon over the cost of local access to broadband that was the final hurdle in sealing the deal. Schumer touted the region’s well-educated, talented, and affordable work force, as well as its clean, cheap power, to entice the Yahoo! to the region. Construction will begin this coming spring and once completed, the facility will employ nearly 125 people.
In September, Schumer secured millions in FEMA assistance for flood victims after floods devastated Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Erie Counties. Schumer successfully secured funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Following Schumer’s urging, President Obama formally amended the Presidential Disaster Declaration for the area to include individual assistance for people affected by the flooding. Individual Assistance funding by FEMA will help to pay for housing for those affected and also help them recover costs to replace items damaged by the floods. Schumer also succeeded in securing assistance for businesses and municipalities affected by the floods.
In October, Schumer led the charge to protect military voting and pass the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. Schumer was the Senate’s leading champion for the right to vote for military and overseas voters. At a Senate Rules Committee hearing he chaired in May, Schumer revealed that ¼ of all ballots sent overseas were never returned, leading to massive disenfranchisement for thousands of Americans living and working overseas. Schumer authored and engineered the passage of the MOVE Act. The MOVE Act represents the most significant piece of election reform to pass Congress in almost a decade and is the greatest expansion of voting rights for Military and Overseas voters in almost 25 years. Under this new law, states are required to send ballots to military and overseas voters no later than 45 days before an election, update their technology to transmit ballot applications, and abolish unnecessary requirements that threaten to disenfranchise thousands of overseas absentee voters.
Also in October, Schumer introduced a bill to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating methane emissions from dairy and livestock farms under the Clean Air Act. A version of his bill that will prevent the government from imposing an onerous “cow tax” on farmers across New York State was signed into law as part of the Interior Appropriations bill. This preventative action will ensure that the government would not be able to enact the EPA’s 2008 proposal to regulate greenhouse gases by requiring family farms to purchase expensive permits for each cow owned.
Schumer also secured an increase in MILC payments for dairy farmers. Schumer sponsored an amendment providing $290 million in direct aid, up to $40 million of which will go to New York, plus another $60 million in market supports. Schumer was instrumental in building support among his colleagues for the amendment and assuring that it, along with instructions that the money be distributed to farmers as direct payments, was included in the final bill. USDA has announced its method for distributing these direct payments, which will benefit states with predominantly smaller dairy farmers. As the USDA considered methods of distributing this funding, Schumer fought hard, through letters and personal phone calls, to ensure that the funds would go to the nation’s smaller farms where it was needed most, and pushed to have the aid delivered by Christmas. Both of these requests were accepted and incorporated into the USDA’s payment method.
Schumer also secured an unprecedented $3.5 billion for water infrastructure projects, $322 million of which will go directly to New York localities. At Schumer’s request the House and Senate Interior Appropriations conference committee included a provision in the appropriations bill to provide a billion dollars in grants – not loans – to financially strapped communities across the country to repair and replace aging water and sewer infrastructure. The funding will prevent communities from having to levy significant tax increases to repair crumbling infrastructure.
In November, Schumer defeated an ill-advised plan to outsource over 400 West Point jobs to Georgia. The Department of Defense’s A-76 study, which is used to compare the efficiency of private versus public employees, was the basis for the proposal to move these jobs out-of-state. Schumer urged the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the A-76 study, which was found to be flawed and ineffective. Schumer fought the Department of Defense and the Secretary of the Army until the A-76 study was halted and public works jobs at the Military academy were saved.
Also in November, Schumer helped broker a deal that will bring the first ever outdoor American Hockey League game in the country to Syracuse. Schumer worked with Crunch hockey team owner, Howard Dolgon, the New York State Fairgrounds, Governor Paterson, and Onondaga County to organize the game. It will be held on February 20, 2010. Since tickets went on sale in November, half have already been sold. The game is expected to draw a crowd of 20,000 and pump $1 million into the local economy.
Schumer also successfully lobbied Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to approve an application from Oneida County’s Griffiss International Airport to become a “User Fee Airport,” enabling the airport to hire a full time CBP agent for processing international flights and their passengers and cargo. Currently, if an international flight is scheduled to arrive at Griffiss, the airport must submit a request for a customs agent from Syracuse Hancock International to process the flight. Approval of Griffiss’ application will permit the airport to hire a full-time customs agent, significantly increasing the number of international flights that the airport can process.
In December, Schumer protected journalists, national security and the public’s right to know through the Free Flow of Information Act. Over the course of 2009, Schumer was the leader in ushering the Free Flow of Information Act through the Senate Judiciary Committee. This legislation protects journalists from being coerced into revealing confidential sources, while ensuring that national security is not compromised. It strikes a balance between the public interest and national security concerns. After striking down numerous amendments that would have watered down the journalists’ protections in the bill, Schumer successfully brought the bill to a vote and passed it out of the committee. Once passed by the Senate, this law will protect journalists from being forced to reveal their confidential sources while simultaneously taking into account national security concerns.
Also in December, Schumer secured $487,000 in the FY2010 Ominbus Bill to continue the necessary work to make Route 12 more safe and efficient for travel. Route 12 has long been a source of frustration and concern for residents and community leaders in Chenango County. This thoroughfare connecting Binghamton to Utica presents safety issues, congestion, and is a major impediment to economic development for this region. Schumer continued his tireless work with the Route 12 Task Force to secure millions of federal dollars to assist with improvements to the roadway.