Congressman Tom Reed returned to the Southern Tier this week and faced heat over his support of the big GOP tax bill that just passed the House of Representatives.
The Republican’s district includes Elmira, Corning and Ithaca. He was an architect of the bill.
At a town hall at the American Legion in Horseheads, Reed was greeted with jeers. The building was packed with residents who disapprove of the Republican tax bill. They think it’s good for the rich, at the expense of the poor and middle class.
“I want to know how many people here are either millionaires or billionaires?" one man asked, rhetorically, to the crowd. "Because you guys are going to make out like bandits.”
The attendees worried about the loss of certain deductions, like for medical expenses.
One woman was angry with the Senate’s version of the tax plan. That would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that everyone have healthcare.
“If the Senate keeps in the mandate, will you vote "no' if the House continues with the complete no deductibles for medical expenses?" she asked Reed. "I want a commitment from you”
Reed did not make that commitment and said he's against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate.
Some held signs that read “Tom Reed Voted to Increase My Property Taxes”, a reference to a limit to the state and local tax or SALT deduction in the House tax bill.
SALT eases the burden for people who itemize their federal return. It mostly applies to people who are wealthy, but also affects many middle class New Yorkers because of a heavy state tax burden. The House version limits the deduction to property taxes, but puts a $10,000 cap on that. The Senate bill eliminates SALT altogether.
After the hour-long Town Hall, Reed said it was clear people were fired up.
“Obviously, we had a really passionate crowd today," the Republican said. "There was obviously a representation of some folks on the hard left that were very passionate in their beliefs, which I totally respect and I can empathize through.”
David Balliett doesn’t consider himself on the hard left; he says he’s more of an independent. Balliett lives in Steuben County and wants Congress to slow down, so residents have time to review the bill, rather than trying to get reform done by Christmas.
“I don’t think my questions were answered. I'm not sure my comments were really fully considered," Balliett said. "Some of the obvious questions that people had tonight seem to be glossed over.”
A.J. Stow agrees. He’s a Democrat and lives in Horseheads. He said he didn't think Reed would listen to what he said, but it's still important to come.
“There’s news reporters here and it gets seen that people that sat at home going, ‘oh, I wasn’t aware of that,'" Stow said. "So we’re trying to get the information out saying 'this is what you have sent and this is what he is not doing.'"
Reed hinted the attitudes of the attendees aren’t the attitudes of his whole district. He said there are a few hundred people in the room that disagree, but the 23rd District has a population of around 700,000.
Two other regional Congress members voted for House tax bill. Neither Claudia Tenney nor John Katko have held similar town halls since.
*This post has been updated to correct the population of the 23rd District.