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Congressman, Economist Share Views On A Trump Transition

Lucas Willard

At the first economic outlook summit hosted by the Saratoga Prosperity Partnership, 20th District Congressman Paul Tonko and Albany-area economist Hugh Johnson appeared as keynote speakers.

Both men, one in government, one in the private sector, discussed how they believe the new Republican-led White House, House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate would affect the local economy.

Tonko, a Democrat and staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton reelected on Tuesday, said with Trump set to move into the White House it’s time for the two parties to come together and end what he calls the “rancor and obstructionism” after a grueling campaign.

Tonko says the campaign left a lot of uncertainty on major issues and it’s up to everyone in the local region to define what they want to see as far as government investment to support the economy.

“One of the concerns I heard most often on this election was that there wasn’t enough policy discussion. And so now we’re in this vagueness zone where we need, definitely, to begin that healing process by sharing the definition: What is our region about? What are its strengths? What are its needs? And here, I know that we want a stable supply of energy, we need upgrades to the grid, we need to think in a regional format so that their aren’t ebbs and flows of quality supply. We need that across the board, routinely,” said Tonko.

An engineer by trade, Tonko seeks to boost the percentage of American high school graduates entering college on an engineering path.

Tonko says the region is at a “crossroads” in energy and utility infrastructure, emphasizing the importance of clean drinking water. He said recognizing climate change, ensuring voting rights, and immigration reform are vital to the U.S. economy.

Tonko was pleased by the prospect of New York Senator Charles Schumer, the incoming Minority Leader, being able to advocate for local communities at the federal level.

Economist Hugh Johnson said he had deeply worried about the lack of continuity and stability in the economy as a result of the transition to a Trump White House. But he said as markets have begun to stabilize after an initial shock of the Republican’s victory, he’s altered his attitude.

“He’s talking about a combination that’s dear to the hearts of investors. He’s talking about reduction in taxes, not increases in taxes. He’s talking about increased government spending on infrastructure and defense. Which a combination of those things will help the economy significantly, and I think that’s why the stock market is doing well. The only thing I would say, and I think this is important, is that I hope he’s sensitive to the fact that it will do those things but it will increase the defecit and will increase the U.S. debt as a part of the GDP to levels that are not acceptable,” said Johnson.

Nationally, Johnson said the economy has been experiencing a bull market for 90 straight months and he expects a slower pace moving into the next two years. A bear market could be right around the corner.

Locally, Saratoga County’s outlook remains positive and one of the highest ranked in the state.

“The numbers show up. Compared to other counties in New York state, with exception of the downstate economies, this economy is good and it’s going to continue good through 2017 and 2018, right towards the top of the list,” said Johnson.

And to keep the local economy strong as new technology advances, Johnson said he would advocate for strengthening education, funding infrastructure, and research and development.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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