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Key Differences on Health Care, Taxes, Economy Shape NY-24 Congressional Race, Katko v. Balter


November 6th is the day when voters in the 24th congressional district decide to stick with two-term incumbent Republican John Katko or join what could be the so-called “blue wave” by electing a political newcomer. 

Democrat Dana Balter has made health care a centerpiece of her campaign.  She supports a “Medicare for all” model.

“The point is we are trying to lower costs for every household, every individual.  And under a Medicare for all plan, 95% of households will pay less for health care.  The only people who won’t pay less for health care are the people who have lots and lots of money, so they don’t need to pay less for healthcare.”

She says campaign ads from Katko and his party are trying to scare seniors into believing they will lose their coverage under this plan.  Katko says he continues to strongly support the affordable care act despite some flaws, and won’t go along with efforts to repeal it.   There’s also a debate over the impact and benefits of the massive tax cut plan approved earlier this year.  Balter claims it’s part of the larger problem of money in politics.

“Because right now our political system is dominated by these entrenched powers and corporate interests, and our elected officials, John Katko included, are responding to their needs, not ours.  That’s why we say this tax bill passed that gives almost all of the benefits to the wealthiest in this country and to giant corporations.”

But Katko says democrats are misrepresenting the tax bill on several fronts.

“Probably the biggest one is that 83% of the tax cuts go to the top one-percent.  Absolutely untrue; the Syracuse Newspapers found that to be untrue and Washington Post even found that to be untrue, and certainly has.  That would be true if and only in 2027 the individual tax cuts sunset.”

Katko expands on his view of the tax reform bill, trade war and immigration in conversation with WAER's Scott Willis.

While the tax cuts are benefitting businesses, they could be offset by a flurry of tariffs and resulting trade war waged by President Trump.  Dana Balter has grave concerns, especially for the district’s farmers.

“One of the tariffs that had the first and largest impact was the tariff on soybeans and our soybean farmers lost 20% of the value of their crops in two months.  A lot of our family farms are operating on razor-thin margins as it is, so that kid of a loss is not sustainable for them.”

Katko disagrees that the agriculture economy is suffering.

“The farmers understand what the President is trying to do. If it’s a short term pain, there will be a long-term gain.  If the short term gain turns into long-term pain without a solution, then we have a problem.  So we’re going to have to wait and see.”

Katko says the president has set aside $14 billion in subsidies for farmers feeling the pinch of lower prices.  He feels the U-S will be better off under the new trade deal struck with Canada and Mexico aimed at replacing NAFTA.

“If we get that deal, which I think we’re going to, it’s going to have very good long-term implications for us form a labor standpoint, from a business standpoint, a lot of things. That’s number one.  And number two, we’ve had these trade imbalances for decades where we put up with a lot of crap from other countries, unfair trade practices, they’re stealing our intellectual property, especially China.”

Balter offers more details on her health care plans, as well as thoughts on poverty, trade and campaign finance issues, as she spoke with WAER's John Smith.


Even before Dana Balter was a candidate, she says she was never afraid to stand up for the less fortunate.  She’s advocated for her brother, who has struggled with disabilities his entire life.  Balter says this is what drove her to run for congress, the opportunity to represent those who feel left out.

“We have been struggling economically.  We’re dealing with a lot of issues like poverty, like lack of jobs, like the opioid crisis.  I’m kind of sick and tired of seeing my government forget about us and not take on the task of doing things that will make life better for us here in Central and Western New York.”

Balter claims that house Republicans, including Katko, have largely abandoned issues and programs that would help this area, such as cuts to section 8 housing vouchers for rent and support for low-income housing development.  Katko rejects this, and points to his willingness to fight for the underdog in Congress by opposing cuts to housing programs.

“Not only did we not cut anything this year, we plussed-up funding to HUD, 100s of Millions of dollars to HUD housing initiatives.  Part of the trade-off for having increased the military, we increased spending in other areas to get Democratic support.  I have routinely gone against cuts to those programs and I continue to do so.  I won’t support their budgets and I won’t vote for budgets that have (program cuts) in there.”

Katko says he still has some unfinished business in the halls of the Capitol building.  Specifically the failure of an immigration bill he negotiated last year that was ultimately killed by President Trump.

“I think they blew a real opportunity on the immigration bill we negotiated.  I think if the President could do it all over again, I bet he would have supported it from the beginning and realized he could have gotten everything he wanted.  I think that it’s still a very good bill and I definitely will be pushing it as soon as I get back to Washington.”

Will it be John Katko for a third term?  Or progressive newcomer Dana Balter?  Voters in the 24th district will decide tomorrow.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at