Says Trump ‘clearly’ lost in 2020
Rep. Mike Lawler, whose U.S. House district includes Philipstown, used a constituent forum on Tuesday (Aug. 22) to promote immigration reform, domestic energy production, lifting the $10,000 cap on income-tax deductions for state and local taxes; and teaching “the good, the bad, the ugly” of U.S. history.
It was the first town hall in Putnam County since Lawler took office after he defeated incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney by a narrow margin in November 2022. It occurred inside a public school in Carmel and drew about 100 attendees, limited to residents of Lawler’s congressional district.
The Lawler team prevented The Current from recording the 90-minute event, taking photos or asking questions, and spectators could only query Lawler if their numbered tickets were drawn from a basket. (Lawler’s office later sent the paper several photos.)
Affordability and energy
In response to a question from Philipstown resident Cindy Trimble, Lawler linked “affordability” for Hudson Valley households to energy policy and taxes. He pointed out that the first bill he introduced in the House was “to lift the cap on SALT [state and local tax] deductions that federal taxpayers can claim.
“When the former president [Donald Trump] and the Republican Congress implemented” legislation in 2017, “they used SALT as pay for the tax bill,” Lawler said. “Unfortunately, it was arbitrary and capricious for states like New York.” Although the latter “must do a lot more to get its spending under control, we shouldn’t be penalized, double-taxed for state and local taxes.”
Likewise, to boost affordability, “we need a coherent energy policy that increases domestic production,” said Lawler. “To rely on foreign governments when they don’t have anywhere near the same environmental standards and protections we have makes no sense whatsoever.”
A health care worker in the audience asserted that “illegal immigration has a huge fiscal impact on taxpayers” and pointed to the arrival of “undocumented people” in New York. “I’m very concerned about the diseases they’re bringing into the country,” she said.
A man contended that Hudson Valley residents who suffered from July floods await financial assistance, while “we’re spending $750 a day for a hotel room and they [unnamed bureaucrats] send the people of Hawaii $700” after fires on Maui. “It’s embarrassing.”
Lawler responded that while federal and state governments provide broad disaster aid, channeling relief to individual properties takes time. “This is where people get frustrated with government,” he said. “To me, it’s a function of priorities. When we are spending a billion dollars in the state budget to house illegal immigrants, but we can’t help our own residents who’ve had their homes destroyed, for no fault of their own, that’s a problem.”
He described “the migrant crisis” as “one of the biggest challenges” facing governments, local to national. Along with securing the southern border, he advised increasing the number of court personnel to handle asylum requests, because some newcomers “have legitimate claims for asylum; many do not” and whatever the situation, “asylum cases need to be heard expeditiously.”
Lawler recommended that Congress overhaul U.S. immigration law, which he said has not been substantively updated since 1986, the year of his birth. “It’s time for members of both parties to cut the crap on immigration and solve it,” he said.
Vinny Tamagna, president of the Constitution Island Association and former Putnam County legislator who represented Philipstown, advocated getting education “back to what we have, which is the real source of American principles.”
Lawler responded that “obviously, we should teach our history — the good, the bad and the ugly, all of that.” And “it should be rooted in facts and evidence and should be unbiased.” Letting political infighting interfere with history lessons “doesn’t serve anybody,” he said. “We should be making sure our children know our history — all of it, learn from it, and ensure that we don’t repeat it.”
A Philipstown woman who described herself as an active Democrat asked if Lawler “would be willing to condemn Donald Trump” for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“I have said clearly, repeatedly, that Donald Trump lost the election,” Lawler replied. “What happened on Jan. 6 was wrong and never should have happened. When you lose, you lose. He has been indicted four times now. And he will have his day in court.”
But Lawler also maintained that “this is not just a one-party issue,” since both Republicans and Democrats, at times, have questioned election results or district boundaries, bringing “challenges all across the board that are disruptive and undermine democracy.” Nonetheless, he continued, claiming an election was stolen “doesn’t serve anybody well; doesn’t serve the country well. And if you’re going to make those claims, you’d better have the evidence to prove that.”