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NY21 Republican candidate Elise Stefanik answers questions about Social Security (VIDEO)

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WATERTOWN — A day after walking away from reporters’ questions in Glens Falls, Republican and Conservative Party congressional candidate Elise M. Stefanik provided more details about her proposals for Social Security during a news conference in the city.

In response to a question about raising the retirement age, Ms. Stefanik said a gradual increase for those of her generation — about 30 years old — would be appropriate but said there would be no changes for those 50 or older.

“I think there needs to be a gradual assessment and I hope to work with economists from both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I think both Democrats and Republicans have come out in support of a gradual raising of the retirement age for young people who tend to work longer, who have longer working lives, so whether that’s 66, 67 ... It would be a slow, gradual increase. But we need to honestly solve these issues and we need to make sure they’re reflective of the 21st century economy.”

Ms. Stefanik, a former policy adviser in the George W. Bush White House who lives in Willsboro, is running against Democrat and Working Families Party candidate Aaron G. Woolf, a documentary filmmaker with a home in Elizabethtown, and Green Party candidate Matthew J. Funiciello, a bakery and cafe owner from Glens Falls.

Ms. Stefanik also was policy director of the 2012 Republican Party platform and director of debate prep for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during his vice-presidential bid.

Throughout the last two weeks, Mr. Woolf has been on a barnstorming tour of the district, tying Ms. Stefanik to the policies of her former bosses — Mr. Bush and Mr. Ryan — and their proposals to privatize Social Security.

Last week, Ms. Stefanik told the Times that she was not in support of privatizing Social Security but was in favor of raising the retirement age for future generations as a way to stave off insolvency.

At the Greater Glens Falls Senior Center Monday, Ms. Stefanik dodged reporters’ questions about specific policy proposals for reforming Medicare and, when pressed to define “near retirement,” she walked away from reporters and into the parking lot of the center.

On Tuesday, she said that she was offering up new ideas as a way to start a conversation about reforming the programs, which reports say will begin to face significant trouble by 2030.

According to annual reports issued by the trustees of the two programs, the Medicare trust fund will be depleted in 2030 and the Social Security trust fund in 2033.

Ms. Stefanik offered raising the retirement age for future generations, means-testing for lower-income benefits recipients and adjusting the cost of living expenses as proposals for ensuring the longevity of Social Security. She did not, however, say that those were concrete proposals but rather options.

To adjust for cost of living, Ms. Stefanik advocated for a chain-weighted consumer price index, or chain-CPI, which accounts for substitutions and changes consumers make in their spending habits to account for changing costs of certain goods and services.

The measure is viewed as controversial by some because it means that Social Security benefits would increase at a slower rate than under the current system, thus cutting benefits to seniors already in retirement. It was also a proposal put forward by President Barack Obama in his 2014 budget blueprint.

“I think that’s one of the options that we should consider,” Ms. Stefanik said, adding that the proposed changes would not go into effect until sometime in the future.

Ms. Stefanik said the “do-nothing” approach of Mr. Woolf would bankrupt the Social Security and Medicare systems while Mr. Woolf’s spokesman Yianni Varonis said his candidate was putting forth proposals to grow the economy, an approach John L. Palmer, Dean-Emeritus of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a former public trustee for Medicare and Social Security, said last week would not be sufficient to maintain Social Security on its own.

Ms. Stefanik also made clear her role on the national party platform, saying that she had no role in crafting the document, which was written by delegates appointed to the National Platform Committee by the states.

Robert W. Herman, 50, of Watertown, was riding past the news conference on his bicycle when he stopped to listen to Ms. Stefanik.

Mr. Herman, a former Marine, said he was concerned about Social Security and whether the program would be available when he retires or whether his benefits would shrink.

“I think she’s got some good ideas,” Mr. Herman said. “I don’t know how well they’ll listen to her.”

Mr. Herman, a Republican, said he didn’t necessarily vote along party lines.

“I weigh what each person says. ... I’ll vote for anybody if I think they’re the right option at the right time,” Mr. Herman said.

He said he has seen Mr. Woolf’s television commercials but he didn’t know enough about the candidate to have an opinion. He did voice some support for Mr. Funiciello’s proposals, which include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and subjecting all income above $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax.

Excerpts of Ms. Stefanik’s comments can be found at http://wdt.me/Stefanik-0826

Stefanik press conference highlights

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