U.S. House of Representatives, District 7

The most essential issue to address for the people of GA-07 is health care. There are well over 100,000 residents of our district without health insurance. This is morally wrong and fiscally irresponsible. Health care policy is personal to me. For ten years, my father suffered from a debilitating, prolonged illness and my mother cared for him. They drained their bank accounts to pay for dad’s prescription medications. Now every day, I hear from Georgia families struggling with the rising costs of prescription drugs, insurance costs, and costs of medical care. This country must do more to protect the health of its citizens, ensuring access to affordable, quality health care. I will prioritize legislation that allows the federal government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. I will additionally fight to increase access and affordability of health insurance through strengthening the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and creating an affordable public option health insurance plan for individuals and small businesses; protect people with preexisting conditions; and end surprise billing. We also must do something to address the soul-sucking commutes here in the Atlanta metro area. The gridlock in this area has begun to choke off jobs and economic opportunity. Most recently, WestRock and NCR relocated from the 7th district to Atlanta to be closer to transit options. As an aide to Senator Ron Wyden, I worked to successfully expand federal funding for light-rail systems that are now seen as a model for the entire nation. I additionally worked to support programs that better coordinate transportation with land use planning. I will use this experience to deliver investments in expanding transit options for the 7th district. This will increase opportunities for both workers and employers.

Small businesses are the backbone of our state and local economy. As noted above, one of the critical issues for businesses in the 7th district is expansion of transit and other transportation options to reduce gridlock. I will also partner with our local business community to identify and work to eliminate those regulations that are overly burdensome and/or no longer serve the purpose they once did. With the increased need for skilled labor, workforce training and apprenticeship programs need to be readily available and affordable for those coming out of high school and for those looking at a new career. I support increased investments in technical education programs and apprenticeship programs. Workers in changing industries are being left behind, and it’s important that they have opportunities to retrain for good, quality jobs. Having a highly trained workforce for the jobs of the future will attract businesses to relocate to and remain in Georgia.

For years, residents of the 7th district and all Georgians have sent their taxpayer dollars to Washington to support transit initiatives and infrastructure in other states – now it is time for a tax policy that reinvests in our community. In Congress, I will support legislation to make significant investments in our infrastructure, including transit, commuter rail, and support for electric vehicles and other technologies that help us develop the green economy we need for the 21st century and unlock business opportunities for this district. Health care costs are also a massive drain on the profit margins of small businesses. I support federal investment in a robust public option health insurance plan that is available for the employees of small businesses and help provide an alternative to private sector small group insurance plans. I additionally support an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. This will function as a reverse payroll tax. Instead of the federal government taking money out of lower income working Americans’ pay checks every month, we would actually increase their income to make sure that they have a living wage. Putting more money into the hands of everyday people will both stimulate businesses in Georgia’s 7th District and will help small businesses retain high quality workers.

I believe that the biggest problem with the federal government right now is the corrupting financial influence of corporate and special interests. They have an outsized influence in policy making at the national level to the detriment of families and small businesses and we see this in the cost of our health insurance, prescription drugs, and problems addressing environmental quality. Our political system also has become highly polarized and this is tied not only to underlying influence of very large corporate special interests, but also to a system of gerrymandered districts where our elected officials are more concerned about a challenge from within their own party rather than coming to the middle to solve problems. This system rewards catering to extreme partisan views and punishes bipartisanship, pragmatism, and problem-solving. As a result, I strongly support overturning Citizens United and moving to increased public funding for elections. We also need non-partisan redistricting reform and other robust efforts to get special interest money out of our political system. By making our system more fair, our elected leaders will be more accountable to Georgia communities.

I was director of Georgia’s Senate Budget and Evaluation Office during the Great Recession and helped the state balance the budget during the worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. I do believe in fiscal responsibility and that as a country we have to pay for the policies that we want to put in place. One of the challenges at the federal level is that large corporate special interests have created massive benefits for themselves riddled throughout our federal budget and tax system. For the first time in history, billionaires are paying a lower effective tax rate than middle class working families – this is ridiculous and we can certainly have a more progressive tax system where billionaires and the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share. Our federal government wastes billions of dollars in our current budget. We can save 30 billion annually by allowing the federal government to use its purchasing power to lower the price of prescription drugs and a further $21 billion annually by ending subsidies to fossil fuel companies. These are examples of policies that can help us reorient our budget to support our middle class families while balancing the federal budget.

The reality is that we are facing the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. I helped balance the state budget during the Great Recession so I know that the response from the federal government must be robust, efficient, and put families, workers and small businesses first. Over one million Georgians have lost their jobs since the economy was shut down. I will fight to ensure that the unemployment insurance systems, food nutrition and housing assistance programs have the necessary funds to support workers and their families until our economy recovers. I also support funding for loans and grants to the thousands of small businesses decimated by the pandemic. We need transparency and accountability to make sure our taxpayer dollars go to those who need it, not corporate bailouts. We have seen women and minority owned businesses bear a disproportionate brunt of the COVID economic fallout and we must support those businesses, which make up a massive part of our local economy, in any recovery plan.

Over one million Georgians have lost their jobs since the economy was shut down. I will work to ensure that the unemployment insurance system, food nutrition programs, and housing assistance programs have the necessary funds to assure that families have the resources they need to support their families until our economy recovers. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and have been decimated by the pandemic. As our economy begins to recover, our local factories, shops, restaurants and other businesses must have access to the capital they require to reopen and hire back their workers. I will support the funding of existing programs and, if necessary, the creation of new programs to ensure the availability of small business grants and loans to all that are in need. Many of the heroes during this crisis have been the low-wage workers that stock our grocery shelves and staff the check-out counters, cook and serve at our take-out restaurants, and staff our nursing homes. But too many of the workers we now recognize as essential to all of us do not make a living wage. When a minimum wage job in Georgia does not pay enough to support a family, one of the first steps we need to take in recovering our economy must be to guarantee a living wage. The costs of rent, gas and food increase every year, and our wages have not kept up. I support increasing the federal minimum wage and pairing it with increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit to ensure that everyone can make a living wage.

We are suffering from a crippling failure of leadership at both the state and federal levels when it comes to responding to COVID-19. Our state leadership is ignoring the federal guidelines set in place for re-opening. Our national government is throwing out guidance from the CDC and other professional organizations whose job it is to keep us safe. Additionally, the directions coming from the national and state level are confusing and often conflicting. We must have leadership that is competent, professional, science-based and one that communicates the path forward clearly. This crisis is also shedding light on the glaring inequities within our society and gaps in our social safety net. 80% of people hospitalized for COVID in Georgia are black, and we’re seeing low income communities of all backgrounds be hit the hardest. Unfortunately these communities already lacked access to health insurance, paid sick days, or paid family medical leave. Now more than ever, it is obvious that all of our health is deeply interconnected. Public health responses must take this basic fact into account. Our national government must ensure everyone has quality affordable health care, paid family medical leave and paid sick leave – in the near term, Georgia should immediately expand Medicaid, and the federal government should immediately re-open the health insurance exchange so that the newly unemployed have access to health insurance and health care.

I have a long history of working in a bipartisan fashion to solve problems. As a top aide to Senator Ron Wyden in the 90s, I worked to expand transit, increase funding for low income food programs, and increase access to public health centers – all issues directly relevant to the needs in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. On every single one of those bills, we had a Republican co-sponsor. I believe that in this time of crisis there will be members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who will work hard to care for the people they represent, and I have the knowledge and experience to build those kinds of coalitions to be an effective advocate for people in the district and in Georgia.

As someone who has worked for years on state and local fiscal policy, I am deeply aware of the critical services that state and local governments provide and that they will need federal assistance to shore up their budgets in the year to come. Further, without aid, state and local governments will have to make catastrophic budget cuts that will make economic recovery more difficult. I strongly support federal aid to make sure that our teachers, police, firemen, building inspectors, transportation workers, courts, among many other essential services continue to function effectively.

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Contact Paul Oh, Manager, Public Policy & Community Affairs, with questions.
770-232-8804 or pauloh@gwinnettchamber.org

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