Vice President Kamala Harris, who last came to Buffalo in May to mourn in the aftermath of the May 14 Tops supermarket massacre, will return Wednesday on an optimistic note: promoting Western New York as a place of resurgence and promise.
She is expected to talk about how the region is poised to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate and health care bill that President Biden signed into law last month.
"One was steeped in tragedy," Rep. Brian Higgins said Harris's last visit. "This is steeped in opportunity."
A substitute for the failed federal Build Back Better bill, the Inflation Reduction Act sets aside billions to fight climate change, mostly through a series of tax credits aimed at encouraging a switch to green energy sources. In addition, the bill caps the amount that seniors pay for prescription drugs at $2,000 annually starting in 2025. It also allows Medicare, for the first time, to negotiate the price of several common prescription drugs.
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The White House selected Western New York as a site to promote the legislation because part of the bill's aim is to revitalize American manufacturing and provide incentives for the growth of green energy technology manufacturing and jobs.
The Buffalo Niagara region is a prime example of an area with plenty of old manufacturing technology that is making the transition to a more diversified, tech-centered economy, Higgins said.
"An assault weapon is a weapon of war, with no place, no place in a civil society," Harris told reporters.
"Historically, most of our economy was steeped in steelmaking and dirty industrial work along the river of chemical manufacturing," he said. "Today, it's technology. I think we are well positioned, post pandemic, to take advantage of these bills, which are intended, obviously, to boost the economy, diversify the economy of the nation, but particularly in places like Buffalo."
M&T Bank has opened its own $58 million tech hub, and the University at Buffalo is part of a major effort to make the Buffalo-Rochester area one of the 18 regional tech hubs. UB last year launched a $32 million initiative called the Innovation Hub, which includes a $7 million downtown incubator for startups. Meanwhile, other manufacturers, like Viridi Parente, are raising and spending millions to advance its green-technology plans in Buffalo.
The Inflation Reduction Act will spend a record amount to invest in green energy jobs and provide consumer incentives for clean energy purchases and private investments designed to lower carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. It is also expected to make a number of others changes to lower the deficit, though it's debated the extent to which the bill will lower inflation.
Enabling Medicare to save money through "prescription drug pricing reform" and closing "tax loopholes used by the wealthy" will lead to deficit reductions, cost savings and new federal revenue, its backers say. New provisions require the largest, profitable corporations to pay a minimum corporate tax of 15%, establish a 1% stock buyback surcharge penalty on publicly traded companies, and significantly strengthens IRS enforcement of tax payments.
Harris's sweep through the Buffalo area is not expected to last long..
She last visited Buffalo on May 28, when she attended the funeral of Ruth Whitfield, one of the 10 victims of the May 14 Tops market massacre. Harris also laid flowers at a memorial site at the supermarket that day. Higgins said the details of her return to Erie County are still being negotiated, and he did not know whether there were any follow-up plans to meet with Tops shooting survivors or families of victims.
But Higgins said her visit will highlight just how much places like Buffalo stand to gain by the major federal bill.
"Buffalo has the potential to disproportionately benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act, so Buffalo will be showcased to the nation," he said. "There's a larger message about what this bill would do in terms of the American economy, and here's a great example of a place that is poised, that is positioned, for future growth."
Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski contributed to this report.