January 19, 2012 —
Kingston, NY -- With profound gratitude to the people of New York's 22nd Congressional District and the former 26th Congressional District who he's had the honor of serving, Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) today announced that he will not seek reelection and instead will retire from Congress at the end of his current term. The congressman made the announcement at the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston, New York, which was where he announced his first campaign for Congress in 1992. Hinchey has spent the past 38 years of his life in public service, including 18 years in the New York State Assembly and 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"While it is incredibly hard to leave a job I truly love, I know in my heart of hearts that now is the right time for me to move on," Hinchey said. "I want to thank the people of New York's 22nd District and the people of the former 26th District who put their trust in me to be their congressman. I am forever grateful for their support over the years. They afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime. Every day I've spent in Congress was a day I spent fighting for those who I represent. The people from the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes were always, and continue to be, at the front of my mind and the focus of everything I do as their congressman."
Hinchey was first elected to the House in 1992. He is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which allocates funds in the federal budget. On that panel, he serves on the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Defense and previously served on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. He is also a member of the Joint Economic Committee. Earlier in his congressional career, Hinchey served on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources. Prior to coming to Congress, Hinchey served 18 years in the New York State Assembly after being elected in 1974, including 14 years as Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Upon graduating from high school, Maurice enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific on the destroyer U.S.S. Marshall. After receiving an honorable discharge, he worked for two years as a laborer in a Hudson Valley cement plant. He then enrolled in the State University of New York at New Paltz and put himself through college working as a night-shift toll collector on the New York State Thruway. He went on to earn a master's degree at SUNY New Paltz and did advanced graduate work in public administration and economics at the State University of New York at Albany.
Among the key highlights of Hinchey's time in public office are:
• Under Hinchey's leadership as Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, the panel conducted a successful investigation into the causes of "Love Canal," the nation's first major toxic dumpsite, and developed landmark environmental legislation including the nation's first law to control acid rain.
• Between 1982 and 1992, Hinchey led an investigation into organized crime's control of the waste-hauling industry that led to the conviction of more than 20 criminal figures, including one for murder.
• Hinchey successfully led the fight, first in Albany and later in Washington, to force General Electric to pay for and clean up the 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it dumped into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. Dating back to his days as Chair of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, Hinchey fought against numerous attempts to delay and narrow the clean-up process, and he worked tirelessly to make sure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held GE responsible for the cleanup. In 2011, Hinchey visited the upper Hudson River to laud the commencement of the second and final phase of the cleanup as a critical step forward in removing PCB contamination that has plagued the Hudson River for many decades.
• As an assemblyman, Hinchey developed the statewide system of Urban Cultural Parks, including those in Kingston and Binghamton and authored the legislation that created the Hudson River Valley Greenway. He built on this accomplishment later, as a member of Congress, by writing and championing the passage of legislation that created the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, giving the region national prominence as well as access to increased federal resources.
• In his first year in Congress, Hinchey helped to initiate and spearhead the successful legislative effort to preserve more than 15,000 acres in Sterling Forest, the last significant area of open space in the New York metropolitan region and an important watershed for southeastern New York and northern New Jersey.
• As a member of the House Banking Committee, Hinchey's pointed and persistent questioning of Alan Greenspan forced the Federal Reserve Board Chairman to admit to the existence of taped recordings of the meetings of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), the board's policy making body. As a result, the public now has direct insight into the thinking of the FOMC, and the logic behind the decisions affecting interest rates and other important economic policies.
• In 1993, Hinchey and the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan authored legislation designating New York's Route 17 as Interstate 86, in order to bring increased economic activity to the Southern Tier and Catskills regions. After their legislation was passed as part of the 1998 Building Efficient Surface Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (BESTEA-21), the 381 mile stretch of Route 17 was set on a path to becoming I-86, making it eligible for a wide array of new federal funding. The conversion of Route 17 to I-86 will eventually provide a federal interstate connection from I-90 at Erie, PA to I-87 at Harriman, NY. The New York State Department of Transportation is currently planning a major reconstruction project for Prospect Mountain in Binghamton, New York, which will create more than 200 jobs.
• In 1999, Hinchey succeeded in passing an amendment that required the CIA to report to Congress on its involvement in the 1973 coup of Chile's democratically elected President, Salvador Allende. Following the coup, President Allende was assassinated and General Augusto Pinochet began his 17-year dictatorship. The report, now known as the Hinchey Report, makes a clear case that the United States - at the very highest levels of government - was deeply involved in the destabilization of Chile's government and economy over a period of nearly 20 years.
• In 1999 and 2000, Hinchey successfully secured emergency assistance for U.S. apple farmers who suffered severe weather-related crop damage. Without this emergency aid, many apple farms in New York would have been lost.
• Hinchey led efforts to convince state and federal agencies to address toxic contamination facing the Village of Endicott, New York. Hinchey's attention to the pollution, a legacy of the region's industrial past, prompted ongoing studies on public health and the health of former IBM workers. In 2004, he successfully petitioned the DEC to reclassify the site from Class 4 to Class 2 on the state's registry of inactive hazardous waste sites -- bringing much greater resources, attention, and urgency to the need to test and remediate Endicott's more than 300 acre toxic spill.
• As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Hinchey has secured billions of dollars in federal aid to spur job growth, improve public infrastructure, advance education and the arts, improve health care facilities and services, and support economic development in local communities throughout the congressional district he represents in a wide array of ways.
• Hinchey provided early and key support for the revitalization of the old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge by drawing attention to its potential and securing the first public funds for what would eventually become the Walkway Over the Hudson. Overall, the congressman directly secured $1.34 million in federal funding for the project and helped deliver an additional $2.4 million through the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The federal money combined with state and private contributions, namely through Robert Dyson's Dyson Foundation, were used to create what has become the world's longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge. The Walkway has attracted more than 1.2 million visitors since opening to the public in 2009.
• Hinchey was one of the first and most outspoken members of Congress to oppose President Bush's effort to invade Iraq. He subsequently became a forceful critic of ongoing operations within Iraq and led the call for the removal of U.S. forces, which has now occurred.
• Hinchey led the congressional outcry against the NSA's warrantless surveillance program that was instituted under President Bush. He requested, and helped successfully secure, the launch of an independent Department of Justice probe to determine any wrongdoing.
• Hinchey successfully secured nearly $14 million in federal funding to secure SUNY Binghamton's future as a top caliber research university. The federal funding helped establish the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center, which includes the Center for Advanced Microelectronics Manufacturing and the Center for Autonomous Solar Power.
• Hinchey used his position on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to secure millions in federal funding for Cornell University's science and agricultural research programs.
• Hinchey secured $4.1 million to help establish a new state-of-the-art Broome County Intermodal bus terminal. Now up and running and nicknamed "Hinchey's Hub," the terminal has helped revitalized a previously forgotten part of downtown Binghamton and allowed for convenient passage of tens of thousands of travelers moving to and from the Southern Tier.
• Hinchey helped develop the concept for and secured nearly $2 million in federal funding to create the Owego, New York Riverwalk – a 1,200-foot walkway along the Susquehanna River in Owego's historic downtown commercial district that has provided pedestrian access to the river and helped maintain river banks from flood damage.
• Hinchey secured nearly $1 million to help create the City of Ithaca's Waterfront Trail - a six-mile, multi-use trail providing an active, non-motorized transportation and recreation way connecting the community's most popular waterfront parks and places.
• Hinchey established the Tioga Rural Area Economic Partnership (REAP) program -- an initiative which was designed to spur economic growth in the county and has delivered over $20 million in federal and state investments. A second zone in Sullivan County and Wawarsing was established. The REAP Zones in the State of New York are two of only five such areas in the entire nation.
• In 2007, Hinchey led the effort to establish The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC) -- a not-for-profit entity in upstate New York that brings together private solar companies and research institutions throughout the state to develop new ways to efficiently and effectively develop economically viable solar technologies. The results have been extraordinary. Hinchey and TSEC have attracted numerous companies to upstate New York and helped create more than 600 solar energy-related jobs with many more on the way.
• Hinchey is the primary leader in Congress to protect drinking water and the environment from the risks of hydraulic fracturing. He is a co-author of the FRAC Act, which would mandate public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking fluid and allow the EPA to regulate fracking activities under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
• In 2009, Hinchey authored the appropriations language that initiated the EPA's current national study on hydraulic fracturing. This is the first comprehensive and independent analysis of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water.
The full text of Hinchey's remarks as prepared follows:
Thank you all for coming here today. This year marks the 20th year I've had the high honor of representing our part of New York in the United States House of Representatives. It's been the greatest privilege of my life to serve the residents of Ulster, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan, Delaware, Broome, Tioga, and Tompkins counties. In fact, I first announced I was running for Congress 20 years ago at this exact location -- the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston, New York.
And as many of you know, I previously had the honor -- thanks to the good people of Ulster County -- of serving 18 years in the New York State Assembly, including 14 years as the Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision that I'd have such an extraordinary opportunity to serve my community, my state, and my country. I have been very fortunate.
My story is one of a kid from a working class family who enlisted in the Navy after high school and returned to work in a local cement factory. But I had high hopes for myself and knew that a good education would lead to a better life. So I enrolled at SUNY New Paltz and worked the night shift at a New York State Thruway toll booth so I could pay for school while also having time to study at night.
My father always had a love of politics, and I also became involved in politics, eventually deciding to run for the New York State Assembly. And despite the fact that only one other Democrat had been elected from that area since the Civil War, I gave it my best and won. None of that would have been possible without an education and without an undying love for my state and my country.
I hope that my story inspires many others to take up public service and to give back to their community, state, and country. Despite all the turmoil, rancor, and pettiness we see in politics today, I still believe in public service. To me there are few things nobler than a person who chooses to serve their community, whether it is in public office, at a public agency or school, the military, or even volunteering through a local charity. We need more people to choose those paths and become strong, effective voices for the middle class.
As you all know, I went through a fairly serious health challenge during this past year. During that time, I received an outpouring of support, and I am forever grateful for all the well wishes and prayers I received. Such support helped get me through this. For that I am extremely fortunate.
This life changing experience helped put everything in perspective for me. It's easy to get caught up in the day to day things in life, but this past year provided me with an even greater appreciation for my family, my friends, and, quite frankly, my time.
So I stand here before you today, to announce that I will not seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives this fall and will retire from Congress at the conclusion of my current term.
While it is very hard to leave a job I truly love, I know in my heart of hearts that now is the right time for me to move on.
I am also very much aware of the upcoming redistricting process. I feel very strongly that the integrity of the 22nd District, which has encompassed the same general area for four decades, should be preserved and remain largely intact. I make this announcement now out of respect for that redistricting process and my colleagues in the New York congressional delegation.
I do not know -- nor do even those directly involved in the process -- how redistricting will shape out, but I do feel that it is fair for those important upcoming decisions to be made with my future plans publicly known.
Before I go any further, I want to thank the people of New York's 22nd District and the people of the former 26th District who put their trust in me to be their representative. I am forever grateful for their support over the years. They afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime.
Whether it was marching in the Columbus Day Parade in Binghamton, strolling around the Ithaca Commons, walking across the Walkway Over the Hudson, or simply running into people at the grocery store, I've truly enjoyed meeting so many extraordinary people over the years who have inspired me to fight on their behalf.
I worked as hard as I could for them each day, trying to be as effective of a voice as I could possibly be. They were always, and continue to be, at the front of my mind and the focus of everything I do in Congress.
I also want to express my overwhelming gratitude to my staff -- both current and former members in my congressional and assembly offices. None of the things I achieved during my time in public office would have been possible without their tireless efforts. These men and women worked extremely hard over many long hours. They are very dedicated, talented, and committed people. I am so thankful for their support and help over these nearly four decades.
I am very proud of the many accomplishments I've achieved during my time in Congress. From securing the designation of I-86, to obtaining billions of dollars in federal investments across this great district, to the cleanup of PCBs in the Hudson River, to developing a cluster of solar energy companies in upstate New York, to my work on protecting our nation from hydraulic fracturing and many other critical initiatives.
In the case of I-86, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and I authored legislation designating New York's Route 17 as Interstate 86, in order to bring increased economic activity to the Southern Tier and Catskills regions. In 1998, the 381 mile stretch of Route 17 was set on a path to becoming I-86, making it eligible for a wide array of new federal funding. The conversion of Route 17 to I-86 will eventually provide a federal interstate connection from I-90 at Erie, PA to I-87 at Harriman, NY. And the New York State Department of Transportation is currently planning a major reconstruction project for Prospect Mountain in Binghamton, New York, which will create more than 200 jobs.
And I am very proud of the fight I led first in Albany and later in Washington to force General Electric to pay for and clean up the 1.3 million pounds of PCBs it dumped into the Hudson River between 1947 and 1977. Dating back to my days as Chair of the State Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, I fought against numerous attempts to delay and narrow the clean-up process and worked tirelessly to make sure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held GE responsible for the cleanup. Today, the second and final phase of the clean up process has begun and its commencement is an important step forward in removing the PCB contamination that has plagued this great river for many decades and restoring the river to the great natural resource it once was.
There are so many other accomplishments of which I am very proud and could mention, but I did want to note one other in particular. I'm very proud to have initiated the revitalization of the old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge by drawing attention to its potential and securing the first public funds for what would eventually become the Walkway Over the Hudson. Overall, I directly secured $1.34 million in federal funding for the project and helped deliver an additional $2.4 million through the 2008 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The federal money combined with state and private contributions, namely through Robert Dyson's Dyson Foundation, were used to create what has become the world's longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge. The Walkway has attracted more than 1.2 million visitors since opening to the public in 2009
I am also very proud of all the many battles -- big and small -- that my office has fought on behalf of my constituents. Whether it's been securing Social Security benefits that were previously denied to seniors, resolving immigration and visa issues that reunited families, obtaining medals for veterans who valiantly served their country, nominating hundreds of young men and women to our service academies, or giving tours of the U.S. Capitol Building and White House in Washington, my office has developed a first rate reputation for its strong constituent casework. Again, none of this could have been achieved without the hard work of my staff.
While it's been a privilege to serve in the House for two decades, I never took this opportunity for granted and always understood that I needed to continue to earn the trust of voters every two years.
Some of those campaigns were extremely close while others were not. But I could not have won those 10 races for Congress and nine races for the Assembly without the hard work and dedication of my campaign supporters. They are the ones who knocked on doors, made phone calls, displayed bumper stickers, and provided the financial resources that were necessary for me to get my message out. It was a wild ride and I am very thankful for the time and energy that so many people put into my campaigns over the years.
While part of me is sad that there won't be another campaign this year, I am very much at peace with my decision and excited and ready for this next chapter in my life. At this time, I do not know exactly all I will do, but I plan to write, travel, and spend more time with my family and friends.
I also know that I plan to stay publicly active and will speak out on the many issues confronting our great nation. There is an extraordinary amount of work that needs to be done to improve our economy, help strengthen the middle class, protect the environment, safeguard civil liberties, and help shield our nation from various threats. But it's time for someone else to fight those battles in Congress on behalf of the people I've proudly represented for two decades.
There will definitely be a transition for me to become a private citizen, but just like I've always encouraged my constituents to do, I will speak up and let my voice be heard on the many important issues of the day. An effective democracy is one in which the people stand up and fight for what they believe and I will do just that.
I leave Congress with no regrets, but with a strong appreciation and love for this extraordinary institution, our democracy, and the people of our nation, particularly the people of this great district who I love dearly. Thank you.