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Meng explains bid for House

TimesLedger Newspapers

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) hopes to bring jobs back to America from abroad if she is elected to the new Queens congressional seat in September, she told TimesLedger Newspapers in a sit-down interview last week.

Meng, a lawyer and mother of two , was born and raised in the borough before she became the youngest Asian American elected to the state Legislature in 2008.

The assemblywoman said that while Albany has often been synonymous with political dysfunction, the current U.S. House of Representatives is even less well-regarded.

“I think there is a real trust deficit in Congress on behalf of the American people,” Meng said. “I have a track record of going into an institution that’s been traditionally viewed as dysfunctional and trying to accomplish things and get things done for my district.”

Meng would like to see more federal infrastructure projects in Queens for roads and mass transportation. Although she did not have any specific ideas for new projects in the borough, she said the current network of public transportation options needs to be operated more efficiently and spruced up a bit to curb the onslaught of cars that clog the borough’s streets each day.

“People always talk about more parking spaces and I don’t think that necessarily is the way to go,” she said. “You can’t build enough parking spaces.”

The federal government also doles out money for education funding, which Meng said needs to be more equitably distributed to communities.

Middle-class families and schools in neighborhoods like Bayside and Forest Hills are not getting their fair share, she said.

“We’ve been talking to principals who have lost out on Title I funding because they don’t have sufficient numbers of low-income students,” Meng said, referring to a specific type of federal education money.

Meng called Social Security “the savings bank of the American people” and said it must be protected, but there is no need to panic.

“We have enough funds in there until 2033,” she said. “It is not something that is disappearing next year.”

Meng said there is no quick fix to solve the problem, although adding more jobs would let more people pay into the system.

A report by the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare said the cost of Social Security, along with Medicare and Medicaid, has risen to 36 percent of the federal budget, and the sooner legislative action is taken, the more options the government will have to solve the problem.

The federal government could get more money from domestic companies that ship jobs abroad, she said. Meng wants a tax incentive offered to companies that keep jobs in the country, since the incomes of those workers would not only be taxed but would pump money back into the domestic economy.

Meng worked as a public interest lawyer before her election and 2010 re-election to her Assembly seat, which covers most of Flushing. She sits on the Aging, Banks, Children and Families, Labor, Libraries and Education Technology and Small Business committees and the Workplace Safety Subcommittee.

She is currently competing in the Democratic primary for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside), although the boundaries look vastly different after it was redrawn as part of the decennial redistricting process.

She will face off against City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and an allergist from Bayside, Dr. Robert Mittman. The winner of the primary will face Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Green Party candidate Evergreen Chou in the general election.

Meng was endorsed by the Democratic Organization of Queens County.

After her campaign finances were disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, it was found that Meng took a donation from a man named Simon Ting, who pleaded guilty to charges related to the fabrication of voter registration forms during the 2004 election of the assemblywoman’s father, Jimmy Meng.

Meng’s campaign said the $300 donation was above board and she has hired extra staff to pore over all her donations and ensure they are legitimate in light of the federal fund-raising probe into another prominent Asian-American lawmaker from Flushing, City Comptroller John Liu.

“I’m fine with the scrutiny of the highest level, and I think that should be done. But I think that should be done regardless of one’s ethnicity,” she said.

Meng, who speaks Mandarin but has never visited China, has campaign posters in both languages and plans to add more, but also said that drumming up her base support will not be enough.

“The interesting thing about this race is that no one candidate will be able to win on their base alone,” she said.

Meng is also hoping women voters will vote to put her in office to balance gender ratios in Washington, D.C.

Currently, 83 percent of Congress is made up of men, she said, and that male-led legislative body has been passing bills that are harmful to women.

“I never thought that this year there would be so many issues that, as a woman, I would have to argue,” she said, referring specifically to the Violence Against Women Act, which is going through a contentious renewal process.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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