Merced County Times Newspaper
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Rep. Costa highlights strong effort for residents

Jim Costa
Jim Costa

When Congressman Jim Costa attended the State of the Union Address this week in Washington, he invited Enid Picart — a first generation college student who graduated from UC Merced and a current medical student at UDSF-Fresno.

He did so to raise awareness about the shortage of physicians in the valley.

“Enid has dedicated her career to improving healthcare for Central Valley residents,” Costa said. “She represents the best of the valley, and why the Expanding Medical Education Act, which I introduced last month, is key to closing the doctor shortage in the Central Valley. We need more passionate people like Enid, who know our communities, to stay and commit to our future. With an investment in them, we can ensure every valley resident has access to the healthcare they deserve.”

The Expanding Medical Education Act would provide $200 million dollars to establish medical training in areas of high need, with priorities for funding given to institutions, such as UCSF-Fresno, that focus on diverse and medically deprived communities. Increased federal funding in this area would also have an impact on undergraduate work at UC Merced and potential new medical science facilities on campus.

Affordable and accessible health care for valley residents is a key issue in Costa’s re-election bid to represent the 16th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The incumbent faces fellow Democrats Esmeralda Soria and Kim Williams, along with Republican Kevin Cookingham, in the March 3 Primary. District 16 covers Merced and Madera counties, as well as the city of Fresno. If no one candidate gets a majority vote then the top two will face each other in a November runoff.

“When you look at my legislative accomplishments for the people of Merced County, and throughout the San Joaquin Valley, it is a strong record of getting the job done — whether we are talking about the passage of the Affordable Care Act and then defending it when they tried to repeal it 84 times, or whether we are talking about protecting insurance benefits for those with pre-existing conditions, or whether we are talking about the expansion of health care clinics for rural communities. It’s a big thing.”

Costa notes that in 2010, 24 percent of valley residents were listed as having no insurance at all, and 17 percent were considered “underinsured.” Today, the number of those who are uninsured has been cut in half, or at 10 percent, according to the congressman.

“One of the other aspects that doesn’t get discussed much in the media, but we can see it going to work all over Merced County, Madera and Fresno, is the $8 billion set aside to build and expand health care clinics across America. … You look at the clinics in Livingston and the tremendous expansion that has happened, including in Delhi and Winton. You look at Golden Valley Health Centers in Merced and all their new clinics. You look at the community-based clinic set up at Livingston High School. … I mean now you have dental care options in Hilmar that you didn’t have before. … I can point to all sorts of improvements across the district, and I’m very proud of this effort.”

Costa can just as easily rattle off a long list of improvements to transportation and water infrastructure as examples of how tax dollars return from Washington to improve the quality of life in the region. He says ongoing federal funding is helping to improve Highways 99, 152 and 59, and this includes the addition of the fifth and sixth lanes on a bottleneck stretch of 99 in Madera that has suffered from traffic congestion.

In Costa’s ongoing efforts to improve water storage and reliability in the San Joaquin Valley,the Merced Irrigation District is receiving help to raise the gates at the New Exchequer Dam. There’s continued funding for flood control issues in the area. And they’re working on a seismic retrofit of the San Luis Reservoir that will also include additional water storage.
Just this week, Congressman Costa introduced the Conveyance Capacity Correction Act, legislation that would provide $400 million dollars to complete repairs to the Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct. The move was part of a package of legislation sponsored by other valley representatives to address water issues, including surface storage.
“The availability of a clean and reliable supply of water is the foundation of our valley economy,” Costa pointed out. “Farmers need water to feed the world and life becomes near impossible for residents who lack clean drinking water,” said Costa. “We need to invest in our water infrastructure now, for the future sustainability of our state.”

Costa adds that one of the main reasons he is running for re-election is to be part of an overall effort on the federal level to invest in America’s infrastructure — transportation, water and facilities linked to education and health care.

The candidate applauds the passage of the recent trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico with “overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Says Costa, “It’s very good for the Central Valley as it relates to dairy products here in Merced that are sent to Mexico, as it relates to some of the obstacles milk products face in Canada, and as it relates to our ability to move California wines, and a host of other products that we produce. This trade agreement will go a long way.”

He adds that his seniority on the House Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources Committee has allowed him to be a “voice for the valley people, especially in terms of agriculture, farm labor and trade.”

In an earlier Times election profile, Costa’s challenger in the election — Fresno City Council member Esmeralda Soria — said the 16th District is need of “stronger leadership and a new perspective.”
In response, Costa told the Times the following …

“The Hispanic Caucus in Washington — of which I have been a member since I was first elected in 2004 — has endorsed my re-election. There are reasons why Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and Congresswoman Norma Torres are coming this month to campaign on my behalf. The governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general are all coming to an event of mine later this month. State Senators Anna Caballero and Melissa Hurtado, as well as Assemblyman Adam Gray have endorsed me. And there are three members of the Fresno City Council who are endorsing me. … As a matter of fact, Esmeralda Soria herself endorsed me in the last election …

“There’s a lot of hypocrisy here … If she thought I was good for working families … If she thought I was good working with the city of Fresno on housing issues, and its homeless issues, and helping open up the Fulton Street Mall, and the $16 million I helped the City of Fresno receive in the form of a TIGER grant … Well … I have to say … I haven’t changed in a year. … I’m still the same effective, forceful advocate with a very good perspective. … I think the only thing that has changed is her ambition. …

“When you look at the comprehensive record of accomplishments in recent years that I have played a part in … I don’t know what she means by this new perspective, except that she feels it would be nicer if she were in Congress rather than me. To me that doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t have the seniority I have. I’m the third ranking member of the House Ag Committee. I’m the third ranking member of the House Resource Committee. And I’m a senior member of the Hispanic Caucus. If you look at the length and breadth of the representation I provide, you will see she doesn’t have the nuance, the expertise, nor the understanding needed to deal with this region’s water issues, agricultural issues, air quality issues, and quality of life issues … along with challenges to improving health care, and continuing to reduce the price of prescription drugs … and to build a medical school in this valley.

“It’s really simple. This so-called ‘new perspective’ is ill-defined except as it relates to her own persona.”
Costa’s list of endorsements is too long to mention but it includes more than 50 entries from state and local leaders, organizations and groups — not including those on a national level.

Congressman Costa — the grandson of Portuguese immigrants — is an active third-generation family farmer and lifelong San Joaquin Valley resident.

He is a product of Fresno County schools, and he graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School. His Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science is from California State University, Fresno.

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