Cory Booker stops in Las Vegas, answers questions on affordable housing, Medicare for all

Cory Booker talked with the USA TODAY Network in Las Vegas about charter schools, universal medicare and navigating a Republican-controlled senate. Reno Gazette Journal

LAS VEGAS – Democratic presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker returned to Southern Nevada this week for a multi-day stop along the campaign trail.

Booker, who rose to national fame as a New Jersey mayor and senator, spent Friday afternoon visiting with his mother in the neighboring community of Summerlin. Before he visited his family, he sat down for an exclusive interview with the USA Today Network.

He touched on his ties to Las Vegas, his proposals to tackle affordable housing and universal health care – and his plans for navigating a U.S. Senate under Republican rule.

On his Las Vegas connections:

I’ve been coming to this city for decades. My mom lives here – grandparents, cousins, uncles, a lot of my family has had presence in this wonderful, wonderful city.

On his plan to address the affordable housing crisis:

One of the biggest parts of our affordable housing plan is a renter’s credit for those Americans who are spending more than a third of their income on housing. They are by definition housing insecure.

My proposal is to give everybody something like the earned income tax credit – a refundable credit back for the difference between where a third of your income is and the area of fair market rent. That would give people a lot of resources. In fact, it would life nine-plus million people out of poverty.

It would make a tremendous change for a lot of families. That cost is something we can afford by rolling back the toxic Trump tax cuts and doing things directly targeting those American middle class, working class people who are struggling to make it.

On his history with charter schools and whether they would be part of his national plan:

When I was mayor of the City of Newark, our schools were in crisis. They were under state takeover. I know the anguish from living in high-rise projects for many years, of families who are desperate to find solutions. We found something that worked for our local city – a combination of public charter schools and other traditional public schools working together to create a network of high-performing schools.

Since I was mayor we are now the No. 1 school system in all of America for [Beating the Odds] schools – kids that are high poverty going to high performance. Graduation rates went up 30 percent. We are seeing now such success.

My agenda for being president of the United States is to look at raising teachers’ salary. That’s one of the biggest things that we need to do. In fact, when I had a system in the City of Newark, we were able to raise teacher salary there. I’m going to do that by providing directed tax cuts for teachers, by forgiving teachers’ school debt – and then making sure that we fully fund special education in America.

If you ask me directly about charter schools – they’re three percent of our nation’s public schools. Frankly, I fought to close bad charter schools in Newark and fought against charter schools opening in certain areas. That doesn’t work everywhere. If somebody wants to come after the schools in my city that are working for my kids, they’ll have to come through me.

But on the federal level, as president of the United States, I’m going to be looking to make sure that the traditional public schools in our country have teachers that are well-paid and resources they need to do the job.

Cory Booker stoped in Las Vegas on the campaign trail this week and answered some questions for the Reno Gazette Journal.

(Photo: Ed Komenda / ekomenda@rgj.com)

On what his “Medicare for All” transition plan would look like:

We should have a system in this country where everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care. Where we live right now is a country that is in a terrible perversion, where we’re spending more money than any other country on the planet Earth, but getting some of the worst outcomes for developed nations.

One of the bills that I’ve signed on to and believe in is Medicare for All. There are any pathways of getting there, but it has to start with having a robust, public option. That is something that can make a transformative change in our society – if we had Medicare for people who want it, Medicare eligibility lowered. My work in the Senate for lowering prescription drug costs – all the way to taking away patents from these pharmaceutical companies that raise their prices.

These are all things that can help us to drive down the overall cost of health care in our country and expand access on our way to a system where everybody has access to health care.

On navigating a Republican-controlled senate:

I’m not going to yield to that. This is going to be a robust election. I’m not running as a solo act. If I’m the nominee to be the next president of the United States from the Democratic party, I’m going to remind everybody – this is a team sport, and we’ve got to win back the senate.

And I believe we can and there’s a pathway to doing that so [Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell, [R-Kentucky], is not the majority leader but the minority leader. I don’t care if I have to go door to door as president of the United States in Kentucky to beat him. I’m one of those people that says we need to transform this country in terms of opportunity, education, jobs, security – whatever it takes, whatever the obstacles are, I’m going to take them on in creative ways, so if I have to go door to door in Kentucky to make sure he doesn’t win re-election, whatever it’s going to take.

We need to make sure that people who are blocking progress, blocking change for workers, for retirees, for health care – reforming our political system and getting money out of politics. We are going to win elections. We’re going to win them by empowering grassroots activists, creating a movement in a new majority in this election, the kind of majority that’s not about partisanship, but the kind of majority that’s committed to healing this country, bringing people together so we can continue to be a nation with liberty and justice for all.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.

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