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Priorities and Issues
My legislative focus is defined by my primary mission as your state senator, to promote and protect the well-being and the quality of life of my constituents in the 11th Senatorial District.
A Great Education for All
I believe very strongly that public and higher education have been and will be the ticket to prosperity for us individually and as a community. Because our children will be the workforce that allows the state to be competitive in a global economy, they need an education that enables them to meet increasing and evolving future job requirements. And because children cannot succeed in school without parental involvement, I believe parents must have the opportunity to choose the right learning environment for their children, including private and parochial schools and home-schooling. The Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC) is an important tool that enables families to make that choice.
My principal goal is to foster and reinforce economic development in Berks County. I believe good jobs with wages that support families are the foundation of community prosperity. As a result, I meet regularly with individual businesses around the county to learn about their particular abilities and needs, whether they are small enterprises, healthcare or major companies, and I have established a business advisory council of local leaders to assist me. I work actively to bring state government and local resources together with existing and new businesses where we can help them to grow. And on the legislative side, I am co-sponsoring and support proposals to provide job-creation incentives and assistance to employers, and to do away with unreasonable bureaucratic and other barriers to economic development.
Government that Works
Pennsylvania’s diversity presents many types of needs that the private sector will not or cannot meet. Our children must be protected from abuse and neglect and our parents must be able to age in their homes. Travelers must have bridges and roads and the ill and disabled must be cared for. The young must be educated, neighborhoods must be safe, consumers must be shielded from fraud, food must be edible and faucets must provide clean water. These types of things are where government begins. I believe it ends where services are unnecessary or will be effectively provided by the private sector. In between, government must be run in a prudent fiscal manner. Not every wish is a need and not every need can be met. They must be balanced against the fiscal and policy realities that exist or that can be reasonably forecast. For example, we have an oversized legislature that I have introduced legislation to reduce. What might have been necessary in 1870 is bloat today. Similarly, while there is no doubt that the private sector would take over alcohol sales here if the state system was sold, I oppose doing that because it is both fiscally unwise and socially imprudent.
Protecting our Environment
The right to a clean environment is part of our state Constitution, which I swore to uphold. We should maintain it while we use it, and protect it from overuse and abuse for short-term gain. That is why I believe a severance tax, or at least an impact fee on natural gas drilling is not just a no-brainer, but a requirement. Every gas-producing state, including Texas and Alaska, has one. The public overwhelmingly agrees. Even the gas industry supports having one. While the potential economic benefit to Pennsylvania is tremendous, stronger regulations and effective enforcement are needed to ensure that private property and public lands, roads and water resources are protected. This will be expensive, and the industry must pay for it. For the same reasons, drilling revenue also must be used to reinvigorate the Growing Greener program. This state program has helped restore strip mines and polluted waterways left by earlier resource-extraction industries; protect farmland, open spaces and state parks from overdevelopment; and helped communities face land use and water and sewer issues. It is vital to the Pennsylvania way of life.
School Property Taxes
Historically, property taxes have been the most stable revenue source for schools, but they have become unmanageable for too many people. We need a better, fairer method to pay for public education. I am committed to getting Pennsylvania off the property tax, and have already organized a bi-partisan caucus in the Senate to work to find the best way to replace the revenue that the property tax now provides. There are numerous proposals as to what will work, including increasing or expanding sales taxes and personal income taxes. I will support any sustainable and fair funding mechanism. Every level of government must join in and invest time and effort to achieve a better alternative that does not shortchange education.