Most Swarthmorean readers will be represented by the winners of the races for Pennsylvania’s 9th Senatorial district and 161st Legislative district. The Swarthmorean asked Republican and Democratic party candidates for their answers to a few questions of interest to us, and, we hope, to you. Their answers follow.
Q1. What is the biggest priority to be addressed (and why) in the 2017-18 Pennsylvania budget on the revenue side? On the expenditure side?
Q2: What needs to happen in Harrisburg to make Pennsylvania’s legislature more responsive to your constituents’ priorities? How will you help bring that about?
Q3: Does the Pennsylvania legislature have a role to play in containing health care cost growth? What measures do you favor exploring toward that end?
PA Legislative District 161
Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D), Incumbent
A1: On the revenue side, I’m fighting for a fairer tax system. My first priority is to continue to fight for a severance tax on oil & gas companies to make them pay their fair share for the natural resources that they are extracting from our soil. We also need to close corporate loopholes so that multinational corporations can’t get away with avoiding taxes in Pa. Right now, 30% of the businesses pay 100% of the corporate net income tax that’s generated and that’s not fair. The burden falls on small business owners and if we close the Delaware loophole, we could cut the corporate net income tax in half AND generate more resources for public education and human services. I will continue to advocate for increased funding for Pre-K and public K-12 education, as well as ensuring stability of programs that benefit seniors and those with disabilities.
A2: We need to decrease the influence of lobbyists in our government. That is why I’ve supported bills that would ban lobbyists from being campaign consultants, increase lobbying disclosure, and support common sense campaign finance reform. Every legislator makes a choice on who they will listen to when it comes to legislation and they can choose their constituents or special interests. I have spent the last 14 months meeting with our school superintendents, parents, and students about their needs. I don’t take money from oil and gas companies because my job is to stand up for taxpayers here in Delaware County, and that’s what I’ll continue to do if I am reelected in November.
A3: Yes, absolutely. Governor Wolf expanded Medicaid as enabled by the Affordable Care Act and we were able to cover an additional 670,000 Pennsylvanians. The legislature would do well to make that expansion of Medicaid law. Insuring as many people as possible will inevitably curb costs for taxpayers and keep insurance premiums in check.
Patricia Rodgers Morrisette (R)
Swarthmorewood, Ridley Township
A1: On the revenue side, I believe we need to work to pass an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale and dedicate that funding to addressing the looming state pension crisis, which represents tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. These pension payments need to be our biggest priority on the expenditure side. Those billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities represent a ticking time bomb that threatens the fiscal strength of the state and our ability to fund important programs such as education and social services. I believe by making drillers pay their fair share, we can begin to accumulate revenues that, over time, can help mitigate the unfunded liabilities we face.
A2: I have been very active in our local community for many years, which provides me with a strong understanding of the priorities of local residents. I am an involved member of the Delaware County Women’s Commission, the Advisory Committee of the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) and the Ridley Township Economic Development Committee. I believe my involvement in groups like this will help to make me more responsive. I have never run for political office, but decided to run because I did not feel our voice was being heard in Harrisburg. I have been very disappointed by some of my opponent’s votes, which I view as hurting working women. Specifically, she supported an increase in the personal income tax and new sales taxes on things like daycare and senior care. I have lived in this district my entire life. I know that people are hurting and many workers are no longer receiving annual salary increases that keep pace with inflation. I feel that my experience in the community will make me more responsive to my constituents and I will speak out for them in the legislature to try to return some level of common sense to our state government.
A3: Unknown to many Pennsylvania citizens, the state has a separate independent state agency that has the duty and responsibility to oversee and make recommendations to address rapidly growing health care costs, present strategies to contain costs, and stimulate competition in the health care industry. I believe the legislature should look to increase funding for this important agency so that it can continue to do comparative analysis on health care pricing and provide increased transparency. In addition, there are a range of common sense approaches that the state legislature can take to reduce health care costs. I was pleased to see the legislature approved legislation earlier this year to enter an interstate compact on telemedicine that enables Pennsylvania patients to obtain treatment from doctors in others states via telemedicine. This has the potential to help reduce costs while ensuring that patients have access to some of the nation’s leading medical experts in their fields.
PA Senate District 9
Thomas Killion (R), Incumbent
A1: In the House of Representatives, I was one of just 11 Republican members to support a reasonable tax on Marcellus Shale to ensure drillers pay their fair share. As a sitting member of the Senate, I believe I am in a better position to help get this reasonable tax on drillers passed, particularly given the budget deficit we face. This is one way we can help shore up the Commonwealth’s revenue streams. As a small business owner and job creator, I also know the importance of a strong economy in helping to increase state revenues. We need to do all that we can to attract new businesses to the Commonwealth, much as I did when I helped bring SAP America’s corporate headquarters to Delaware County. On the expenditure side, education has historically been the Commonwealth’s top priority and I was proud to have voted for several budgets that allocated record levels of state funding for K-12 education. I will continue to make education the state’s top priority in future budgets.
A2: I make being responsive to my constituents my top priority. I always make myself available to talk to local residents who call my office and I regularly hold public meetings and town halls so that I have the opportunity to hear from residents on important issues. One issue I know that local residents care passionately about is preserving open space and protecting our environment. That is why I took the lead in introducing Growing Greener 3 legislation to create new funding for open space preservation, improvements of our park system, trails and efforts to protect our stream and other waterways. I know that local residents care passionately about their pets and animal welfare, which is why I am one of the legislature’s leading advocates in combatting animal abuse, puppy mills, and animal neglect. My strong stance on these issues has earned me the endorsement of Humane PA. I know residents also care passionately about gun control issues, which is why I bucked my own party and have supported a host of common sense gun control reforms. My principled stance on gun issues — which reflects the views of my constituents — has earned me the endorsement of Delaware County for Sensible Gun Policy as well as Ceasefire PA.
A3: Early detection of diseases is a common sense way to reduce costs while also ensuring that we are helping to provide the best health care for our residents. Along these lines, I supported a common sense law, the Breast Density Notification Act that requires mammogram reports to include breast density information. This simple change greatly improved early detection of breast cancer for thousands of women across Pennsylvania. In addition to saving lives, it also helps reduce costs because it laws for treatment at earlier stages of the disease before it progresses further. We need to take the same approach in other areas, particularly as it relates to senior care. Approximately 2.7 million of Pennsylvanians are 60 and over — that is about 21 percent of our population. Our senior population is going to continue to make up a greater percentage of our population as older Pennsylvanians continue to age. I believe we can do more in the legislature to ensure that our seniors are receiving access to care, particularly early diagnoses of diseases. Early diagnoses improves the healthcare outcomes for seniors — making it more likely that they can beat the disease. But catching a disease in its early stages also allows for early treatment, which can be less costly. Another way to reign in healthcare costs — and improve the ability of our seniors and other Pennsylvanians to have access to specialists — is through innovation. During my few months in the Senate, I introduced a telemedicine bill that was signed into law with the support of health advocacy organizations across the state. This new law greatly expands Pennsylvanians’ access to specialized care, saves time, reduces costs and improves health care outcomes. It allows patients to connect to top specialists at a distance, deliver life-saving care and provide routine care in a cost-effective manner. I believe it is the wave of the future in health care, and I am pleased to have helped place our state at the forefront of this new technology. I would also note that Pennsylvania has a growing senior population.
Marty Molloy (D)
A1: The largest priority in terms of revenue is that we need a shale extraction tax. We are simply forcing individual taxpayers to bear the burden of funding education, infrastructure, and so many other critical functions of our state, while gas drillers and multinational corporations get a free ride. If we don’t force those entities to pay their fair share, we will be forced to cut in the areas of education, senior programs, and prisons. We must restore the funds cut from education funding during the Corbett administration, and expand the fair funding formula to include all education funding, rather than just new money in order to fix the horrible inequities in our system.
A2: Legislators must first start by being more accountable to their constituents by following through on the promises they make on the campaign trail. The overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians believe that we should enact a severance tax, which is what I will support and vote for in Harrisburg, and I will refuse any donations from the oil and gas industry. We must also reform the redistricting process, by taking it out of the hands of politicians. The responsibility of redistricting should be given to a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Representatives must also be more accessible to their constituents. Whether by attending community events, holding frequent town halls, or simply being responsive to each constituent that seeks to engage, representatives should make themselves available to their communities and constituents, not special interests in Harrisburg.
A3: A lot of healthcare costs are born out of uninsured citizens waiting to seek treatment until the point at which they are forced to use an emergency room as a last resort in seeking medical care. Getting people covered incentivizes regular and preventative care. This, in turn, will allow hospitals to operate more efficiently, provide cost savings for taxpayers and current insurance subscribers, and improve the lives of thousands.