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- D, primary challenger, Allegheny, PA House Candidate, 2006, 27th
- Member of Crafton Borough Council since 2000.
- representative and board member of Robinson Emergency Medical Services
- Grad of Greensburg-Salem High School and University of Pittsburgh, Mechanical Engineering.
- Engineer, and member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Water Environment Federation, and the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association.
The Pay RaiseEdit
Some say it was a good thing, others say it was a bad thing, and nearly everyone knows it was ugly.
It was good because:
- The media has started asking serious questions about how the General Assembly operates.
- Pennsylvanians have been at the water coolers discussing how our state government should be reformed.
- Without it, the career politicians would be unopposed again in their primary elections.
It was bad because:
- The General Assembly passed it in the middle of the night when no one was looking, and gave themselves “unvouchered expenses” to skirt the prohibition against a pay raise in their present term.
- They did not follow normal General Assembly procedures of having public committee hearings and floor debate.
- They can do this again at any time with any bill.
It was ugly because:
- Our career politicians still think that they are not answerable to the tax-paying citizens, and that they do not have to take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
- The legislators tried to blame the media and non-profit organizations for the public outcry against the pay raise.
- They thought that they were untouchable, and that their gerrymandered districts guaranteed their re-election.
- They resisted giving the expenses back, and even tried to use it as a type of illegal campaign contribution by giving it to charities when they knew it was against the PA House rules.
All Pennsylvanians have the right to send their children to a public school and have the right to expect their children to receive a quality primary and secondary education. The Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees this right.
Most of the states in the U.S. share the cost of basic education with local school districts. But in Pennsylvania this state share is much lower than most other states, and much lower than the national average. This puts a severe strain on local school districts to supply more of the funding, 80% of which comes from local property taxes. For areas with high average income levels and high property values, this may not be a burden. But for those school districts with lower average income levels, or little commercial and industrial property, this either means much higher property taxes or less spending on education.
What has resulted is the present inequality in funding from one school district to the next. Among the 12 states with the highest populations, PA is next to last in basic education funding equity. This must change if we are to follow the PA Constitution’s requirement to maintain and support “a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”
Vocational/technical schools, building trades schools, community colleges, or 4-year public colleges and universities should be available to all Pennsylvanians at an affordable cost if we are to meet the growing business demand for a highly-skilled and educated workforce in today’s knowledge-based economy.At our public institutions, this funding is provided from local and state sources, and compared to the 12 states with the highest populations, PA is last in spending per student at 2-year and 4-year public schools. To cut costs, many students are attending community colleges, and then transferring to 4-year institutions. This puts pressure on community college budgets at a time when local governments have many other demands on their tax dollars.
We have a large number of highly regarded colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. We need to lower the financial barrier created by high student tuition by increasing the state’s financial commitment to these institutions and increasing student financial aid.
Pennsylvania lags the nation in job growth and the Pittsburgh region lags the rest of the state, and is projected to continue to do so as our region’s economy and mix of jobs changes. The future demand for specific skills and opportunities means that we have to adapt our education and training practices to meet these new opportunities. Our elected officials must recognize and reject the failed and ineffective policies of the past when it best serves the future of our communities.
Our region’s economy has undergone a major “restructuring.” To the average middle-class worker in the 27th District, this has meant a rapid loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs. This comes at a steep price as many are forced to accept service jobs with much lower incomes. The result has been dramatic for the City of Pittsburgh and the inner ring of communities surrounding the city:
- Personal income and housing values have not kept up with the rest of the region
- Our urban core is being hollowed out as incentives are given to development in the outer suburbs and rural areas, and businesses move from the inner core
- Dollars are thrown at this new greenfield development, while pennies are given for redevelopment of brownfield sites
We must encourage the increase of good-paying manufacturing and craft jobs, while stimulating the growth of the high-tech and health-care sectors with their professional, managerial, and technical jobs.
Campaign Finance ReformEdit
A candidate for a federal office can receive a maximum of $2,000 from one individual per election. A candidate for PA state office can receive an unlimited amount of money from one individual per election.
An individual is limited to $37,500 for all contributions to federal candidates per election. An individual can contribute an unlimited amount of money to PA state candidates per election.
The General Assembly has had decades to change the state laws and they have done nothing. Why not? Isn’t it obvious? Putting limits on contributions would put career politicians’ re-elections at risk.
This is an issue of the accountability of our elected officials. Our government must be one that is “of the people and by the people,” not of and by the largest contributors.
To assure that our elected officials have “Integrity and Ethics” we need to have Pennsylvania restrictions that, at a minimum, mirror the federal McCain-Feingold’s elimination of “soft” money given to political parties and a cap on “hard” money contributions given directly to candidates. When nearly a million dollars is spent on one local PA Senate race, the system must be changed.
These restrictions will help make campaigns a little more competitive. However, even with these limits, the voice of the average American is growing weaker with every election. The influence of large corporations and special interest groups are growing stronger and have continuously degraded the access and voice that should be the right of every American to the political system. We need to have comprehensive campaign reform to reclaim our democracy.
How? One method has been used in other states such as Arizona and North Carolina and it offers full public financing for candidates who agree to spending limits and who reject private contributions. The Clean Money, Clean Elections system works in these and other states. It allows candidates to campaign without compromising their independence since they do not have to ask for money from individuals and special interest groups. It also allows elected officials to use their valuable time doing the peoples work instead of constantly begging for contributions. For more information on this, look at the website http://www.publiccampaign.org.
The recent proposed cuts in federal Medicare and Medical Assistance (Medicaid) programs are putting a strain on Pennsylvania's budget, and it is expected to get worse if the federal cuts are passed by Congress. This is extremely significant for PA because health care spending makes up a greater than average portion of the state's gross domestic product than most other states, due mainly to two factors:
- Our relatively large percentage of senior citizens
- Our number of large medical centers which form a health infrastructure that serves not only Pennsylvanians, but also people from other states and countries.
This academic health system puts PA on the map as a world leader in many medical fields, and contributes to the relatively high number of doctors in the state relative to our population. However, there are still many areas in both rural and urban PA where our citizens are medically underserved.
The amount of Medical Assistance (Medicaid) spending as a percentage of total state spending is among the highest in the country. While this may mean broader benefits as well as advanced medical procedures, this also comes with higher costs. The result is that the state has fewer resources to spend on other priorities and programs.
One obvious concern to Pennsylvanians has been the change in health insurance premiums. Since the mid-1990s, health premiums have risen at about 3 times the rate of inflation. For working families, this has resulted in undesireable activities by their employers, such as:
- Diverting employer's profits from other business activities such as re-investment and expansion which would otherwise increase the number of jobs.
- Requiring employees to pay for more of the cost of medical insurance
- Terminating medical insurance altogether
One positive sign is that Pennsylvania is a leader in providing health care for youth. Children are more likely to have medical insurance in PA than in most other states, and efforts are continuing to lower the number of uninsured children. But again, federal cuts are putting these efforts at risk as parents are having a growing difficulty obtaining adequate medical insurance through their employers.
The high cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors in Pennsylvania has created a severe problem and put their continued presence in the state at risk.
What can be done?
One solution that has been proposed is to assure comprehensive medical service to all Pennsylvanians by using the great cost efficiencies of a single payer system. Legislation has been introduced called "The Balanced and Comprehensive Health Reform Act" which, among other things:
- Creates a Health Care Trust for all Pennsylvanians
- Creates a new "wellness curriculum" in our schools
- Encourages a "culture of wellness" by supporting healthful lifestyles
- Supports common sense approaches to eliminate medical errors.
- Guarantees equal medical care for all people in the state, no matter if they live in rural areas or urban areas that now lack adequate care
- Adopts a "no-fault" system that provides fair compensation where it is appropriate, thus helping to eliminate the malpractice crisis
- Virtually eliminates all doctor and hospital malpractice premiums
This comprehensive and innovative approach to medical care can make Pennsylvania a model for the nation, help both employers and employees and maintain our health care to our senior citizens, children, and all working families.
- Lost to Tom Petrone in primary.