Two vie for 154th dis­trict seat

Springfield Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin

Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Steve McCarter squares off against Repub­li­can chal­lenger Robert Gil­lies for the 154th dis­trict seat in the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Novem­ber elec­tion. This dis­trict in­cludes Chel­tenham, Jenk­in­town and Spring­field.

Be­fore he was first elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2012, McCarter, 67, said he’s worked in a num­ber of fields over the years. He was a ma­chine op­er­a­tor, U.S. Army Re­serve cap­tain, a high school so­cial stud­ies teacher in the Abing­ton and Lower Me­rion School Dis­tricts for 35 years, la­bor leader and ad­junct pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

He said he’s run­ning for re-elec­tion be­cause he feels he still has a lot left to ac­com­plish in Harrisburg.

“I think one of the ma­jor things is in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. “My back­ground in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion has given me a view that shows what good fund­ing can do for schools, what good ad­min­is­tra­tion is like, to make sure that the best pos­si­ble re­sults can hap­pen and at the same time, I want to make sure that ev­ery child in Penn­syl­va­nia gets a qual­ity, world-class ed­u­ca­tion.”

His back­ground in ed­u­ca­tion, he said, makes him the best can­di­date, be­cause he’s seen the changes that have taken place in schools across Philadel­phia and in the sub­urbs.

“I’ve seen how they’ve be­come

chal­lenged,” he said, not­ing the state used to pro­vide 50 per­cent of the fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion, and now it’s down to 35 per­cent, which he called “un­ac­cept­able.”

If re-elected, McCarter said that he would not only make his fo­cus on im­prov­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion, but also im­prov­ing the econ­omy and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Penn­syl­va­nia’s job growth has dropped pre­cip­i­tously in the last four years,” he said of the econ­omy. “We have not re­cov­ered in many ar­eas of the state from the re­ces­sion. We need to help small busi­nesses in Penn­syl­va­nia be able to get job growth … by giv­ing them the in­cen­tive to hire more peo­ple. At the same time, give them a chance for those peo­ple who are hired to work at a liv­ing wage. So it works both ways.”

As for the en­vi­ron­ment, McCarter said he was com­mit­ted to help­ing fix the flood­ing prob­lems in his dis­trict by work­ing closely with the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers to find ways to drain wa­ter grad­u­ally and hold off on con­struc­tion projects near ri­par­ian buf­fers close to wa­ter­ways to pre­serve wa­ter ab­sorp­tion.

Lastly, McCarter said he was in fa­vor of a nat­u­ral gas ex­trac­tion tax from drilling com­pa­nies as a source of in­come for the state.

Gil­lies, 54, a project man­ager at A.P. Con­struc­tion, Inc. and mem­ber of the Spring­field Town­ship Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, said he’s run­ning for of­fice be­cause he’s try­ing to cut down on over-reg­u­la­tion in gov­ern­ment.

“Be­ing a com­mis­sioner for 15 years in Spring­field, you see a lot of how the state reg­u­la­tions im­pact our abil­ity to man­age the town­ship in some ways and reg­ula- tions that come and pre­vent us from do­ing cer­tain things or re­quire us to do oth­ers that aren’t as ef­fi­cient as they could be,” he said. “That’s on the gov­ern­ment side. On the business side, com­ing from a con­struc­tion ca­reer, you see how the gov­ern­ment im­pacts the abil­ity to add growth and de­vel­op­ment to cre­ate jobs. So I feel with the ex­pe­ri­ence in the con­struc­tion world, and 15 years as a com­mis­sioner, I can go to Harrisburg and make a dif­fer­ence and in­crease the abil­ity for the state to grow and be com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket.”

Gil­lies said he’s the best man for the job be­cause of the di­ver­sity of his ex­pe­ri­ence in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors.

“I get to see a va­ri­ety of life ex­pe­ri­ence ver­sus the sin­gu­lar track of a teacher,” he said. “I’m not de­mean­ing that in any shape or form. I’m just try­ing to sep­a­rate the two.”

If elected, Gil­lies said he would fo­cus on re­build­ing the state econ­omy to al­low more peo­ple to find jobs.

“It’s re­ally the job mar­ket, growth and in­creas­ing peo­ple’s dis­pos­able in­come by re­duc­ing gov­ern­ment costs,” he said. “And/or gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions.”

Gil­lies cited gaso­line prices as a prime ex­am­ple of how gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions cause cer­tain prices to rise.

“Not the tax, but reg­u­la­tions within that,” he said. “So it’s a hid­den tax. So that ba­si­cally in­creases the cost of gas.”

He said the same ar­gu­ment could be ap­plied to the is­sue of nat­u­ral gas ex­trac­tion. By adding an ex­trac­tion tax to nat­u­ral gas drilling com­pa­nies, the cost to pay the tax would be passed on to con­sumers liv­ing in state who use that gas to heat their homes. By keep­ing prices low, he ar­gued, nat­u­ral gas con­sumers’ fuel costs are cut in half leav­ing them with more money in their pock­ets.

Lastly, Gil­lies said if elected, he’d like to make sure that gov­ern­ment fol­lows the “con­sti­tu­tional law ver­sus the ex­ec­u­tive law.”

“We have a con­sti­tu­tion we’re sup­posed to follow,” he said. “There’s ways to change laws if you want laws changed. In­di­vid­ual peo­ple shouldn’t be able to change laws.”

Follow Eric Devlin on Twit­ter @Eric_Devlin.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of the can­di­dates

Steve McCarter, the Demo­cratic in­cum­bent, looks to im­prove pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and the econ­omy, plus pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment Robert Gil­lies, run­ning on the Repub­li­can ticket, is a project man­ager at A.P. Con­struc­tion and a mem­ber of the Spring­field Town­ship Board of Com­mis­sion­ers.

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