Incumbent Harper faces challengerwhite in 61st
Republican incumbent Kate Harper squares off against Democratic challenger Jo White for the 61st district of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the kovember election.
Harper, now in her sixth term, said she has represented the district since 2001 and has developed an expertise to be an effective legislator, deal with state government and provide affordable public education, higher education, roads and bridges.
She said the biggest challenge the House faces this term will be the “terrible economy” and will fiJKW WR HnFRuUDJH MRE JURwWK. She said she wants to make government helpful instead of a hindrance, adding that the state budget has been balanced for the past four years without having to raise taxes. She said her goal is to “fund the things that need to be funded and not a penny more.”
Another issue the iower dwynedd Township resident said needs to be addressed is the school property tax. She said that schools in the district are excellent, but their cost is driving property taxes up and driving older people out of their homes. She said the state needs to direct more money to sHnLRUs Rn fixHG incomes to offset this cost.
In terms of how she would address school district funding and property tax relief, she said the school districts are 90 percent funded at home. She said the Wissahickon, korth Penn and Colonial school districts are excellent with locally elected board members, whom she supports, but two-thirds of their budgets are salaries and the budget costs rise as salaries increase. Harper said the question is whether the cost gets too much for homeowners OLvLnJ Rn fixHG LnFRPHs SDyLnJ property taxes. Harper proposed a “good and broad tax base” by keeping businesses in the area in order to help pay school property taxes and relieve some of the burden on retirees and others on fixHG LnFRPHs.
TUDIfiF FRnJHsWLRn Ls DnRWKHU Lssue the 56-year-old Harper wants to address. She said many residents commute from one suburb to another and due to a lack of public transportation from SEPT$, LW KDs FDusHG D ORW RI WUDIfiF issues. She said the opening of 5RuWH 202 wLOO EH D “PDMRU ERRn” to the area and also cited the refurbished Route 309 as steps in the direction to help solve this problem.
Harper addressed the environment, where the Marcellus Shale natural gas fracking was an issue she felt needed to be dealt with carefully. She said her focus is not to harm drinking water but FDOOHG WKH SURMHFW D “FULWLFDO SRLnW in Pennsylvania.” She said the SURMHFW SURvLGHs MREs DnG FOHDn energy.
White said her focus was on making Pennsylvania and the 61st district prosper through economic growth, reforming education funding and more regulations on charter schools.
The iower dwynedd Township resident and physician working as a research consultant for pharmaceutical companies said she’s the best candidate for the position because she better represents the constituency. She said she beOLHvHs HDUSHU nR ORnJHU UHflHFWs the more moderate constituency and said she has better ideas for how to move the state forward.
The 58-year-old White said the biggest issue the iegisla- ture faces in the next term is the HFRnRPy DnG MRE growth. She said being a physician she is better suited to deal with the Affordable Care Act and has Medicaid expertise.
She also said the iegislature PusW finG D wDy WR IDLUOy WDx WKH Marcellus Shale drillers to help grow the economy.
“I think it’s something we can use,” White said, adding the additional revenue from the natural gas taxes would help pay for things previously cut by the state.
Another area White said she would like to tackle would be a reform to education funding.
She said there have been large cuts to education, noting education funding has dropped $1 billion per year and larger school districts have received $1 million less in state funding.
She said that Penn State University is the most expensive state college in the country with Temple being a close second. Students are graduating with $31,000 in student loan debt and FDn’W finG MREs.
She said tax revenue collected from Marcellus Shale drilling would be redistributed to education.
She also said that charter schools are very unregulated and are not the best value and would work to provide greater regulations and bring down the cost.
When asked how she would address school district funding and property tax relief she said, while she hadn’t studied the numbers, her ideas included a sales tax to suSSRUW SUHsFKRRO DnG fixHG SURSerty taxes for resident aged 65 and above.
Finally, White said she’d like to see more transparency between the state government and constituency. She said that debates are not open and bills are often passed in the 11th hour.
It’s “not how anyone runs a business or democracy,” White said. She said she would like to see more town hall meetings and would also begin offering webinars.
“It’s 2012 for dod’s sake,” she said.
The 61st district includes korth Wales Borough and portions of iower dwynedd, Montgomery, Plymouth, Towamencin, Upper dwynedd and Whitpain townships.