Saturday, November 3, 2012

2012 Election: Candidates guide

The Mercury asked the candidates for seats representing area readers in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, and U.S. Congress  to answer three questions. Their full, unedited responses are below.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
To find your polling place, click here.
To find what District you live in, click here.
For more voting information, check out these sites.
Vote 411 (League of Women Voters)
Votes PA
Pennsylvania Redistricting

6th District U.S. House
Manan Trivedi
Jim Gerlach

7th District U.S. House
George Badey
Pat Meehan

15th District U.S. House
Rick Daugherty
Charlie Dent

11th District Pa. Senate
Karen Mogel
Judy Schwank

19th District Pa. Senate
Chris Amentas
Andy Dinniman

157th District Pa. House
Paul Drucker
Warren Kampf

150th District Pa. House
Kelly Devine
Mike Vereb

147th District Pa. House
Betty White
Marcy Toepel

146th District Pa. House
Mark Painter
Tom Quigley

134th District Pa. House
John Reynard
Ryan Mackenzie

130th District Pa. House
Russell Diesinger
David Maloney

26th District Pa. House
Mike Hays
Tim Hennessey

U.S. Congress

6th District, U.S. House



Manan Trivedi is running for Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Trivedi, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach, a Republican. The Mercury asked Trivedi, a Berks County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Trivedi follow:

About Manan Trivedi

From boots on the battleground to scrubs in the emergency room, Manan Trivedi’s life’s story and life’s work have prepared him to confront the pressing challenges Congress faces today.

A son of immigrants from India, Manan Trivedi was born and raised with his brother in Fleetwood, Berks County. His parents worked at the old Red Cheek apple juice factory. He attended public schools and graduated from Fleetwood High School. He went on to college and medical school before embarking on a naval career that took him to the front lines of the war in Iraq. Now, he’s a primary care physician in the region, board certified in internal medicine.

Manan Trivedi’s passion for community service began at a very early age. As a young boy, he won a national contest for launching a healthy eating initiative. In college, he received a community service award for his work with HIV/AIDS patients. As a physician, he has treated the poor and uninsured in the inner city.

From 2001 to 2003, Trivedi served as the battalion surgeon for the 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment Marine Corps Infantry Battalion. His battalion was among the first U.S. ground forces to enter Iraq. Trivedi served on the front lines of battle, commanding a medical team that cared for over 1,200 of our troops and hundreds of Iraqi civilians. For his service, Lt. Commander Trivedi earned the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Commendation Medal, and his unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

After his service in Iraq, Trivedi received a Master’s degree in health policy. He drew on his experience with combat medicine to become one of the early researchers to investigate the unique mental health issues affecting our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Trivedi went on to serve as health policy advisor to the Navy Surgeon General and was an assistant professor of medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

Since leaving the Navy, Trivedi has been a primary care physician in the region. He met his wife Surekha while they were in college together. They live with their daughter in Birdsboro, Berks County, where they enjoy outdoor activities and are avid Philadelphia sports fans.

Q. Despite massive government spending over the past four years to “stimulate” the economy, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 43 consecutive months. What should the federal government’s role in job creation be?

A. While the unemployment rate is now at 7.8 percent, our economy continues to struggle and we need to focus on investments that will create new jobs and transform the current system into one that works for everyone.

Whether it’s in information technology, manufacturing, or green technology, we cannot foster this recovery and transformation without a workforce that is well-educated and trained to fill these new jobs. We also need to provide incentives and rewards for businesses that are committed to creating good-paying, quality jobs.

To help get our economy back on track now and to strengthen it for the future, as your Congressman I will take the following key actions:

• Build and maintain our infrastructure: Not only do we need to invest in roads, bridges, and railways to ensure the efficient movement of goods, but we also need to invest in technological infrastructure.
• Ensuring that all businesses and homes have access to broadband technology will help us compete better in the global marketplace.
• Invest in education and job training: To compete locally, nationally and internationally, our workers must have superior skills and education. I will support investments in our workforce that are smart, focused, and will lead to long-term results.
• Support businesses that create American jobs: Ingenuity and entrepreneurship have always been the cornerstones of our country’s economic success. We must foster this ingenuity by supporting businesses with good ideas that will continue to drive job-creation in this country. I will support tax incentives that prevent outsourcing and encourage expansion and new hiring here in America.
• I will support tax incentives that encourage expansion and new hiring.
Help families pay for higher education: The skyrocketing cost of college tuition and the struggling economy have put the goal of obtaining a degree out of the reach for too many families. I will support tuition assistance programs to help hardworking students who cannot afford college. And we must do just as much to make vocational and technical training affordable for students who are not college bound.

These investments will help us develop the highly skilled workforce we need to compete and win in the global economy.

These investments will pay dividends in the form of a better-educated, stronger workforce.

Q. Despite an outreach program to the Muslim world by the current administration and billions of dollars in U.S. aid, attacks on U.S. interests are on the rise worldwide. What should U.S. policy toward Muslim nations be over the next four years?

A. As an Iraq War veteran I have real world, boots-on-the-ground experience in the middle-east. As more and more Arab countries continue to express their desire for creating more democratic forms of government to represent them, we must always keep in mind the pressures of dealing with any extreme factions as a subset. Maintaining a presence in the region is not only vital to our global economic interests but in the interest of establishing a more prosperous future. The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world seeks a path toward a peaceful coexistence and we should recognize the opportunities to foster those desires.

Beyond our military and financial ability to encourage democracy in the region, we must be willing to use our unique historical perspective to guide those we seek a more cooperative and just form of governance.

Q. Gas prices have doubled in the past four years and electricity rates are expected to skyrocket as more coal-burning plants are shut down in the U.S. What can the federal government do to support affordable and environmentally-safe energy resources?

A. Access to reliable, affordable energy is vital to the success of the United States economy and our global security. But our continued dependence on dwindling oil reserves from foreign sources poses a threat to U.S. national security and the burning of fossil fuels has had severe consequences for our environment. America has reached a critical juncture where energy policy decisions must be made to create greener and cleaner sources of power.

Clean and green energy technologies, including advanced solar and wind, geothermal, and wave, may take years to achieve their full replacement potential. It is imperative to support many of these projects concurrently and without delay to allow the best technologies to mature as quickly as possible. I will support the funding of innovative energy projects that offer promise for decreasing our reliance on foreign sources of energy.

Support energy efficiency initiatives: Improving energy efficiencies in existing U.S. residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors represents one of the most straightforward means for reducing our energy use. I will develop and support prudent national policies to improve energy efficiencies.

Expanding rail and other forms of public transportation: The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that using public transportation in the United States saves approximately 4 billion gallons of gasoline annually. I will work to make public transit systems more accessible, efficient, and reliable in and between more cities and communities—large and small.

Modernize our electrical grid: I will support the modernization of the aging U.S. power infrastructure with the development of smart grid and meter systems.
These improved systems can save energy, reduce costs, and improve reliability.
Collaborate with all stakeholders in the energy dialogue:

Energy is a shared concern for developed and developing nations alike. I will work with local, state, national, and international partners on mutually beneficial energy policies that address our shared need to develop new, sustainable sources of fuel and reverse the detrimental effects of global climate change.


Jim Gerlach is running for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 6th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Gerlach, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Manan Trivedi. The Mercury asked Gerlach, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Gerlach follow:

About Jim Gerlach

I was elected to Congress in 2002 and have been proud of my record as one of the most independent Republicans in Washington that always puts local taxpayers first. I've lived in Chester County for over 30 years, where I work and have raised my family. This election cycle, I've again been endorsed by our local business organizations for my work on creating jobs, our local police, our local teachers, and the Humane Society for my work on ending puppy mills. In Congress, I have fought hard for less spending, a Balanced Budget Amendment so we stop borrowing from China, lower taxes for families and businesses, and have been a leader on open space and farmland preservation. I've also never voted for a pay raise in my life. I serve on the Ways and Means Committee which gives our area a strong local voice into important national decisions that impact taxpayers, businesses and seniors.

Q. Despite massive government spending over the past four years to “stimulate” the economy, the unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for 43 consecutive months. What should the federal government’s role in job creation be?

A. We have to get the government out of the way of business if we want them to create jobs. I've voted for over 25 pro-job and pro-growth bills, which cut taxes on small businesses, reduced costly regulations that stifle job growth, and allow for far greater investment in America-made energy. I have also advocated for key tax reform measures to protect businesses and grow our economy. In particular, I have supported a simplified plan that will consolidate 6 tax brackets into 2, reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, repeal the AMT, broaden the tax base, and shift from a worldwide system of business taxation to a territorial tax structure so American companies can better compete with foreign competitors. This plan would create 1 million jobs in the first year. The President's $800 billion stimulus failed to achieve the promises that were made about reducing unemployment, used tax dollars to create jobs in China, wasted millions on programs like ant research, and even allowed million dollar bonuses for 73 Wall Street executives at bailed-out AIG.

Q. Despite an outreach program to the Muslim world by the current administration and billions of dollars in U.S. aid, attacks on U.S. interests are on the rise worldwide. What should U.S. policy toward Muslim nations be over the next four years?

A. First, we should work with pro-democratic factions within Muslim countries to support peace, freedom and friendly relations with the United States. Otherwise, we risk nations turning to China or Russia for political and foreign support, which lessens the US strategic role in the world. Second, I believe we need to reaffirm that Israel is our strongest ally in the region and that position will not be compromised. We have long worked with its neighbors to promote a stabilized Middle East. A nuclear armed Iran however will have destabilizing effects in the region by promoting an arms race within unstable nations. We can't let that happen.

Q. Gas prices have doubled in the past four years and electricity rates are expected to skyrocket as more coal-burning plants are shut down in the U.S. What can the federal government do to support affordable and environmentally-safe energy resources?

A. We need an above-all approach to energy, which means cultivating our safe offshore oil and gas drilling, increasing our use of nuclear and clean coal, as well as wind, solar and other renewables. Attacking abundant and cheap fossil fuels like coal and oil will result in higher energy prices for families and make us more dependent on foreign nations for oil. I believe we must open up more safe onshore and offshore drilling sites which create good-paying American jobs, and then reinvest the royalties back into transportation infrastructure and renewable research. The Keystone pipeline was a perfect example of that, providing 100,000 jobs with the support of business and labor. The President's cancellation of the project now means that oil could flow to China, jobs here won't be created, and the US becomes more reliant on the middle east for oil.

15th District, U.S. House


CHARLIE DENT

Charlie Dent is running for re-election in Pennsylvania’s 15th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dent, a Republican, is challenged by Rick Daugherty. The Mercury asked Dent, a Lehigh Valley native, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Dent follow:

About Charlie Dent

I have been happily married to my wonderful wife, Pamela, for 21 years. We have been blessed with three great children – Kathryn, William and Jack. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Foreign Service and International Politics and received a Master's of Public Administration from Lehigh University. I have served in both the Pennsylvania state House and state Senate and was elected to Congress in 2004. I currently serve on the House Committees of Appropriations.

Q. Despite massive government spending over the past four years to “stimulate” the economy, the unemployment rate has been above 8% for 43 consecutive months. What should the federal government’s role in job creation be?

A. To grow the economy and create jobs, Congress must 1.) enact tax reform that is fairer, flatter and simpler 2.) maximize North American energy production 3.) boost American manufacturing competitiveness by opening markets to benefit American companies, farmers and consumers 4.) ensure that American workers have the training required to meet the needs of American employers and 5.) lower our long-term debt by controlling government spending and placing the country on a sustainable fiscal path.

Q.  Despite an outreach program to the Muslim world by the current administration and billions of dollars in U.S. in foreign, attacks on U.S. interests are on the rise worldwide. What should U.S. policy toward Muslim nations be over the next four years?

A. We must continue to support our democratic and strategic partner in the region, Israel. We also must strive to prevent Iran from developing nuclear armaments. The U.S. most protect its interests by working closely with progressive, modern and secular Muslim leaders who reject terrorism and religious extremism, while isolating and opposing hostile regimes like Syria and Iran. It is also imperative that we support democratic capacity building initiatives where it is practical.

Q. Gas prices have doubled in the past four years and electricity rates are expected to skyrocket as more coal-burning plants are shut down in the U.S. What can the federal government do to support affordable and environmentally-safe energy resources?

A. Develop North American energy resources by embracing an “all of the above” policy that diversifies our national energy portfolio and that maximizes efficiency and conservation. Conventional fuels like oil, coal, natural gas as well as renewables and alternative sources are critical to energy self-sufficiency.

RICK DAUGHERTY

Rick Daugherty is running for election in Pennsylvania’s 15th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Daugherty, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Charlie Dent. The Mercury asked Daugherty, a Lehigh Valley native, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. Daugherty did not respond to our request.
A short biography of Daugherty pulled from his campaign website is below.

About Rick Daugherty

Rick grew up in the west Bethlehem area where his father, a combat veteran of WWII, his mother, and two brothers lived in a ranch house on Troxell Street. His parents founded Daugherty Travel Agency located on the eastside of Allentown.  Rick attended the Catasauqua School District from kindergarten to high school.  He played football and track.  Later he graduated from Moravian College with a bachelor's degree in social work.  He is a lifelong member of Saint Andrew’s church.
   Rick helped children in foster care grow and mature while at Pinebrook Family Services, and he helped homeless families become more self sufficient at New Bethany Ministries.  He worked as the district administrator for former Congressman Paul McHale.  He now works at what he describes as “the best job I will ever have” at the Lehigh County Senior Center.
  Rick and his wife April and their three children Sarah, Eric and Shane live in Lowhill Township.

7th District, U.S. House

REP. PAT MEEHAN

Rep. Pat Meehan is running for re-election to Pennsylvania’s 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Meehan, a Republican, is being challenged by George Badey, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Meehan, a Montgomery County native who lives in Drexel Hill, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. Meehan did not respond to our request. A short biography from Meehan’s campaign website follows.

About Pat Meehan
Elected in 2010, Congressman Meehan serves on the Oversight and Government Reform, Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.
As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Meehan was appointed Chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, becoming one of only a few freshmen to chair a subcommittee.
Prior to his election to the United States Congress, Meehan served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a position that made him the top federal prosecutor in a district that spanned nine counties with a population of over 5 million residents. Prior to his appointment as United States attorney, Meehan served as the district attorney of Delaware County.
Meehan formed the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a working group dedicated to protecting children from online predators.
A native of Cheltenham, Montgomery County, Meehan is a graduate of Bowdoin College and the Temple University School of Law. Prior to entering public service, Congressman Meehan spent two years as a referee in the National Hockey League. Meehan, his wife Carolyn, and their three sons live in Drexel Hill, Delaware County.

GEORGE BADEY

George Badey is running for Pennsylvania’s 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Badey, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Pat Meehan, a Republican. The Mercury asked Badey, a Delaware County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. Badey did not respond to The Mercury’s request. A short biography of Badey taken from his campaign website follows: 

About George Badey
Born and raised in South Philadelphia, George grew up in a row home and attended Philadelphia public schools. His father was a longshoreman and his mother a homemaker. After graduating as valedictorian of his class at South Philadelphia High School in 1975, he received an academic scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania.

At Penn, George double majored, and in 1979 was awarded a bachelor’s degree in both political science and music. He went on to Villanova Law School and passed the Bar Exam on his first try in 1982.

For the last 25 years, George has lived in Radnor Township, Delaware County. He is chairman of the Radnor Democratic Committee. Since the age of 13, in 1971, George has been a Mummer, and is a tenor saxophone player in the Fralinger String Band. In recent years, when the very existence of the Mummers Parade was threatened by City budget cuts, George founded and remains Chairman of the Board of “Save The Mummers,” an organization dedicated to preserve the tradition.

PA House

157th District

REP. WARREN KAMPF


Rep. Warren Kampf is running for re-election to the 157th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Kampf, a Republican, is being challenged by Paul J. Drucker, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Kampf, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Kampf follow:

About Warren Kampf

I grew up in our community and my wife and I are raising our own children here today. Our son attends our public schools and our daughter will start school in a few years. I have served our community for nearly two years as State Representative and served as a local Township Supervisor before that. Prior to becoming Representative, I was a partner at a regional law firm – a partnership I have put on hold to serve our families. As Representative, I have worked in a bipartisan and independent manner to focus on what our families care about most: a quality education for our children, job creation and fiscal discipline that protects taxpayers. I have also led by example on reform by refusing the taxpayer-paid pension, refusing the taxpayer-paid salary COLA's, and refusing the taxpayer-paid per diems.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. There are currently several proposals under review in Harrisburg to either eliminate or reduce school property taxes. While I agree with parts of many of these proposals, none of them are a panacea. I believe that there are many things we can do to curb the rising cost of public education. We must reduce costly mandates on school districts – something I am working to do by sponsoring legislation that allows districts to opt-out of costly prevailing wage mandates. I have also authored legislation to fundamentally reform the public pension system, as meeting the rising cost of these pension obligations continues to require a greater percentage of school district budgets. My legislation protects the pensions of those currently in the system while converting new hires into a 401(k) style system – and giving current participants an incentive to switch to a 401(k) style system. If passed, this will give participants greater control over their retirement investments, take control away from special interests, and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Q.  Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I support the goal of the voter ID law which is to ensure the sanctity of every citizens' vote. Somewhere in the debate over the past several months, this simple fact was lost.
    Currently, the voter ID law has been mainly put on hold for the current election and will go into effect at a later time. I am supportive of this as it allows citizens more time to meet the requirements of the law; I am also supportive of the multitude of new options available to helping people secure their ID. Several months ago, I made a statement that was later verified by a national organization that, in other states with Voter ID, voter participation actually increased. It is my hope the same will happen here in Pennsylvania.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A.The PA Turnpike Commission is an independent agency that is supposed to operate from the revenues it generates as well as provide significant funding to PennDOT. The turnpike itself is also a key part of our infrastructure that is here for the long-term, and requires (at times) long-term investment funded through debt. Unfortunately, as has been reported for many years, the Turnpike Commission is also a bastion of waste – waste that must be eliminated. Further, a law put into effect some years ago requires the Turnpike to pay for transit and roads it does not control.
   I believe meeting the needs of transportation and infrastructure in the future is a complex problem. I do support public-private partnerships, though I voted against this type of legislation earlier this year only because it included the ability to toll Route 422. I do not support tolling on Route 422. The fact is, existing roadways were built with the tax dollars of residents and to later ask them to pay a second time for what they already purchased is wrong.

PAUL J. DRUCKER

Paul Drucker is running for the 157th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Drucker, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Warren Kampf, a Republican. The Mercury asked Drucker, a Tredyffrin resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. Drucker did not respond to our request. A biography taken from Drucker campaign website is below:

About Paul Drucker

Paul Drucker was born in Paterson, N.J. As Paul was growing up, he attended Rutherford High School where he excelled academically. After graduation, he earned a degree in history at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, and went on to earn his JD Degree from the Boston University School of Law.
After graduating law school, Paul moved to Philadelphia. He took the position of Law Clerk to the Honorable Charles R. Weiner. Paul then went on to spend four years in the District Attorney’s Office under Arlen Specter. Paul tried hundreds of cases as a member of several divisions, including the Major Trials Division.
Paul has spent the past decades of his legal career as a single practitioner, a partner in a firm, and an employee. Paul’s practice has concentrated in transactional representation and civil litigation in state and federal courts with special emphasis on employment rights, civil rights and constitutional torts.
Outside of his practice, Paul has served as a lecturer, Judge Pro Tem for the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County, a Certified Mediator in US District Court, a Hearing Committee Member of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and served on the Board of Directors of the First Bank of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s first and only original issue start-up bank.
Paul moved from Philadelphia to Paoli in 1981, where he has lived in the same home on Lisa Drive for 27 years. Paul and his wife Robyn are the proud parents of three children they raised in Tredyffrin.
Paul began his political career in 2005, stepping up to apply to fill the Township Supervisor seat vacated mid-term by his current opponent. The Board of Supervisors appointed a Republican to the empty seat in August 2005; however, Paul went on to beat the Republican assignee in the general election in November. Paul became the first-ever Democratic elected official in the Township’s 300 year history.
Paul served the residents of Tredyffrin for two years with dedication, empathy and a commitment to serve.  In 2008, Paul became the first Democrat to be elected to the 157th district. For two years he worked to bring transparency and accountability to Harrisburg. He introduced a bill to remove partisanship from the redistricting process and another to protect corporate whistleblowers. He worked across the aisle with legislators dedicated to meaningful government reform. He is solutions-oriented, reaches across party lines, and is a tireless advocate for his constituents.
Since 2010, Paul has continued to work for the community. He was appointed to the board of directors for the Greater Philadelphia Phoenixville Chamber of Commerce as well as TMACC (Transportation Management Association of Chester County.) He has secured a $1 million cap for the Paoli Transportation Center, facilitating what he started in 2008. He also is continuing his law career at the offices of Kunkle and Sennett.

150th District

MIKE VEREB

Mike Vereb is running for re-election to the 150th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Vereb, a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Kelly Lynn Devine. The Mercury asked Vereb, a Montgomery County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Vereb follow:

About Mike Vereb
I was first elected to the PA State House of Representatives in 2006. Prior to that, I served seven years, including five as President of the West Norriton Township Board of Commissioners. Professionally, I worked for two decades as a police officer and in corporate security. In my community, I have served as a volunteer firefighter, been active in youth sports programs and as a board member of the Visitation BVM CYO program. My most important role is as a husband to my wife Bernadette and father to my three children, Kaitlyn, Michael Jr., and Shane. 


Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I support H.B. 1776 which would eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania. The elimination of school property taxes has been talked about in legislative and civic circles for decades. The time for talk ended long ago. Our senior citizens and others on fixed incomes need relief NOW through the elimination of school property taxes.

Q.  Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I support the new law requiring voters to show a valid photo ID in order to cast a ballot. Pennsylvania’s courts do as well. In the court’s recent decision, it said there must be more time to implement the system, with which I agree. The court did not rule that making voters show ID is unconstitutional. PennDOT ID cards can be obtained free of charge to anyone who can produce proof of residency. Even homeless individuals can obtain one if they stay at a shelter. Producing an ID at the polls will help ensure we have fair elections where every validly registered voter votes once and that vote is counted just once.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. Tolling Route 422 is not an option. There recently was a study by a PA blue-ribbon commission on the many alternatives for new transportation funding. We are currently reviewing this report which offers many alternatives for finding new revenue for transportation needs. I do not support a higher gas tax with the current price of gas approaching $4 a gallon.

KELLY DEVINE

Kelly Devine is running for election to the 150th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Devine, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Mike Vereb, a Republican. The Mercury asked Devine, an Upper Providence resident, to answer three questions about issues she will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Devine follow:

About Kelly Devine
Kelly Devine is a lifelong resident of the 150th Legislative District. Born and raised in the Mingo section of Upper Providence Township, Kelly moved to Norristown in 2010 after she purchased her first home.

Kelly is a marketing professional for Comcast. In her job, Kelly manages compliance with FCC government regulations and oversees large-scale budgets for the planning and completion of several, simultaneous projects. She previously served on the board of the Greater Philadelphia chapter of Women in Cable Telecommunications, and is still a chapter member. She is also actively involved in the Philadelphia Interactive Marketing Association and the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing.

 Kelly began her professional career as a journalist. As a staff writer for The Phoenix in Phoenixville, and later for The Times Herald in Norristown, Kelly covered municipal government and finance. Kelly gained a unique perspective on local government by attending and reporting on Zoning, Planning and Supervisory boards and police and judicial matters. Kelly’s unique investigative experience as a reporter provides her with the capacity to ask tough questions and affect accountability from government agencies.

Kelly has served as president of the Montgomery County Young Democrats for the past three years, leading a county-wide organization of members. The group has held an annual gift drive for Toys for Tots, registered voters and assisted in multiple civic and community activities. Within the Montgomery County Democratic Committee, Kelly has served as municipal and area secretary and sits on the Executive Committee.

 Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from Penn State University. A Spring-Ford Senior High School graduate, Kelly attended Sacred Heart Elementary School in Royersford for her early education. Kelly’s mother, sisters and brother still live in the district in her childhood home.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I would not vote for the current H.B. 1776 as is. It leaves an almost $2 billion budget shortfall. And I don’t think we should be causing an extra burden on people by taxing new items, such as milk, clothes and prescriptions. I think we need to look into a constitutional amendment to separate the responsibilities of residences versus businesses.

Q.  Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I would not have voted for the current law as is, and I am glad the courts granted a stay so we have more time as a commonwealth to better prepare for it. While the idea of providing ID doesn't sound fundamentally wrong, the required state ID is too strict under the current law. I think more forms of acceptable identification should be included, including more forms of acceptable ID to obtain an ID. More time is the right answer here. We need more time to educate people about the law, and we especially need to take into consideration people who have to take off work to get to the DMV and people who have limited mobility.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. The Pa. Turnpike Commission is tasked with both its own operation and a share of the local roads and bridges since the induction of ACT 44. This legislation, which was enacted back in 2009, was short sighted and has become a burden that’s crippling the TPC from getting its debt situation under control. The only way to control the debt and preserve funding is to rewrite ACT 44 and redirect funding for county roads and bridges back to their local governments. This single change will free $450 million per year in savings. While this will get immediate relief, there will still be long term debt control measures that will still need planning and financing if we are to get the TPC back into good financial health. Increasing tolls only covers the rising costs of operation. While past Legislatures have used this as a political threat, it really constitutes a marginal rate of increased revenue. Any long term debt consolidation plan must include getting current projects completed in a timely fashion so as to give the planning commissions time to organize new timelines for future projects. There has been a recent survey by the Corbett administration about the status of our states roads and bridges. This report outlined a list of High Priority projects that must be dealt with immediately.

146th District

REP. TOM QUIGLEY

Rep. Tom Quigley is running for re-election to the 146th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Quigley, a Republican, is being challenged by Mark Painter, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Quigley, a resident of Royersford, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Quigley follow:

About Tom Quigley
I have been proud to serve our community as state representative since being first elected in 2004. During that time I have worked in an independent and bipartisan fashion to address the issues that concern our citizens: real property tax reform, quality education for our children, fiscal discipline that protects our taxpayers, and job creation. I have led by example on reform issues by voting against the infamous midnight pay raise, voting to require legislators to pay a portion of their health care and returning cost of living increases to the state treasury. Prior to be elected to the state House, I served as a councilman and mayor of Royersford Borough. In the private sector, I worked for 17 years at The Vanguard Group, a leading mutual fund and financial services firm. It was through my time at Vanguard that I learned what it is to be an effective steward of other people's money. My educational background includes a B.S. in management and an MBA from Philadelphia University.


Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I have always supported the concept of eliminating the school property tax. A proposal that has received much attention this year, House Bill 1776, would eliminate the school property tax and replace the funding with an expanded sales tax and an increase in the state income tax. This proposal was the subject of a thorough analysis on the state's Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). The report indicated that House Bill 1776 as currently written would not raise sufficient revenue to replace the school property tax. However the report did proved a blueprint for how the proposal could work and the pros and cons of such a proposal. It is my hope that such changes could be made to make the plan work.

 Also, earlier this year I introduced House Resolution 774 which calls for the formation of a House Select Committee to review, investigate and make recommendations on sources of school district and local government tax revenue, with a focus on property taxes. I introduced this resolution to continue the push for a solution to the property tax issue. In addition to the school property tax, which remains the most pressing issue, the committee will also review municipal and county property taxes. More and more we are seeing cities, boroughs, townships and counties increasing their respective property taxes to fund operations and services.

 I was fortunate to be elected as the chairman of the House Select Committee and we have held a number of hearings to gather information on what the Legislature can do to not only address the property tax issue but provide relief to the cost drivers that increase property taxes at the school and municipal level. The pension issue and the idea of changing the state funding formula for education to take into consideration growth in student enrollment, special education, charter school funding and the viability the local tax base all have to be considered when looking at a comprehensive solution to the property tax issue.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I voted for Voter ID law. I support the goal of this law and that is to ensure the integrity of every citizens vote.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. I believe that both the PA Turnpike and PennDOT must continue to finds ways to cut costs and eliminate waste. Before we even consider asking taxpayers to pay more in taxes or fees, we must be assured that everything is being done to cuts costs and improve efficiencies.

As many of our area residents know a proposal to toll Route 422 was introduced last year. I along with Reps Vereb, Toepel, Kampf and Maloney opposed this plan. During the course of my discussions with constituents and a town hall meeting, most people indicated that they believe that cost controls and the elimination of waste must be addressed first before taxes, fees or tolls are considered.

MARK PAINTER 

Mark Painter is running for election to the 146th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Painter, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Tom Quigley. The Mercury asked Painter, a native of Stowe, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Painter follow:

About Mark Painter
Mark is an eighth-generation Pennsylvanian. He grew up in Stowe, where his father worked at the Stanley G. Flagg Co. plant. He graduated from Pottsgrove High School, class of 1975, and went on to the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship, where he earned degrees in electrical engineering and law. There he met his wife, Coleen, a United Methodist minister and retired Army Reserve chaplain. They married in 1981.

Mark and Coleen raised two refugee foster children from Southeast Asia and two biological sons, who have autism. When their sons were diagnosed with autism, Mark and Coleen became concerned about the lack of access to special education programs in Spring-ford’s school district. They organized other parents of special needs children, and helped develop programs for students with autism. Today, Spring-ford is known for offering quality special education for students in grades K-12. This experience led Mark into the field of special education law, where he represented parents advocating for better services from their school districts.

In 1997, Mark ran for tax collector in Limerick Township, pledging not to accept a pay increase then being proposed by Township Supervisors. After winning the election, Mark kept that promise. Over his career, Mark has given over $90,000 of his own salary back to the community, to the school district, the fire companies, parks and open spaces, and the WWII memorial. Mark attends St. James Lutheran Church in Limerick, where he also teaches Sunday School. He is a lifetime member of the Limerick Historical Society, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Royersford Free Public Library and Royersford Community Chest.

Time and time again, Mark has dedicated himself to the community he grew up in. Whether fighting for the rights of the disabled, helping taxpayers find ways to save money on their property taxes, or volunteering his time to community organizations, Mark has always placed his community first. He believes this community needs a dedicated advocate in state government, and is ready to bring the fight to Harrisburg.



Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. The local property tax system in Pennsylvania is doing economic damage to our communities. Across the state, property taxes are rising faster than wages, and have been for many years. As a homeowner who has had to balance his own family’s budget, I know what a burden these taxes are. During my fourteen years as Limerick Township’s tax collector, I've seen too many families and senior citizens struggle to hold onto their homes. Even lower-taxed communities like Limerick hang on only because of commercial development that helps hold taxes down, but at a cost in traffic and quality of life.

The problem is in Harrisburg. For too long, state government has been balancing its books by shifting costs onto local school districts. Legislators make empty promises of “no tax increase,” all the while knowing perfectly well that your property taxes will go up as a result of their inaction. State government needs to take responsibility for increased school funding, statewide, with the benefits going to students, not buildings. Only then will Pennsylvania homeowners be able to get off the property tax treadmill.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I don't support the form of the current bill or the way it was implemented.There is no evidence of voter ID fraud in Pennsylvania, and much more pressing issues, including jobs and property taxes. The legislature should be spending its time on real problems.

It is clear there was a rush to get the restrictions in place for partisan reasons, an effort which would have disenfranchised thousands of legitimate Pennsylvania voters. I believe that the temporary injunction that Judge Simpson put in place was necessary to protect the right to vote in Pennsylvania.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. It is not sustainable for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to continue borrowing in order to pay off its obligations. The current fiscal situation will spiral out of control unless lawmakers in Harrisburg take action. I support the repeal of Act 44. The turnpike is on pace to be the most expensive toll road in the United States. I do not believe the solution is even higher tolls. Furthermore, higher gas taxes are not the solution either, as I know energy prices are a significant concern. With the repeal of Act 44, the turnpike commission should be able to get its finances back on track. Act 44 should be replaced with legislation that supplements transit projects in other parts of the state, while also taking into account the finances of the turnpike.

134th District

REP. RYAN MACKENZIE

Rep. Ryan Mackenzie is running for re-election to the 134th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Mackenzie, a Republican, is being challenged by John Reynard, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Mackenzie, a native of Allentown, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. Mackenzie did not respond to our request. Below is a biography pulled from his election page:

About Ryan Mackenzie

Ryan Mackenzie was born in Allentown, raised in South Whitehall Township, and graduated from Parkland High School. An honors graduate of New York University, he received a dual degree in Finance and International Business and later went on to earn his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Professionally, Ryan began his career by working on Pat Toomey’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2004. He also worked on a number of other political campaigns and earned his real estate sales license before entering public service and accepting a position at the U.S. Department of Labor. 
Ryan then served as the Director of Policy at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Ryan also represented the Department of Labor & Industry on the Board of the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, the Environmental Quality Board, and the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority.
In 2012, after former state Rep. Doug Reichley stepped down to become a Lehigh County judge, Ryan decided to run for state representative.

JOHN REYNARD

John Reynard is running for election to Pennsylvania’s 134th District House seat. Reynard, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, a Republican. The Mercury asked Reynard, a Lehigh County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Reynard follow:

About John Reynard
25 years ago, I met my wife, Stefany. Today, we have a home in Emmaus and two amazing children, Sasha and Will, ages 10 and 6. I’m running today because my family and yours deserve a state representative who is committed to delivering measurable results, not partisan ideology.

 With my MBA in Finance from Lehigh University, I’ve spent over 20 years building a portfolio of real-world experience that includes teaching (business, economics, entrepreneurship classes) and working at UBS and Merrill Lynch. Three years ago, I became a small business owner.

 Harrisburg needs someone like me – someone that will bring best practices from the business world and results-oriented thinking to the State House - not the politics of division.

I’m John Reynard and I’m committed to solving Pennsylvania’s problems with less politics and more reasonable solutions.


Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I am opposed to HB 1776 because I believe it is just a shuffling of taxes from property to income and commerce. Workers in Pennsylvania are already taxed enough on their income and I don't believe we need to increase that burden. Additionally during a time when lack of demand is what is impeding economic growth, raising the sales tax will slow our recovery. Beyond this the bill doesn't come close to providing the funding that the current property taxes do so we'll either have to slash education spending even more or raise the income and sales taxes more than proposed to meet the gap. Finally, the bill makes education more centralized since state funds will replace locally generated property taxes and I fear that over the long run this will end locally run school districts. 

What can the state do to reduce the rising cost of public education? There are a number of things. First, we should be using charter schools as incubators for cost-saving ideas in our main-line public schools. Many if not most of our charter schools are spending less per student than traditional schools. Second, we need to establish business style incentives for school district superintendants to keep costs low. When superintendants have a personal incentive to keep costs low they'll more quickly bring modern management practices to bear in their school districts. Finally, I'd like to see more public-private partnerships between businesses in each school district's territory where the companies help pick up some of the cost of vocational education programs while the schools provide juniors and seniors to the companies for internships which lead to jobs. This would provide value to the companies while keeping costs down for local taxpayers as well.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I am not opposed to a state voter ID as long as the state provides ID to legally registered voters free of charge. Governor Corbett has spent millions of dollars of state money pushing through this law in a partisan fashion. If it was truely designed to prevent fraud we could have provided free ID to the estimated 700,000 citizens who don't have it free-of-charge as required by supreme court decisions striking down poll taxes. If we do that I am ok with the requirement. If we require residents to pay for their voter ID card then I am opposed.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. PennDOT is not as efficient as some of our neighboring states' departments of transportation. I'd like to study why NYDOT is able to build and repair more mileage of roads for their money than we are, despite tougher winter conditions and similar geography. Once we see what areas we can improve on I believe we could bring our costs down while not sacrificing the future of our transportation infrasructure. I don't think we would need to but if revenues have to be raised I would prefer tolls to higher gas taxes as the price of gasoline is already high enough without adding more state taxes on top of it.


147th District



Rep. Marcy Toepel is running for re-election to the 26th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Toepel, a Republican, is being challenged for the seat by Democrat Betty J. White. The Mercury asked Toepel, a Boyertown native, to answer three questions about issues she will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Toepel follow:

About Marcy Toepel

I am a lifelong resident of the Boyertown Area and a graduate of Boyertown Area High School. I have worked at various local businesses in administrative positions and prior to my election, worked for Montgomery County as the First Deputy Clerk of Courts and First Deputy Recorder of Deeds. I was first elected to the PA House of Representatives in 2010 in a special election to fill the unexpired term of now Senator Bob Mensch. I currently serve on the House Judiciary, Health, Local Government and Consumer Affairs Committees.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I am a cosponsor of H.B. 1776. I support efforts to replace our property tax with a combination of income and sales tax. Efforts are underway to find a funding solution that is revenue neutral and I support this approach. I look at education funding as three related issues; the funding mechanism, the fair distribution of funds, and reforming school spending. All three of these areas are broken. Currently the distribution of state dollars for education is not consistent or fair and is placing an unfair burden on property owners, especially seniors and retirees. In my district, most of the schools receive 20-30 percent of their funding from the state, creating a heavy burden on local taxes. This is a disincentive for other school districts around the state who receive a higher share of state funding to seriously consider tax reform. The downturn in the economy has forced schools to look at ways to run more efficiently. I support funding that is student focused, that maintains resources essential to properly educate children, and mandate relief that frees educators from rules that do nothing to accomplish that goal.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I voted for and support the voter ID requirement. I think it is reasonable to provide proof of your identity when voting. This is common sense legislation that helps ensure the integrity of the voting process and one person/one vote. I am supportive of the efforts of the Commonwealth to make sure each voter has the required ID and their vote is counted. The courts have ruled that providing an ID to vote is constitutional, but have delayed the implementation of the law to make sure no one is denied their vote in this election.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. I feel strongly that the Pa. Turnpike Commission cannot continue to raise tolls and incur debt to finance other transportation needs in the Commonwealth. A tax increase when gas prices are about $4.00 a gallon is without a question the wrong approach during this economic downturn. The Pa. Department of Transportation has to continue to find ways to cut their expenses and consider the possible consolidation of the Turnpike Commission with PennDOT. The Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission issued a report on proposed cost savings as well as recommendations for revenue enhancement, including tolling options. I can support the tolling of some of our interstates, but not local roads such as Route 422 and would vehemently oppose a toll on this road. Transportation funding requires a broad based solution. The Governor has promised to act upon the recommendations of the Advisory Commission in the new year and I look forward to those discussions.

BETTY WHITE

Betty J. White is running for election to Pennsylvania’s 174th District House seat. White, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. Marcy Toepel, a Republican. The Mercury asked White, a Montgomery County resident, to answer three questions about issues she will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by White follow:

About Betty White
My name is Betty White and I am running as a Democrat for State Representative in 147th Legislative District. I am married to Sylvester L. White aka “Buster”, who is a PA State Constable and the Emergency Management Coordinator for Marlborough Twp. My family also includes children: Raquel Madison-Miller, Rosalyn Madison, Andrew Roberts and Keema Wallace. I am proud Grandmother and the eldest of seven children of Annie L. Madison of the Upper Perkiomen Manor Apartments.

Business Experience and Education Background:
 My educational background consists of a Bachelors Degree in Organizational Management from Eastern University and Masters Degree in Accounting from the University of Phoenix. I am currently pursuing a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership at the University of Phoenix.

Why I am running:
I am running for this office because I enjoy life in Montgomery County and as a resident of Marlborough Township for over 20 years, I am committed to sustaining and enhancing our quality of life here. I am concerned that the Governor and the Republican majority have slashed funds in the state budget for education, which will have a tremendous effect on future job growth as well as the future of our children and their ability to meet educational goals to help them compete in a rapidly changing world. These cuts in education are closing the window of opportunity for our children. We have only one choice - that is to invest in our children now or we will be investing in walls and bars to imprison them later; also known as “pay now or pay later.” These are not the only cuts. Worthwhile social service supports for our senior citizens, families in need and for substance abuse rehabilitation are also affected.

We need qualified and hard – working representatives in Harrisburg. I have spent 40 years working in small businesses and in the corporate sector acquiring skills in ethics, leadership, finance, budgets, strategic decision-making and planning, along with team building, and human resources. I understand the needs of people and I am committed to making our communities better through the legislative process. On November 6th when you vote, I am asking you to vote for me to be “Your Voice In Harrisburg” and I will work vigorously make sure that your voice is heard.
 
Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I would thoroughly review all of the options before deciding. The alternatives for raising sales taxes and expanding the taxable items, other than rental property, may not be the most equitable solutions. I do believe that tax reform is a necessary. Senior citizens living on social security should not have to pay property taxes. Owners of rental property should pay their fair share of taxes. I also believe that the Commonwealth should revise and increase its budgetary allocations to public education funding as do the majority of the States to assist in curbing the rising cost of public education.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I do not support the voter ID law in the current form. This law disenfranchises ordinary citizens who already have a valid ID. For example, my son was on the Penn DOT list cited as an individual without proper identification for voting purposes. He has voted for the last seven years, has a current driver’s license and a passport. I am deeply concerned that there are many others on that list in error. I believe that valid identification should be required to obtain a voter’s registration card.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. One way to pay for transportation needs in the future would be to expand sources of public transportation. Expanding public transportation in the suburbs, such as opening rail lines that run through Pottstown and Quakertown into Philadelphia, would not only generate revenue for public transportation but it decrease the need for Pa. Turnpike funds. I do not believe that higher gas taxes or tolls are the solution. Collaboration by all parties is necessary to find a permanent funding solution for the Pa. Turnpike.

130th District

REP. DAVID MALONEY

Rep. David Maloney is running for re-election to the 130th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Maloney, a Republican, is being challenged by Russell Diesinger, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Maloney, a Berks County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Maloney follow:

About David Maloney
Rep. David Maloney is a PIAA track official and former Oley Valley School Board member who was self-employed for 25 years and previously worked as a production technician.
He has served as an American Cancer Society Relay for Life captain and is licensed and active with the Pa. Game Commission. He is an avid hunter and outdoorsman and a member of many civic groups and clubs.
Maloney, along with his wife Debbie, is a parent to four children with a second grandson on the way.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I have supported and or authored school property tax measures including a constitutional amendment to protect our homesteads from the tax man. We should equalize our funding formula and I have supported measures to request the dept. of education along with a special request to the Governor to address this.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. I have supported photo ID requirement for voting to protect everyone's vote. The legislative district I represent have by an 85 percent margin or more support this measure. I have the first or second highest registered voters percentage in the state.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. We should consider consolidating the Turnpike with PennDot and stream line cost and overhead just like is applied in the private sector. The governor has committed to addressing this in the near future.I can not support higher gas prices or tolling Route 422.

RUSSELL DIESINGER

Russell Diesinger is running for election to the 130th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Diesinger, a Democrat, is challenging Rep. David Maloney, a Republican. The Mercury asked Diesinger, a Berks County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Diesinger follow:

About Russell Diesinger
Russell James Diesinger was born on, November 21, 1951, in Whitemarsh Township, Pennsylvania. He is the son of the late Donald and Dorothy (Freas) Diesinger. He has four older brothers and a younger sister. He and his wife, Jeri, currently reside in Exeter Township. They have four adult children; Jacob, a government employee; Edward, an investment broker; Laura, a special education teacher, and Mary Kate, a film production assistant. They have six grandchildren.

Mr. Diesinger attended public schools (Colonial School District) and is a graduate of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School. He attended Lock Haven State Teachers College (now Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania) where he graduated with a BS in secondary education/ social studies. He has attended graduate programs in government and history at the University of Virginia and Ashland University in Ohio. After teaching for a short time in the Philadelphia School District he joined the staff of the Perkiomen Valley School District. He later joined Houghton Mifflin Publishing as an educational consultant and ultimately became involved in sales and sales management. He worked for a number of publishers over his twenty-two year career. Mr. Diesinger returned to teaching after retiring from publishing and is currently a teacher of government, economics, and criminal justice at the Reading High School in Reading, PA. He is active in his workplace and served three terms as the vice president of the Reading Education Association. He relocated to Exeter Township, Berks County in 1993 where he has resided ever since.

He has been actively involved in local government as a three term member of both the Exeter Township Board of School Directors and Joint Operating Committee of the Berks Career and Technology Center. He served for 10 years (2001 – 2011) as a member of the Berks County Planning Team of Good Schools PA. He is an active member of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading where he has served as a member of the Church Vestry, a congregational voting delegate to the annual synod convention, and currently serves as Stewardship Chairman.

He cares deeply about the future of Pennsylvania and believes that the state is on the wrong track. The current administration’s proposed and finalized budget cuts in the last two state budgets are unacceptable. They attack our most at-risk and young citizens. He will dedicate his efforts to ending the disconnect between government and average Pennsylvanians by reestablishing governmental priorities to insure that all of our citizens have equal opportunities.


Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I support a plan that would eliminate property taxes on primary residences only. I would advocate for these taxes to be phased out over a period of time so as to ensure that public schools would be adequately funded. I believe for this plan to be successful, the revenue loss created by the elimination of this tax would require both an expansion and an increase in the state’s sales tax and an introduction of a state graduated income tax. Pennsylvania’s homeowners need property tax relief, but the future of the commonwealth demands a well educated citizenry.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. Yes, I support a law requiring a valid photo ID. Because of the recent court ruling Pennsylvania can move forward in a timely manner with the implementation of this requirement. I would never support any statute that would involve the disenfranchisement of a single eligible voter.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. The PA Turnpike Commission is saddled with its current debt because of Act 44. The law, passed in 20007, permits the Turnpike Commission to take on more debt in exchange for providing the state with $420 million annually. In order to meet this obligation, the Turnpike increased its debt by more than 181 percent. A solution must include non-turnpike drivers and mass transit users. The financial burden cannot be the responsibility of one entity. Act 44 must be repealed or rewritten in a way that will spread the financial burden over all transportation authorities that receive state funding. This action must coincide with the enactment of a comprehensive transportation funding package.

26th District

REP. TIM HENNESSEY

Rep. Tim Hennessey is running for re-election to the 26th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Hennessey, a Republican, is being challenged by Mike Hays, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Hennessey, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if re-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Hennessey follow:

About Tim Hennessey
Tim Hennessey has served the community as a legislator, a trial attorney with the Public Defender’s office for 20 years, a township solicitor for 25 years. A lifelong resident of Chester County, he has represented the 26th District since 1993.

In the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Hennessey is the Republican Chair of Aging and Older Adult Services, while also serving on the Local Government Committee. As Chairman of Aging, he has introduced bills to protect the Lottery's revenues from being used by the current administration to pay for bureaucracies of the State Department of Aging. He's also introduced bills to protect homeowners who pre-pay for home heating oil and natural gas, to extend favorable tax treatment for tuition pre-payment plans and to protect homeowner's claims for homestead tax treatment, among others.

Previously Hennessey authored Pa's Targeted Communities Revitalization Act (Weed and Seed), voting rights provisions, a measure to attack urban blight and restore abandoned buildings and a law to facilitate transfer of property from municipalities to non-profit community development entities.

In prior terms, Hennessey was active on the House Judiciary, Urban Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Insurance committees. His current chairmanship of Aging limits him to just the committee on Local Government. 

Prior to his service in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Hennessey served as Chairman of the Student Exchange and Group Study Exchange programs for the Pottstown Rotary Club, as President of Birthright of Pottstown (offering alternatives to abortion and ongoing support after childbirth) and as President of Alternatives, a shelter home for abused and neglected children.

Tim Hennessey is a 1965 graduate of St. Pius X High School in Pottstown, St. Josephs University (1969) and Villanova University School of Law 1972. He resides in North Coventry Township with Carol, his wife of 35 years. They have three children; Kate, Tim and Elizabeth.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. There is no question that we need to reform the school property tax situation in Pennsylvania. Since collective bargaining – and the right to strike – were given to teachers over 40 years ago, teachers’ unions have used this tool effectively to increase salaries; the main driver in school district budgets.

H.B. 1776, which I co-sponsored, was the latest attempt to reevaluate where to get the revenue to fund our public schools. It promised to eliminate the property tax and replace lost revenues by increasing the personal income tax and the state sales tax, and by taxing more items that the state does now. A total elimination of the property tax will cost over $12 billion, and the tax changes in H.B. 1776 couldn’t raise that much alternative revenue.

It might become necessary to reduce – rather than totally eliminate – the property tax, so the hole we need to climb out of is not so deep. Many people don’t realize that under our state constitution a total reduction of property taxes on residences also means that all business properties, like department stores, shopping malls, office buildings and even factory property will have their property taxes reduced to zero.

Businesses get a direct and immediate benefit from an educated student body – they hire them as cashiers, clerks and office workers – reducing their property taxes to zero would create a windfall that makes little sense.

We should consider reducing the property tax by half, and permanently capping it at that level. It would reduce the $12 billion hole to $6 billion, a reachable figure in the tax mix envisioned by H.B. 1776. Or the level could be a 60 percent reduction, again with protection against any future increase. Then residents and businesses would both remain involved in helping fund our public school system.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. With the Commonwealth Court’s ruling that voters will be asked, but not required, to show a photo ID in this election, the urgency of this issue is removed. But it’s a good idea as we move forward.

Virtually everyone agrees that our votes need to be meaningful and Voter ID will be a way to insure that in the future. In today’s society, a person is virtually powerless if they don’t have a photo ID. ID’s are necessary to enter public buildings, to board an airplane, to drive, and even to do everyday things like cashing a check and to buy cigarettes.

The argument that no voter fraud exists because people are rarely convicted ignores the obvious fact that our prosecutors have many other serious offenses to pursue.

Everyone should be entitled to know that the integrity of his or her vote is secure.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. I do not support the institution of tolls on our highways. Many of our highways have been paid for in major part with federal dollars, and federal law almost always prohibits tolling.

Highways are part of our common infrastructure and the costs should be spread across the population. Tolls are a direct tax on people who already pay enough in other taxes.

We will need a statewide solution for the mess created by Act 44, when the Rendell Administration pushed through a transfer of bond indebtedness onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority. The Turnpike pays PennDOT hundreds of millions of dollars to support this “non-turnpike” debt load each year.

Since Gov. Corbett is resistant to raising any taxes, it is really important that he indicate which sources of additional revenue he would be willing to accept – and not veto – before any serious discussion on this issue can get underway. Buy with the price of gas in today’s market it would be hard to add to that burden with an increase in the gas tax, especially for those long-distance truckers and others whose jobs require that they travel often.

MIKE HAYS


Mike Hays is running for the 26th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Hays, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Rep. Tim Hennessey, a Republican. The Mercury asked Hays, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Hays follow:

About Mike Hays
I am the Democratic candidate for the state representative seat in northwestern Chester County. Raised in Montgomery County, I'm the son of a carpenter and school bus driver. My parents worked hard to help send me and my three siblings to college. I graduated from Widener University with a degree in business administration. One of my passions is writing. I worked for two daily newspapers over the course of several years, where I held elected officials accountable and tried to report the facts. Three years ago, I ran a successful campaign for Spring City Council and became one of the youngest leaders in the borough’s history – at age 28. Since that time, I have been working on revitalization efforts with Main Street shop owners, launching the borough's first municipal website, and addressing critical needs at the wastewater treatment plant. Professionally, I am a produce buyer for a family-owned grocery store.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I am familiar with H.B. 1776. People should not lose their homes due to rising property taxes. At the same time, we all understand the necessity to fund quality education for our future generations.

 I am skeptical about relying on an increased sales tax to fill the hole, if school property taxes are eliminated. Why? In Why? In ion, people buy and consume less. I have concerns that sales taxes would be able to adequately fund schools in a down economy.

If elected, I will work with Rep. Tom Quigley to find viable alternatives for the property tax.

To curb the rising cost of public education:

  •  Consolidate school districts, as proposed by former Gov. Rendell
  •  Pension reform (I support 'defined benefit' plans for teachers), including changes for new hires. 
  •  Re-evaluate the financial impacts of cyber and charter schools


Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. No, I do not support this law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court understood that the rush to implement the law this year simply did not make sense, given the voting rights at stake.
A nationwide analysis by professional journalists revealed that over the course of a dozen years, exactly 10 cases of alleged in-person election fraud occurred. That's one for every 15 million prospective voters.
We have much larger issues to deal with in Pennsylvania. I defer to Republican state Rep. Mike Turzai on the true motivation of this law.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. To start, Pennsylvania's leaders need to adopt the recommendations of the TFAC. It calls for an increase in drivers' license renewal fees, while requiring renewal only every eight years. The report also encourages higher fees for vehicle registrations and lifting the cap on the oil franchise tax.

Neither the federal nor the state gasoline tax have increased since the 1990s. An increase here would help pay for road and bridge projects that benefit all drivers. As for tolls .... To be clear, the voters and drivers have made their voices heard on this issue – they do not want to pay for future highway and transit upgrades with tolls. I respect that view.

If elected to be your state representative in the 26th House District, I will not support the measure if it comes up for a vote.

Pa. Senate

19th District

SEN. ANDY DINNIMAN

Andy Dinniman is running for re-election to Pennsylvania’s 19th District Senate seat. Dinniman, a Democrat, is being challenged by Christopher Amentas, a Republican. The Mercury asked Dinniman, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if e-elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Dinniman follow:

About Andy Dinniman
I was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2008 to the Pennsylvania Senate, representing Chester and Montgomery counties in the Commonwealth’s 19th District. Before being elected state senator, I was elected to four terms as Chester County Commissioner (from 1992 to 2006). In the state Legislature, I serve as minority chairman of the Senate Education Committee. I also serve on the Community, Economic and Recreational Development, Environmental Resources and Energy, Agriculture and Rural Affairs and State Government Committees. In addition, I am an active member of the State Board of Education and the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.

Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. Back in the 1990s there was a bipartisan task force in Chester County that suggested that each school district have the option of determining the ratio of property, income and sales tax most appropriate for that district. This proposal is worthy of reexamination. Even with such ratios, a cap should still remain on the percentage of any increase.

To cut the costs of schools, we can reduce state mandates and give consideration to a bill in the state senate that calls for the consolidation of administrative and transportation functions between schools districts.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. There is no current requirement for a valid photo ID for this election. The problem was not the ID requirement itself, but the ridiculous and burdensome process that was put in place by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The court realized that there was no way that everyone who needed an ID (especially senior citizens) could get one in such a short period of time based on the process that was put in place.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. The turnpike can take care of its own costs, the problem is the burden of taking care of other transportation needs. We need to look at a variety of funding options including public-private partnerships. For two years, the governor has not presented a transportation funding plan and the debate on possible options continues to be delayed until such a plan is submitted.


CHRISTOPHER AMENTAS

Christopher Amentas is running for the 19th District seat in the Pennsylvania Senate. Amentas, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Sen. Andy Dinniman, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Amentas, a Chester County resident, to answer three questions about issues he will face if elected. Amentas did not respond to our request. A biography taken from Amentas campaign website is below:

About Christopher Amentas
Chris Amentas is a local elected official, father, husband, and concerned citizen who knows Pennsylvania must get back on track by cutting wasteful government spending and becoming more business-friendly to attract job creators. As an East Fallowfield Township Supervisor, Amentas strives to provide high-quality services to residents, including a full-time police department. Elected in 2008, Amentas was chosen by his colleagues to serve as chairman of the Board of Supervisors in 2010 and 2011. Amentas lives with his wife Becca, their daughter, Alexandra and his dog, Sophie, in East Fallowfield. He graduated from Boston College in 1997 with a degree in English and from the Villanova University School of Law in 2001. He is a civil litigation attorney who specializes in solving legal problems that vex individuals, local businesses and communities.

11th District

JUDY SCHWANK

Judy Schwank is running for re-election to Pennsylvania’s 11th District Senate seat. Schwank, a Democrat, is being challenged by Karen Mogel, a Republican. The Mercury asked Schwank, a Berks County resident, to answer three questions about issues she will face if elected. The answers and a biography submitted by Schwank follow:

About Judy Schwank
It has truly been an honor to represent the people of the 11th Senate District for the past 18 months. I’ve learned a lot in my life and career and I know that experience does matter. My career has been dedicated to public service--first as a Penn State Extension agent, county commissioner, CEO of a non-profit, dean of a college and the past year and a half as your state senator. I don’t base my decisions or votes on what a political faction or some ideology dictates. I do my homework, gather the facts, and most of all listen to my constituents.

Within a week of getting elected I formed a bipartisan property tax elimination coalition in the senate. I led the efforts to get verifiable estimates of what it will take to replace property tax from the Independent Fiscal Office. I won’t rest until school property tax is eliminated.

I have made economic development and job creation one my top priorities. To better understand the needs of local business and to be a more effective advocate for our business community in Harrisburg, I formed an advisory committee made up of local business leaders. And I have visited more than 40 area businesses in the past 18 months.

I am proud of the success I have achieved. In a relatively short period of time I was able to obtain over $5 million for water and sewer infrastructure improvements in our community that helped employers like East Penn Manufacturing create more jobs. And I have proposed and co-sponsored legislation that will help businesses grow.

I worked hard and was successful in restoring and increasing funding for our public and parochial schools, community colleges and state universities so our children could have a quality education at an affordable price.

I voted in favor of legislation that eliminates the inheritance tax for family farms. I have endeavored to provide a level of constituent service second to none. Whether it is helping a local business cut through red tape to help their business expand, a student secure scholarship assistance for college, or senior citizens get state prescription assistance or their property tax or rent rebate, my staff and I have been there to help my constituents.

 When I was elected to the State Senate, I promised that no one would work harder for the people. While I am proud of what I have done so far as a State Senator, there is much more work to be done to make our region and our Commonwealth a better place in which to live, work, and raise our families.
 
Q. Do you support any of the current proposals to eliminate school property tax in Pennsylvania? Is there anything more the state should be doing to curb the rising cost of public education?

A. I am committed to finding a way to eliminate property taxes; the heavy property tax burden homeowners face today is forcing many people out of their homes, especially seniors, and is stifling business growth. From virtually my first day as a State Senator, I have tried to tackle this issue. I formed a bipartisan caucus in the State Senate designed to push the issue of property tax elimination to the front burner. While virtually every member of the Berks County legislative delegation supports the effort to get rid of the property tax as the method we use to fund education, in other areas of the state, it is not as an important in some parts of Pennsylvania. We are working hard to convince our colleagues that this issue should be top priority. I am co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1400, introduced in the Senate by Republican Dave Argall, which would replace property taxes by, among other things, expanding the sales tax and increasing the state income tax. Of course, we want to make sure that S.B. 1400 does everything we need it to do. The worst thing we could do is pass legislation to replace property taxes only to find out that the new system does not raise enough funds to do the job. That is why the members of our caucus requested that the state's Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) conduct how much we need to replace property taxes and whether Senate Bill 1400 or House Bill 1776 can raise enough money. Unfortunately, the IFO just reported that these bills as proposed would fall about $1.5 billion short in the first year an $2 billion short in the next year. That means we have more work to do to make sure S.B. 1400 or some similar proposal raise enough funds to get rid of the property tax. We can also do some things on the spending side of education to control costs - standardize school building plans, explore the use of one system of providing health benefits to school employees to take advantage of the economies of scale, and reform the way we fund charter schools, especially cyber charter schools.

Q. Do you support Pennsylvania’s new law requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot? Why or why not?

A. While I support efforts to prevent voter fraud and safeguard the integrity of the election process, I did not vote in favor of the so-called “voter ID” legislation which passed the General Assembly earlier this year. Among other things I was concerned that the “fraud” the law is intended to address — voter impersonation at the polls—is not actually a problem in the Commonwealth and we already have sufficient mechanisms in place to prevent this type of fraud. In addition, I did not believe that the law allowed sufficient time or provide an adequate mechanism for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians without valid IDs to obtain them. Indeed, that is exactly what we have seen — county election boards, the Departments of State and Transportation — struggling to meet the demand for IDs. At least for now, the courts have placed the voter ID requirement on hold for the current election. I believe that voting is a sacred right and duty we Americans enjoy. Encouraging as many citizens to vote is good for our democracy. We should make it as convenient and practical as possible for our citizens to participate in our democratic processes. That is why I have introduced legislation to allow every voter in the Commonwealth the opportunity to cast their votes by absentee ballot. My legislation would bring us in line with most other states and removes needless barriers that prevent people from voting, especially working families.

Q. A recent report says the Pennsylvania Turnpike has accumulated massive new debt as money is used to support other transportation needs across the state. How would you pay for transportation needs in the future? Do you support a higher gas tax? Tolls?

A. A modern and efficient transportation infrastructure is essential to the present and future economic well-being of our state and to the safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth. With more than 8,000 miles of state roadways in poor condition and 6,000 structurally deficient bridges, we need to take action now to find an adequate and sustainable funding mechanism to meet our transportation needs. Recent reports of the Turnpike Commission’s impending debt problems, caused in part by its obligation under Act 44 to provide funding to PennDOT, is both a warning and a wake- up call. Last year, the Governor’s Transportation Advisory Commission came up with a number of viable funding options, including taking the caps off oil company franchise tax, which could help us pay for the road and bridge work we so desperately need around the state. Unfortunately, although we passed a bill earlier this year which facilitates public-private partnerships in certain road projects, we haven’t seen much leadership from the Administration on this critical issue. I am committed to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to make this one of the first priorities we tackle when the new term of the Legislature begins next year. Our economic future depends on it.

KAREN MOGEL

Karen Mogel is running for election in Pennsylvania’s 11th District Senate seat. Mogel, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Sen. Judy Schwank, a Democrat. The Mercury asked Mogel, a Berks County resident, to answer three questions about issues she will face if elected. Mogel did not respond to our request. Below is a biography pulled from her election page.

About Karen Mogel
Karen and her husband of 22 years, Reading Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Mogel, have two children, a daughter Aubrey and a son Gary.
Once serving as an Emergency Medical Technician, Karen gave up her career to take care of her children. Karen is not a career politician but a concerned citizen. She will refuse the state pension and per diems (unlike many career politicians) and will work for a 401k style pension system.
Karen continues her dedication to her community through her volunteer efforts for the past 13 years with the Animal Rescue League of Berks County.
Karen is a successful small business owner for 20 years and has critical and effective budgeting experience.

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