Op-Ed: Welcome Letter

On Monday, December 1, 2014 I officially took on responsibilities in the State Senate, serving you the residents of the 36th Senatorial District.  I want to express my thanks to outgoing Senator Michael Brubaker and his staff for their excellent work the last eight years and during this transition.  I join all residents in thanking Senator Brubaker for his faithful service to our community.

It is an honor for me to have this opportunity to serve you in the Pennsylvania State Senate.  I am mindful that I have been elected to represent your interests in Harrisburg.  In order to effectively do this my immediate priorities included ensuring my District Office in Lititz was up and running and hiring qualified staff who are prepared to provide quality constituent service to residents on day one. We accomplished both by December 1st. Additionally, I am committed to opening as many channels of communication with you as I can through outreach events, social media, traditional media, phone, email, website, and other avenues to ensure that I am accessible and responsive to you as your elected representative in the State Senate.

While I was on the campaign trail throughout 2014 I had the opportunity to meet many of you.  I heard about the many issues you are concerned with: property tax reform, public sector pension reform, spending and taxes, government reform, welfare reform, quality schools, liquor privatization, and many, many others.  I heard a lot of frustration with Harrisburg and the inability of politicians to get results on issues that matter most.  I share your frustration and I am committed to energetically pursuing solutions and getting results on these issues and others.

The challenges we face in Harrisburg are significant.  On November 4th, the voters elected a new Democratic Governor to work with expanded Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.  I believe you expect us to work together to confront consequential issues.  This will require courageous political leadership.  In my view, no issue will require this more than our public sector pension crisis.  Governor-elect Wolf arguably won the election for governor based in part on his promise to pass a Marcellus shale extraction tax to increase funding for our schools.  A recent report indicated that his 5% proposal would provide between $500 and $625 million, well under the $1billion that was promised.  Unfortunately, nearly all of this new revenue will be required to cover just the increase in our employer contribution rate into the pension system.  Next year the Commonwealth is statutorily and actuarially obligated to contribute an additional $490 million into the pension system.  This mandated increase raises total state contributions to $2 billion.  Our local school districts are facing this very same pressure.  Without much needed reform, our property tax payers are on the hook for these increasing obligations. This is unacceptable and the current system is unsustainable. I am eager to work with my colleagues in the Senate and House, as well as our new Governor, to address this issue.

I look forward to continuing a conversation with you on the pages of this newspaper via regularly scheduled guest opinion piece.  I know that not every resident will agree with every issue and idea discussed. However, I invite you to join the conversation and share your views, whether we agree or not.  Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss issues of importance to you and how my staff and I can serve you best.  You can contact me via my website at www.senatoraument.com.

My District Office in Lititz, located at 301 East Main Street is open.  My staff and I are eager to serve you. Please drop by for a visit sometime soon.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.  May God richly bless you and your family in 2015.