Op-Ed: A Senator’s Most Important Resource – You

Each day that I drive to my office in Lititz or Harrisburg, I am reminded of the privilege it is to represent the people who live in northern Lancaster County – the 36th Senatorial District. I know that you expect me to always put you first, and that is my goal.

Making sure that you are included and that your voice is heard is one of my top priorities. That is why I have conducted town hall meetings, sent a newsletter, send e-newsletters, regularly post updates on social media sources like Facebook and Twitter, and have held several tele-town hall meetings.

I use these ways to communicate to you because far too often, people stop talking to those that they represent once they get elected to public office. While we may not agree on every issue or on how to solve complex problems, I welcome an open discussion with you. I believe that together we can work to make our homes, communities, schools and government great again.

To be sure, there is no more important time for me to hear from you than now.

As you are aware, Pennsylvania is without a signed state budget. The current impasse has gone on for two months now. Human service agencies that provide critical services to our most vulnerable citizens are beginning to struggle financially. Schools will be opening their doors without the support of any state or federal monies. Other state services will likely begin to be interrupted.

While there is genuine disagreement over how much we should spend and whether or not Governor Wolf’s tax requests should be honored, we all know that there is no good reason to create these disruptions to organizations that are seeking to do nothing more than help people who need help, or to schools that are trying to prepare students for the challenges of our future. Certainly, we can do better.

This is precisely the message you have been sending me these past weeks.

I heard you loud and clear in my recent tele-hall town meeting when you overwhelmingly said that I should support a budget that does not include $4.7 billion in new taxes, including increases in the personal income and sales taxes.

I also received your messages encouraging me to continue to support public pension reform, which currently has a whopping $58 billion unfunded liability. You told me that you want legislators put into 401-K programs as well as all new public sector hires. I agree.

And you certainly communicated your views on how the Pennsylvania monopoly liquor system needs to be reformed. Many of you contacted me and said that there is no useful purpose in keeping the state in the business of selling alcohol – but that we must still strictly regulate sales and use of liquor. Again, I agree.

One of the most often raised issues from you is property taxes – and I hear you! We cannot continue to ignore the very real problem that rising real estate taxes have on fixed income individuals, especially senior citizens. If we want to promote home ownership to build strong families and communities, we cannot keep a system that financially punishes homeowners.

In the end, whether it’s about the state budget, public sector pension reform, liquor privatization, property taxes or any issue, your views matter to me.

I do not mean to suggest that everyone will agree on every issue. However, good people can work together despite differences of opinion and make meaningful and beneficial changes.

My door is always open to you.

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