Since taking office as the State Senator for all of Schuylkill and parts of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe and Northampton counties on March 17, 2009, I have worked aggressively to forge strong relationships with many individuals and organizations dedicated to important causes and issues throughout the region.
When I was sworn-in as state Senator, I met with many local families and individuals struggling to pay rising utility bills, local seniors who expressed their difficulty paying their property tax rates, and local job creators and small businesses worried about this challenging economy.
At the town hall meetings I frequently hold, I listened to those concerns and took those issues with me to Harrisburg.
One of the best ideas we heard at those town hall meetings led directly to a special commission dedicated to rooting out wasteful spending in state government. As Chairman of the Senate Government Management and Cost Study Commission, we looked at departments throughout the state and identified over $450 million in potential savings to taxpayers.
At those town hall meetings, we kept hearing that one of the best ways to promote job growth and economic opportunity for local residents is to avoid unnecessary tax increases and eliminate wasteful government spending. Most of the savings identified through this bipartisan commission, comprised of business and community leaders, originated from the state's welfare and corrections spending. Some of these cost-savings were implemented in the state budget, allowing us to hold the line on taxes and enact long-overdue corrections reform.
At many of my meetings across the district, we heard of the need to rewrite our welfare laws. This we have done. In Schuylkill County, as a part of the new law, we began a pilot program where welfare beneficiaries with a prior felony drug conviction would be subject to a random drug test. I heard countless stories of welfare abuse and fraud from constituents and this is designed to send a message that the free ride is over. The drug testing program, while controversial to some, was welcome news to those who were tired to tax dollars going to pay for someone else's illegal drug habit.
Other pro-job issues which we have been asked to address include enacting reforms to cut red-tape regulations and frivolous lawsuits that were hurting our local small businesses. Also, to help recent college gradsand many othersfind jobs here in Pennsylvania, we have pushed the continuing phase-out of the grossly unfair capital stock and franchise tax, which has been burdensome on job creators throughout our state.
I look forward to seeing you at a future town hall meeting so that your voice is heard in Harrisburg.
Pa. State Senate