From school taxes in Carbon County to $160 per diem pay for state legislators and many issues in between were discussed and debated during the "Meet the 122nd State Representatives Candidates" night held Wednesday at the Mahoning Valley Ambulance building. The program was sponsored by the 9/12 Group.
Joe Steber was the moderator.
The program opened with both candidates on the Republican primary ticket, Doyle Heffley and Todd Koller, telling the approximately 70 people attending the forum about their backgrounds, including their family ideals, education, residency and business experience. Their introduction ended with each man giving their stand on several key issues they support or want to see ended in Harrisburg if they should take a seat in the state House of Representatives next year.
Both candidates stood together on many key issues, but there were some obvious differences that may sway voters to vote for one or the other in the primary election on May 18.
"I was against tolling I-80," said Heffley. Heffley said he is also against the way WAM (Walking Around Money) is distributed to emergency services organizations. He said that presently firefighters spend countless hours training and then have to worry about spending great amounts of time raising money for matching grants to purchase equipment. His proposal would be to provide funding to small fire companies who have few funds to receive funding without applying for matching grants "because the money is your tax money."
Koller's comments focused on changing the tax process for small businesses to "make Pennsylvania business friendly" and he supports school tax elimination and proposed using a sales tax to fund education. He said he would like to see the areas broadened for exemption of sales taxes.
Heffley also supported eliminating school taxes and said that schools should be looking at ways to lower costs for public education and also supports competition in education to lower costs. He also noted that teachers unions are too powerful.
"We need to find a way for local control of school funding because as long as Harrisburg holds the purse strings they will dictate how our schools operate," said Heffley. Heffley also said he would like to see the WAM stopped.
"We need to streamline the application process for fire companies and ambulances," said Koller. Koller said that he believes that the WAM helps legislators at election time. "I would also like to see the per diem changed." Koller said that presently legislators get $160 a day for showing up in Harrisburg even if they stay in Harrisburg.
Koller leaned toward using sales tax receipts for public education.
Both men said they believed they would be good legislators in Harrisburg and encouraged those attending to vote for them.
Both candidates spoke openly about being pro-life.
To the dismay of some who attended the forum, not one of the candidates for the Democratic party attended. The Democratic candidates, Justin Yaich, John Wieczorek, Bruce Nalesnik, Jeff Bobish and Att. Robert Frycklund all had other obligations that prevented them from taking part in the program.
But if the audience wanted to hear candidates express their views and plans for change, they certainly learned how Heffley and Koller think and feel about family values, school real estate taxes, abortion and the need for change in Harrisburg.