Candidates for 90th House seat define their stances
With just two weeks until the primary election, Republican candidates for the 90th District House of Representatives squared off at a forum sponsored by the Franklin County Reagan Coalition. Paul Schemel, Greencastle, and Rita Daywalt, Waynesboro, are seeking the seat being vacated by Rep. Todd Rock, who served eight years before choosing not to run for re-election in 2014, in favor of taking a job in the private sector.
The session was held at Kauffman Ruritan Community Center Tuesday evening. Josh Lang and Jesse Topper, candidates in the 78th district, also answered the four questions submitted in advance. Coalition chairman Robert Wollyung moderated the evening. Twenty-five people from the public attended.
Property tax reform
Daywalt and Schemel both supported House Bill 76. The Property Tax Independence Act, also under consideration in the Senate, would change the way schools are funded by altering the taxing structure from real estate to sales tax.
"I absolutely support the bill," Daywalt said. "It would be a boon to the real estate market. It taxes you on your ability to pay."
As a member of the Waynesboro Area School Board, she was preparing to vote on her second no-tax increase budget. She also had the endorsement of The Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition.
Schemel said the bill was not perfect and shifted the tax burden, so people's income tax would rise from 3.07 percent to 4.34 percent; the sales tax would go up from 6 percent to 7 percent, making it higher than Maryland and other neighboring states; and taxes would begin to include food, clothes and services. Bureaucrats would still control the funds and the act did not increase the level of school funding.
"People need to be aware of what it covers," he said. "It needs to be tweaked."
Both candidates agreed that the pension system enjoyed by teachers and state employees needed an overhaul. Wollyung said the combined debt of $47 billion was expected to grow to $65 billion in five years.
Schemel offered some suggestions on fixing the unsustainable model: prohibit borrowing schemes of the past, fund pensions annually, establish 401(k)-type programs while honoring current employee contracts, raise the retirement age, increase employee contributions and offer incentives for early outs.
Daywalt said teachers' unions needed to get on board, that it was incredibly difficult for teachers to accept any change.
Issue of choice
The candidates explained which governmental issue was particularly important to them.
"Pennsylvania has an addiction to spending," said Schemel.
With 40 percent of the state budget devoted to the Department of Public Welfare, the largest single budget item, he advocated changing the failing programs which still allowed the poverty level to rise each year. That included increasing eligibility standards, setting time limits so as not to create a permanent underclass, creating Medicaid vouchers for recipients to spend in the marketplace, and closing eligibility loopholes which let even the wealthy obtain services.
Daywalt was concerned about the state budget and education. She said school districts had to address how they used their money. Philadelphia spent $30,000 per student with "awful results" while Waynesboro spent $11,500 with "amazing results". She continued that within Waynesboro's $52 million budget, there were many unnecessary items that could be cut.
A priority was to eliminate duplicate programs and reform welfare. "I can do this in Harrisburg. It is your money, not the government's."
The best choice
Wollyung asked each person why they were best qualified for a House seat.
Daywalt said she represented the needs of constituents because of the life she led. She had three children, one with special needs, and worried about their future. She worried about her 91-year-old grandmother's ability to keep her home. She and her husband worked hard every day. She was pro-life, pro-marriage between a man and a woman, and was a member of the National Rifle Association.
She criticized Harrisburg, which she said had too many attorneys who had not been able to enact pension reform.
"I won't be pressured to change my positions when the going gets tough," she concluded.
Schemel noted that Franklin County was the sixth fastest growing county in the state, with an unrivaled work ethic and strong morals among the peoples. He had six children.
"I am a lawyer. I have an MBA. Education should not be held against us," he responded to his opponent’s charge. Many of America’s founding fathers were also lawyers, he said. He had helped 200 business get started, and helped many families with their challenges. He promised not to accept a per diem, car allowance, health insurance once out of office, and "I am the only candidate in my race who will not take a pension."
The primary election is May 20.