Public hears from its new state Senator John Eichelberger in Greencastle

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Cindy and Henry Ryder met John Eichelberger in a casual setting last week.

Though his third term as a state senator does not take effect until Dec. 1, John Eichelberger Jr. held a Town Hall meeting Nov. 20 in Greencastle to visit with new constituents. His 30th district was realigned after the 2010 census to include a portion of Franklin County.

Approximately 30 people turned out at the middle school library to hear his ideas for the 2015 legislative session in Harrisburg, and to pose their own concerns.

The Hollidaysburg resident had already been in the Greencastle area a number of times during the campaign, in which he was unopposed on the Republican ticket, and had no other competition.

Eichelberger said gains in the Senate and House made for strong majorities to counter the upset of Tom Wolf taking the governorship from Tom Corbett.

"People did not like Corbett," he admitted. "He was not a good communicator and the Sandusky situation left resentment."

Democrat Wolf's agenda was different than that of the conservatives, Eichelberger continued. The new governor would not be able to do what he promised during the election, because he had ignored the pension problem. The General Assembly would not support an income tax increase, and there would be battles on a five percent severance tax on the gross income of the drilling industry. He said if the fee came to pass, thousands of jobs would be lost, since the profit of the oil and gas companies for each well would be miniscule. They already contributed $2.7 billion annually through the same taxes other businesses paid.

The use of property taxes to fund education was on the minds of several citizens.

Alternative tax programs had made some gains in one body of the legislature, then killed in the other in the past.

"There will absolutely be another effort made," said Eichelberger.

The senator agreed that Pennsylvania had a spending problem.

"The state has made so many mistakes over the years."

He said no one could trust politicians to run the public employees retirement system.

"PSERS is too generous. We can't sustain that system. It's not out there in the private sector."

As to privatizing state liquor sales, Eichelberger said chances were better now that more people were in office who would stand up to the unions.

He did credit Corbett with reducing state spending and holding it in check the past four years.

Eichelberger and his fellow elected officials will manage a budget of $29 billion.