Sen. Eichelberger greets and eats with constituents in Greencastle
Too many people showed up Tuesday to allow Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr. to spend the three hours grilling hotdogs. He turned over duties to his District Director Ben Junkin.
Eichelberger held an open house at Greencastle borough hall to meet constituents in a casual setting, and acquaint them with the location of his new satellite office. Junkin will be present every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help citizens with state-related issues. He will use the spare room off the lobby of borough hall.
The cookout was personally funded by the area’s new senator, with the western part of Franklin County falling into Eichelberger’s territory after reapportionment in 2012. He is serving his third term in the 30th District. The Republican is from Blair County.
A key topic in the news is the failure of the General Assembly to pass the budget on time.
“Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal is so far removed from reality, you can’t negotiate from that,” said Eichelberger.
He likened the Democrat’s goal to someone trying to sell a $10,000 car for $45,000. Wolf’s suggested $4.5 billion tax increase was “unbelievable”, and more than the $2.1 billion increase proposed by all of the other states combined, he said.
“He has to come down significantly,” said Eichelberger. And while there had been some talk of a short-term budget, in actuality, “There has been very little movement on the budget, very, very little.”
With pension reform also being watched closely, Eichelberger acknowledged that the Pennsylvania State Education Association was the only union not allowed in his office, in effect for six years so far.
“They’ve lied to me consistently and been very nasty,” he said.
PSEA also sent out emails with false information, which he countered in various Town Hall meetings around the district. The statements addressed natural gas drilling and the taxes the companies supposedly would not pay.
On a more personal level, Eichelberger welcomed teachers to visit, with many of them in support of his policies, and hoping he can help fix the crisis so they are safe in retirement. He wanted both sides to come to a solution.
“We have to get some factually-based dialogue to get things worked out,” he said.
Eichelberger, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Mike Folmer, chairman of the State Government Committee, recently created the Joint Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee (PEER).
“We have a hearing Thursday on waste, fraud and abuse in state government,” he said.
The committee will focus on how Pennsylvania can become more prudent with spending, so that by next year the commonwealth could be more efficient and provide better services as well. PEER sessions will be ongoing, meeting with various departments and experts.
Cookout guests at the open house cornered Eichelberger on their most pressing issues, including transportation, property taxes, education and the budget.
Eichelberger’s Franklin County office is provided at no cost by the Borough of Greencastle. Constituents can drop by each Tuesday, or call Junkin at 866-509-3424.
The other county office is in Mercersburg Borough Hall, Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For the rest of the outlying district, the sites are: Cumberland County, Newville Borough Hall, Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Fulton County, 201 Lincoln Way W., McConnellsburg, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main office is in Hollidaysburg.
Junkin is a native of Willow Hill in Franklin County. He graduated from Lock Haven University and was executive assistant to the former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, George Greig. He now lives in Blairs Mills with his wife and children.