As Lieutenant Governor, without the help of legislators, board members, business owners and members of the community, I will be limited in my abilities, as it should be. In all my capacities as Lt. Governor I promise to work with all of these individuals with the overall goal of helping Pennsylvanians. I will always try to be the voice of reason for less governmental response, but with more voluntary community and private sector cooperation. I will be a relentless advocate for individual rights.
I will proudly serve as the President of the State Senate. Although, I would only have a vote in the rare chance of a tie, it is important to know where I stand on the important issues we face today. In the event of any vote I promise to READ and understand what it is I am about to vote on. I will do my best to look at the long run ramifications of any bill I'd be the deciding vote on, and do so fairly and impartially.
The current administration's reaction to this virus, I believe, can be described as an overreach. There is no situation where a governing body should be able to arbitrarily decide what aspects of our lives are essential. We, as free people, are capable of making informed decisions about precautions we need to take. Although Covid is a threat, I think we are completely ignoring the equally serious repercussions of the lockdowns such as depression, suicide, drug addiction, domestic violence, and of course the economic havoc we are just starting to feel. I would vote to end all current restrictions. Now this, however, does not mean I would not or do not treat Covid as a threat. However, I believe the government's role is to put all available information into the hands of the people, at most, making recommendations informed by experts in the field. But, not to hold its people's livelihoods over there heads with the threat of legal action. The, nearly year old, lack of foresight in our unemployment situation alone, is negatively affecting hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians. The unreasonable restrictions such as having to order full meals and not just alcohol from bars, have lead to Covid not being taken as seriously as it should . Overall no one person, Governor or not, should have the unlimited power to shutdown Our State.
While farming is still PA's leading economic enterprise we still need to keep PA open for other industries. Fracking in PA has had both good and bad impacts on our Commonwealth. As of 2015 data reports Pennsylvania collected approximately $187.7 million from impact fees. With 60% of those monies going to counties and municipalities, and 40% to state agencies. They also employ around 20,000 - 50,000 annually. Washington County has the most wells with 1146 and they have 153 violations, and Susquehanna County has 1079 wells with a higher number of violations at 795. Pennsylvania sits above the Marcellus Shale Region which has a rich supply of natural gas. While the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection uses The Office of Oil and Gas Management to regulate fracking in PA it is lacking oversite. An AG report in 2020 showed just how lacking PA has been when it comes to keeping Pennsylvanian's safe. The report shows that there was insufficient oversight on both the Republican and Democratic administrations. They were dismissive of both water and air pollution caused by Fracking. A grand jury recommended 8 areas where improvement is needed. As Lt. Governor in PA, and as a board member of PEMA, I will ensure that the Grand Juries recommendations are followed. Which include but not limited to increasing the set back of wells, make public all chemicals used, safe transportation of waste water, regulations for smaller pipelines based on risk and not size, strengthen pollution regulations, assess public health in relation to fracking, make it harder for legislators and employees to leave public service and work for the fracking industry, and allow the AG's office to have jurisdiction over any criminal act of oil and gas companies doing business in PA. Pennsylvania is second in the US in the natural gas industry with Texas leading the nation. We as Pennsylvanians can profit from not only monies collected, but with jobs coming to PA because of the gas and oil industry. We need to make sure that with the proper oversights that we also keep our Number 1 industry (farming) viable for future generations.
As of 2017 United States Census of Agriculture, Pennsylvania ranks 1st in mushroom production, 4th in apples and Christmas tree production, 5th in dairy and grape production, and 7th in wine making. As of this census we have a total of 53,157 farms in PA with 7059 farms producing corn, 3370 wheat for grain, 2711 oats for grain, and 1546 barley for grain. Agriculture has been a major part of the economy since 1682 with the increase of sheep and wool production happening from the 1830's to the 1850's. In 2000 PA had an export of 1 billion in agricultural products.
Dairy is Pennsylvania's largest agricultural industry producing three main categories ice cream and frozen desserts, butter and cheese, and fluid milk products. While dairy is our largest agricultural industry it was also one of the hardest hit industries with dairy farmers dealing with declining dairy prices on a yearly basis. We cannot sustain the rank of 4th in the country with dairy farmers suffering and even resulting in selling or killing off livestock. Livestock raising comprises 68% of the Commonwealth farming income. But, again with prices declining especially in the Covid 19 pandemic, farmers had to find another outlet for their livestock reducing the pricing even more just to offload and not lose their farms.
As of the Census, PA had 2412 orchards comprised of 43,509 acres of farm land. The influx of the spotted lantern fly has had a major impact on orchards in the quarantine zone. PA has tried to keep the SLF from overtaking the Commonwealth. However, more research and funding needs to be added to the war against invasive species to protect our number 1 economic industry.
I would be remiss if I didn't add the snack food and confectionery industry with Pennsylvania's agricultural industry. PA's Snack food and confectionery which has about $51 billion in annual sales, and around 150,000 jobs (annually/seasonally) within those facilities. With York County becoming the "Snack Food Capital of the World" Being the owner of a business that falls under this category I am fully aware of the stipulations and regulations that the PA Dept. of Ag places on small businesses as well as how Covid 19 restrictions have throttled sales. For PA to remain in the snack food and confectionary business, we need to strongly consider some important changes. As it stands now cottage laws in PA are as good as non-existent making it hard for small businesses to thrive in this current atmosphere.
PA is one of the largest egg producing states in the nation. Along with meat, poultry, and fish bringing in 43 billion in sales annually to PA farmers. Livestock and livestock products account for 70% of PA agricultural income. We need to do what is necessary to protect all of our industries in the Commonwealth. Programs like PA Preferred, Next Generation Farmer Loan Program, Industrial Development Authority and Pa Grows have shown beneficial to our agricultural community, and help promote PA products and brings more to the industry.
It seems Taxes are always at the top of everyone's list. Pennsylvania's property tax is higher than the national average as it is 6th highest average property tax in the nation. New Jersey is currently the highest with Hawaii being the lowest. We have had, in the past few years, many attempts to pass a relief bill including, but not limited to, HB13, SB76, and HB1231. In the homeowner tax relief Act 72 of 2004 they passed the homestead exemption and disabled veteran's exemption. Tax reform is needed to help lower or eliminate the property tax, as well as fiscal responsibility when it comes to where tax dollars are allocated compared to where they are actually spent. House Bill 13 had a section to tax 4.92% on retirement income. (Not including SS). This tax would hurt those that we are trying to protect. Those on fixed income who stand to lose their homes from not being able to afford the rising property tax.
In January 2021 a few ideas have been thrown around the state legislature including increases to the personal income tax and sales tax. PA does NOT have a revenue problem, PA has a spending problem. Fiscal responsibility is greatly needed in PA. We have the highest gas tax nationally, as well as other taxes. We are constantly told we need this new tax or new tolls to pay for roads, state police, school's etc. Most of those taxes end up being used to fill gaps in the budget. The $108 million dollars from the Federal Cares Act that we received should have gone to renters and homeowners, instead it was used to fill a gap in the State's Department of Corrections budget. The State made it almost impossible for Pennsylvanian's to get the help they desperately needed. So instead they moved the money to fill gaps in their own budget.
As a woman, Women's Rights are important to me. I don't feel any Government has a right to legislate a women's reproductive system. As a liberty minded person, I see this relating to Individual Rights and I like to compare it to the Covid Vaccine. I would not support a Government mandate to force vaccination as I see it as a personal choice as I would not support a Government mandate or law that limits a woman's right to make her own decisions in her health. And, although I understand the argument of how these practices are funded, and am open to ideas of how that could be rectified, I personally fear that defunding outright could be used as a blockade against those who couldn't afford proper care that could be too detrimental to not only the people directly involved, but also the community as a whole.
As Lt. Governor I will serve as the Chair of the Board of Pardon's where I will focus my attention on full and complete pardons for all non-violent offenders. Pennsylvania's crime rate is 3.1 incidents per 1000 people. We have incarcerated 47,000 people on any given day in Pennsylvania Correctional facilities. 45% of the state prison systems, and 63% in the county prison system, are non-violent offenders consisting of drug or property crimes. Non-violent crimes include DUI, shoplifting, petty theft, fraud, embezzlement, drug possession, prescription drug crimes, public intoxication, or traffic violations. These non-violent crimes do not result in the physical harm of others or attempting to harm others. In 2019 the Attorney General intended to launch an investigation into the use and subsequent release of non-violent offenders in accordance with the Clean Slate Act. There is currently no more information on this investigation.
As the Chair of the Board of Pardons I will inquire about outreach and rehabilitation programs for drug offenders as well as other non-violent crime offenders. Mental health is an issue in PA as well as across the country. We need to have programs in place to help those with mental health issues while keeping them out of the penal system. Although I would not have sole or final say, I will urge my fellow board members to join me in removing these blemishes from these people's records. It is hard enough for someone to turn their lives around from addiction or lifestyle, these convictions only continue to further hamper them from advancing their employment or educational opportunities. I will also strongly consider other cases, in particular, instances where victims are incarcerated for defending themselves against their abusers.
Other Issues & Duties
I also believe in reforming current State Programs such as the Welfare System and Child Protective Services. As for the Welfare System a large amount of Pennsylvanians depend on this system and I would not support just pulling the rug out from under them, however there has been numerous cases of fraud and misuse which only hurts those who need it. Welfare should be used as a helping hand and not as an viable long-term survival option. Currently the system is designed to keep individuals in it and we must work to build a system that helps those people rebuild their lives into something they can be proud of.
Child Protective Services also needs attention, especially after the lockdowns of the last year. With more children home and not in school the likely hood of abuse going unnoticed has increased exponentially. We need to take a hard look at CPS and make sure that funds are being used appropriately and that true victims are being helped and not created by an inefficient government agency.
I will also serve as the chair of the local government advisory committee where I will work with members of the board to discuss the impact of legislation is having on local governments and the business community. I will listen to the local municipalities and their concerns. I will also urge the board to discuss if legislation provides a benefit to larger corporations over locally owned small businesses. Whether business licensing is hurting or helping communities in the Commonwealth. And, I will work with the farmers of PA to hear their concerns on the agricultural industry which is so important to the success of Pennsylvania.
Another one of my duties will be to serve as a member of the PA Emergency Management Council or PEMA, and by the way the current administration handled the Covid pandemic, I think we should focus on being better prepared for future emergencies in the state. PEMA establishes policy and direction for the State. I plan to work with other members and review how the council handled the pandemic response, both in where it succeeded and where it failed. Reviewing both will make future responses better.
Along with PEMA, my duties would include serving as the Chair of the PA Recovery Resources Team who is responsible for directing committees to where they need to go in the event of a disaster. We will be assisting in securing and delivering appropriate resources to the affected communities, and working with that community until they recover. I will also advocate for all charitable contributions and funds to help in those incidences.
I will also serve as a member of the PA Military Community Enhancement Commission where I will review the economic impact of our military bases and installations and the defense of our state.
Finally, in these days of bitter partisan politics, I promise to work with all people regardless of party or political affiliation. We were a nation built on individual rights and personal freedom, and we have always had to compromise to bring all sides to the table. I will use rational thought and Libertarian ideas in my work to make Pennsylvanian a better, stronger, and more free state.