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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Tough decisions must be made by state lawmakers

  • Sometimes, living so many miles from Harrisburg, it's hard to pay close attention to what lawmakers are doing this time of year.
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  • Sometimes, living so many miles from Harrisburg, it's hard to pay close attention to what lawmakers are doing this time of year.
    But the next few weeks may be the most critical when it comes to our future — including how our pocketbooks are impacted.
    The issues which are being debated are huge. Three of them are the most talked about. Those are transportation funding, pension reform and liquor privatization.
    Whether any of them get done remains to be seen.
    Reports coming out of Harrisburg indicate Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, is at odds with the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate.
    Corbett has pushed for all three of these big issues and has made proposals.
    On the liquor issue, he has members of the House on board, however, the reception in the Senate has been anything but drunken. It remains unclear if the Senate is willing to act on this major issue.
    Probably the biggest single issue facing all of the taxpayers of the commonwealth is pension funding. This is a huge issue for the taxpayers of Wayne County, who face steep increases in school taxes over the next decade unless the state can make some changes.
    But the plan endorsed by Corbett's colleagues in the Senate does not include changing the current pension plan. The governor wants new state employees to have a 401(k)-style plan established and he also wants to change the way future benefits are calculated for current employees.
    In this instance, Corbett is right because something needs to be done. People are going to flee Wayne County and the state in general if their taxes continue to rise because of public retirement demands.
    Why the Senate won't get on board with this remains a mystery, though it's not hard to read between the lines when it comes to their own re-elections. Think about it, they are on the same plan and are looking to have a nice retirement, as well.
    Page 2 of 3 - It's a shame so much policy making is based on political futures, but that has turned into the norm throughout the nation and Pennsylvania is no exception.
    Another major issue is transportation.
    Corbett is taking the bold stance of proposing removing tax limits on gasoline, something which would no doubt raise prices at the pump. He says the transportation system in the state is broken and some bold action needs to be taken.
    Some in the Senate want to go farther by raising licensing costs and adding $100 to any moving violation.
    The House is not on board with that issue and its chances seem pretty slim.
    But we all know that something needs to be done when it comes to the joke which is the transportation system in Pennsylvania.
    How that all plays out remains to be seen.
    Another major issue facing residents is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect next January.
    Corbett has refused to agree to an expansion of Medicaid, almost all of which is paid for by federal funds for the first few years of the program. It would mean thousands of Pennsylvanians would be eligible for health care at a low cost — but the state has to agree to this change.
    So far, the governor is not on board because he said that over time, the state would have to bear a higher burden of the cost.
    However, the program would also raise the income guidelines, meaning many more people would get health care and presumably be healthier, something which would save money of time.
    This is an interesting issue because many Republican governors in the country have agreed to this program — including some of the most ardent like Jan Brewer of Arizona.
    Page 3 of 3 - How all this shakes out in the end remains to be seen. It's the annual battle in Harrisburg where those we elect make decisions which impact our lives for years to come.
    Hopefully, some of them will come to their senses and realize tough decisions need to be made in order to keep people living in this state.
    That may be the most important part of this entire debate. If people decide to leave — which they haven't in recent years — that could mean even more pocketbook digging for those of us who stay.
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