Race for the 76th: Q&A with Mike and Stephanie

MICHAEL HANNA SR.

Age: 63

Address: 50 Sylvan Drive, Lock Haven.

Occupation: State legislator and former local practice attorney.

Family information: Married to Susan for 35 years. The couple has two sons: Michael K. Hanna Jr. and Kevin A. Hanna.

Education: Graduated in the Class of 1971 at the former Lock Haven High School, now Central Mountain High School. Also a Lock Haven University graduate, Class of 1977, and a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh Law School, Class of 1980.

 

STEPHANIE BOROWICZ

Age: 38.

Address: McElhattan

Occupation: Associate church pastor; former 4th grade teacher and president of a non-profit organization.

Family information: Born and raised in Orlando, Fla. Moved to Central Pennsylvania in 2009. She and her husband serve as associate pastors at the church in Jersey Shore; lives in Linnippi Village with her husband, Jason, and their 3 children, Braden, 14, Jacob, 12, and Micah, 9.

Education: Stephanie Borowicz received her Bachelor’s Degree from Vanguard University in Liberal Studies with a minor in Bible.

 

1. Wages have largely stagnated at state level over the past three decades. Would you favor an increase of the minimum wage to a level that is considered a living wage for families? Explain.

BOROWICZ: An increase to the minimum wage will not erase poverty. The minimum wage is meant to be a training wage, a beginning wage for those just entering the workforce. While some claim an increase in minimum wages would solve all of our problems, it simply is not the case. As has happened in other places, such as San Francisco, if the minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour as Mr. Hanna supports, we would see small businesses shut down and others switch to automation; it would actually result in a loss of jobs. Instead of supporting emotional talking points, I support working on programs to help move people from minimum wage jobs to more permanent family-sustaining jobs and careers.

HANNA: I support fair wages and have always fought for higher wages for working people, but I do not support an immediate increase in the minimum wage, instead, I believe the increase should be phased in over a three-year period.

2. Pennsylvania’s pension debt has now passed $66 billion. If elected, what are you going to do about this?

BOROWICZ: Mr. Hanna voted to increase his taxpayer financed pension by 50 percent and he is part of the reason why our pension system is $66 billion in debt. Mr. Hanna’s greed has syphoned off funding for our schools, health care facilities and law enforcement agencies. Instead of fighting for us and solving our pension crisis, Mr. Hanna lined his pocket with our hard-earned tax dollars. That is why reforming Pennsylvania’s public pension system is a top priority for me. I support moving all NEW employees into a 401K-style system, while keeping our promises to those already in the system.

HANNA: I support retirement security for everyone. However, it is clear we need to insure that the public retirement systems are both affordable to the taxpayers and sustainable. That’s why I supported an amendment to Senate Bill 1071 on June 13, 2016. This amendment created a hybrid 401K pension plan and would have saved $6 billion over the coming years. I also voted for Act 120, which cut benefits by 20 percent and is projected to save $33 billion. We still need to do more, and I am willing to negotiate a compromise of Senate Bill 1071 with the Senate to establish a 401K-style pension system that saves additional money.

3. Counties are coming under an increasing burden to cover the costs of state-mandated services, but are falling short of that due to their sole reliance on real estate taxes. What legislation would you propose to lessen that burden and increase revenue for counties? What does tax fairness mean to you?

BOROWICZ: Mr. Hanna has been in office for 25 years and has done nothing to lower our property taxes. Even worse, he has voted against property tax reform legislation. His inaction is forcing our seniors to make the choice between paying for their prescription drugs or staying in their homes. That is why I believe local officials should have access to a menu of options that provide property tax relief to homeowners while still bringing in the needed revenues to manage their jurisdictions. These additional options should come hand-in-hand with much needed cost controls which would keep property taxes from going right back up. Tax fairness means people and businesses paying their fair share for needed government services such as schools, roads and law enforcement.

HANNA: Budgeting at all levels requires an examination of spending cuts first and new revenue only after all savings have been exhausted. The budget that I voted for increased revenues to Clinton and Centre  Counties by a quarter of a million dollars through the payment in lieu of taxes. Our budget also provided for partial restoration of human services funding cuts to the counties by ex-Gov. Tom Corbet, although Senate Republicans refused to agree to it. As such, I have supported funding our human services mandates and I have provided additional revenue with no strings attached. Tax fairness means allowing counties to select alternative sources of revenue, but only if we require them to reduce property taxes by the exact same amount that their new source of revenue raises. I voted for a similar proposal for school districts, which is currently pending before the Senate, House Bill 504.

4. A new report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) lists four miles of the Susquehanna River as impaired for recreation. The impairment listing joins an impairment for fish consumption from the Susquehanna River, though the listings are not related to smallmouth bass populations in the river. How would you clean up the Susquehanna River and make it safer for fish consumption and recreation?

BOROWICZ: As someone who spends a lot of time outside with her family, I understand the value of our natural resources, including our waterways. Working together with local businesses, farmers, conservation managers and residents, we need to reduce what goes into these rivers and streams. Pennsylvania already has several waste management programs – for businesses, farms and municipalities. We need to make sure that we are fully maximizing the potential of these programs.

HANNA: I love to fish and protecting our water supply is one of the most important parts of my job.  I have supported acid mine drainage projects throughout the district. In fact, I have received an award from Trout Unlimited for my support of these projects to clean up the Susquehanna. I do not believe that agriculture should bear the financial burden of cleaning up the river. Instead, I believe those who consume our water without returning it to the environment, mostly fracking operations (farming and municipal water companies do return the water to the environment after it’s treated), should pay a fee that could be used to do additional cleanup of the Susquehanna.

5. The heroin and opioid crisis is devastating families and communities across the state. The rate of babies born with drug addiction issues in Pennsylvania has shot up about 250 percent from 2000 to 2015. This is a widespread, urgent problem and the legislature has to do more to address this situation. What is your solution?

BOROWICZ: I am a pastor’s wife who has opened up her home to those in need for years. Like so many families, we too have seen the devastating effects drugs are having in our local community. We recently had a teenager from our church come live with us because his father was in prison for drugs. While we will never be able to end the drug epidemic, we can limit it by making sure our law enforcement and social service agencies have the resources they need to combat this crisis. We must also ensure our doctors and pharmacists have the ability to see what has already been prescribed to an individual. Over-prescribing is big factor in addiction.

HANNA: Stopping the drug problem first requires strong law enforcement, and secondly education and treatment for addicts. I supported this year’s budget which provided an additional $23.9 million to address this crisis. In addition, last week I voted to require additional restrictions on opioid prescriptions. Emergency rooms and doctors would be required to enter into a directory all opioids prescribed and consult the directory before prescribing to insure there is no duplicate prescriptions. I also support legislation to require additional education and treatment to reduce opioid abuse.

6. Separation of church and state is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… Both of you have expressed deeply held spiritual beliefs. How will you balance those beliefs against your duty to uphold the constitution?

BOROWICZ: God, country and family. There is no question my belief in God and teachings of the Church throughout my life have influenced the person I am – and I am proud of it. The Bible, my parents, family and teachers have all contributed to my knowing what is right and what is wrong. I can’t run away from the person I am. I promise I will support the interests of the people in Clinton and Centre Counties regardless of religion or background and always fight for their needs.

HANNA: I’m a Christian and proud to be endorsed by Christian groups like The PA Pro-Life Federation.  The Constitution does not prohibit religion in government, it only prohibits the establishment of a government religion. As long as we respect all religious beliefs, there is room in government for religion. I’m proud of the fact that the Pennsylvania House of representatives prays before every legislative session. I’m even prouder that I am one of a small group of legislators who are allowed to lead that public prayer.

7. If a statewide constitutional convention occurred, what three priorities would you try to establish for change?

BOROWICZ: First, reducing the size of the legislature is very important. Times have changed and we don’t need such a large legislature. Mr. Hanna has voted against reducing the size of the legislature both times it was before the House. A smaller legislature would save tax dollars and create more efficient government.

Second, judicial reform is important; rural areas like ours are tired of Supreme Court Justices mainly coming from big urban areas. We should create judicial districts across the state to ensure all areas are represented on our highest court. Finally I would make it unconstitutional for municipalities to create their own gun-control laws – individual municipalities should not be able to infringe on our Second Amendment right.

HANNA: Our Pennsylvania Constitution was rewritten in the 1960s and is in need of change. I have offered legislation to authorize a constitutional convention. My top three priorities would be:

A. To establish a nonpartisan redistricting process that puts a stop to gerrymandering that allows legislators to pick their voters instead of voters picking their legislators.

B. To provide that neither the governor nor legislators are to be paid if an on-time budget isn’t adopted (In fact, during last year’s budget crisis, I lived by this principle and didn’t take my pay during the months of the budget impasse). In addition, this amendment should require legislators and the governor to stand for immediate election if they fail to pass an on time budget.

C. To provide for campaign-finance reform that stops the influence of money in elections.

8. Both of you support the individual’s right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and recreation. Both of you also support the idea that citizens should be responsible for the safe use and secure storage of their firearms. Do you support increasing the severity of penalties for crimes involving gun violence?

BOROWICZ: As a member of the National Rifle Association, a gun owner and concealed carry permit holder, I know that Pennsylvania’s legal gun owners are among the most responsible and respectful in the nation. We must have strong penalties for criminals, especially violent ones, regardless of whether or not a weapon is used.

HANNA: I support and believe in the Second Amendment and I’m proud to have the National Rifle Association and rthe Firearm Owners Against Crime endorsements for my reelection. No, I do not support any changes in Pennsylvania gun laws. The Legislature has already provided for increased penalties when a weapon is used in the committing of a crime.

9. If Act 13 is tossed, does Harrisburg just leave it alone or will the Legislature take another shot at a consumption tax? What’s your take on the Shale Industry’s responsibilities for any adverse impact from drilling, line construction and other potential problems?

BOROWICZ: Pennsylvania has a Marcellus Shale tax called an impact fee and it has brought in more than $1 billion for local communities, counties and state environmental programs. It is important that we continue to provide for the local municipalities most impacted by drilling with these resources. The closing of the Baker Hughes complex is another unfortunate example that our employers cannot afford Mr. Hanna’s and Gov. Wolf’s job-crushing economic policies. Unlike Gov. Wolf and State Rep. Hanna, I will oppose efforts to increase taxes on our employers and job creators. And, unlike Gov. Wolf and Rep. Hanna, I will remove the burdensome regulations that put our employers at a competitive disadvantage. It’s time the people in Centre and Clinton counties have a state representative who will focus on policies that grow our economy; not destroy it for the sake of a misguided political agenda. As with any industry, accidents will occasionally occur, however we have to do whatever we can to prevent them through smart regulations and inspections. Certainly, if there are accidents that adversely impact our community, those responsible should be held accountable.

HANNA: We need natural gas development, but the developers, not the taxpayers, should pay for commonsense measures to protect our environment. Act 13 has been twice modified by state Supreme Court decisions. It is not likely that the impact fee will be changed by the courts. However, the courts have said that local zoning is allowed to affect drilling. In addition, I support a severance tax that together with the impact fee would equal the tax rate in our neighboring states, and the use of those funds to pay for oversight of the drillers compliance with clean water and air laws.

10. Primarily due to gerrymandering, Republicans have a majority in nearly two-thirds of the country’s state legislative chambers. It’s also why, in 2012, Democratic statehouse candidates won 51 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania, which voted for Barack Obama in the presidential election, yet those candidates ended up with only 28 percent of the seats in the Legislature. We are the only democracy in the world that allows the politicians to draw their own lines and essentially choose their own voters. How would you combat this unfair process so that the districts re-elect actual voter preferences?

BOROWICZ: I don’t agree with the biased premise of this question. It is also my understanding that the redistricting plan did not come into effect until 2014. I support a fair and balanced redistricting process. I think that openness and transparency are the best ways to ensure the process is done right. During the last redistricting process you saw private citizens stand up and question the way some of the districts were drawn, which resulted in changes. This kind of citizen engagement is important and only strengthens the process

HANNA: I believe voters should pick their legislators, NOT legislators drawing districts that pick the voters they want. I have consistently supported redistricting legislation that requires a non-partisan commission, without legislators, to draw districts that are: A.  Compact and respect municipal boundaries; and B. Doesn’t use addresses of legislators or political registration as criteria.

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