Rep. Gerber Holds Town Hall in Gladwyne
At a town hall event in Gladwyne, Mike Gerber (D-148) discussed the budget, Marcellus Shale and redistricting, among other topics.
State Rep. Mike Gerber (D-148th) lamented missed opportunities for state revenue in speaking to a large group at the Gladwyne Fire Co. last Tuesday night just before the Gladwyne Civic Association’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting.
Gerber recapped the budget that passed this summer that cut nearly $4 billion, dealing what he characterized as huge blows to education and welfare, along with other human services.
He said the impact is especially severe in southeastern Pennsylvania, which is known for “eds and meds,” or schools and hospitals.
“It definitely had the impact some of us feared it was going to have,” Gerber said. “This is the first time I’ve voted against the budget.”
However, at the beginning of the Gladwyne Civic meeting, Commissioner Lew Gould, who has served as a trustee at the state-related Temple University since 1985, said the funding cut had been planned for and that the university itself has cut more out of its budget than it has had cut by the state budget.
“Cuts do not mean worse conditions—we need to get out of the mindset of spending more money,” Gould said. “If we do raise tuition, we also raise the level of financial aid. We did increase tuition, but we increased it in a fair way.”
Gerber said the state failed to capitalize on some tax opportunities this year.
For example, Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn’t tax smokeless tobacco, and the state doesn’t tax Marcellus Shale, either.
“While we did need to cut, we did have opportunities to raise new revenue,” Gerber said.
The state has passed some Marcellus Shale legislation, but Gerber said he opposed the proposed local drilling impact fees—which would amount to an about 1 percent tax—as not raising nearly enough revenue, and said other gas-producing states, such as Texas, Alaska and neighboring states have higher impact fees. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state without an extraction tax, Gerber said.
Environmental provisions would also preempt local zoning laws, so Gerber doesn’t believe current or proposed regulations go far enough to protect the environment.
While the northern part of the Delaware Valley watershed provides water to this area, the money collected would stay locally, so there would be no environmental protection in the southeast. Gerber cited the potential to repeat history of coal mining, which devastated areas that are still recovering.
“We should be drilling, but in a very measured way,” Gerber said. “We’re really not thinking ahead.”
Later, during the Q-and-A portion of the town hall, Gerber pointed out some of the enforcement limiting the environmental impact of Marcellus Shale drilling could prove difficult with the Department of Environmental Protection’s funding cuts. However, he said he believes the DEP secretary Michael Krancer, of Lower Merion, will do a good job of enforcement with the resources he has.
The other major issue Gerber discussed is redistricting, since the state is losing a seat in the House of Representatives. Pennsylvania’s share of the national population has gone down, so the state will now have 18 representatives instead of 19.
“The majority (Republicans) leverages power to redistrict to get votes,” Gerber said.
In response to a question about Gerber’s priorities, the representative mentioned the state’s depleted unemployment compensation fund and said Pennsylvania owes a lot of money back to the federal government. If the state doesn’t start paying it back soon, the federal government is going to start taxing businesses to get it back, according to Gerber.
He also noted the state is way behind in infrastructure development and has more deficient bridges than any other state.
Gerber held another town hall last Wednesday night in Whitemarsh.