Two Republicans are vying to represent their party on the ballot in the November election for the 31st Senate District.
Andrew Shaw will square off against state Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, in the Republican primary on April 24.
Shaw, 36, is a Carlisle attorney. Vance, 74, is a former nurse looking to secure her third term in the senate.
No Democrats are currently in the race, meaning whoever wins the Republican primary is all but assured a win in November.
The 31st District includes all of Cumberland County and part of northern York County.
York County municipalities in the district include Carroll, Fairview, Franklin, Monaghan, Warrington and Washington townships and Dillsburg, Franklintown and Wellsville.
The York Dispatch asked the candidates the following questions.
1. What measures should the state Legislature take to improve Pennsylvania's economy and help create more jobs in the Commonwealth?
Shaw: Pennsylvania's economic comeback will never become a reality without real limits on debt and spending levels, deep and consistent reductions in taxes on job creators, and the end of compulsory union membership.
In each of these areas, Gov. Corbett has been met with real opposition, primarily in the state Senate. He needs allies who understand that without reform, we choose government spending over job creation.
Vance: Pennsylvania's largest problem at present is the stagnant economic climate. Unemployment remains high, and it is imperative that more family-sustaining jobs become available.
Correcting the problem will require that government reduce spending, lower taxes on individuals and businesses and reduce job-crushing over-regulation.
Adhering to regulations and complying with necessary paperwork takes a large amount of time and money. Money spent on complying with regulation is money not available to businesses for job creation.
2. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can point to a large backlog of road and bridge projects across the state. How dire are Pa.'s transportation needs? And how should it fund those backlogged projects?
Shaw: One of the sad legacies of the Rendell administration was his well-reported shift of public monies marked for transportation to nonessential areas of government. But it isn't fair to blame infrastructure problems on him entirely -- it's a shared challenge, and it's a big one.
Roads, bridges and other essential infrastructure issues won't be resolved unless we begin to shift resources from programs and initiatives that are not part of the core functions of government. It's back to basics, and that means fixing broken infrastructure first.
Vance: I recently read an article in a national publication that said poor quality roads and bridges cost the average motorist approximately $400 per year in additional vehicle repair costs, such as alignments, etc. Some bridges in my district have actually been closed due to deterioration. We must do something now, especially before a tragedy occurs.
One part of the solution is to allow public/private partnerships where private business would build new bridges and roads and be allowed to recoup investment by tolling them, a true user fee, for a period of time. The roads or bridges would then be turned over to the Commonwealth.
Another part is to consider recommendations from the Governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission such as consolidation of vehicle licensing centers, biennial registration for vehicles and updating traffic signals to LED. All of these changes would save the Commonwealth funds that could be redirected to support our roads and bridges.
3. With a focus on highway safety, state government has adopted new rules for teen drivers and a texting ban for everyone in the past year. Are more measures along those lines needed? Would you support a ban on handheld cell phones? A helmet requirement for motorcyclists? Why or why not?
Shaw: The real issue in every one of these instances is distracted driving and personal freedom. The Legislature must err on the side of personal freedom when it's not endangering the lives of others. I think we have to be very careful that we don't have annual laws to address emerging technology.
I'm not inclined to over-regulate drivers, especially when we already have laws on the books to address these very situations. I do believe that law enforcement has an obligation to cite erratic driving for any reason -- whether that's texting, shaving or reading a book, as we have all seen at one point or another.
I do not support reinstating the helmet law. Common sense says wear a helmet -- for me it's clearly a personal freedom and personal risk issue. However, the taxpayers should not be forced to pay for a motorcyclist's decision not to wear a helmet.
Vance: As the question illustrates, the Legislature has taken a number of steps in an effort to reduce teen driver accidents. Also, clearly the ban on texting while driving was an important highway safety measure.
Studies indicate that texting while driving impairs driving to the same extent that driving under the influence impairs drivers. My concern has always been that it is difficult for police to enforce this law when it remains permissible to talk on a cell phone.
Fortunately, education on the safety risks involved is a strong deterrent for people taking potentially harmful action while driving. Also, more and more people are using hands-free technology while using cell phones, and many of the new vehicles have hands-free features built in. These changes will help to save lives -- much like reinstating the motorcycle helmet law.
As a nurse, I have seen firsthand the implications for the rider, the family and sometimes even the taxpayers when motorcycle riders choose not to wear a helmet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,483 motorcyclists in 2009. They have also reported significant increases in degree of injury and hospital costs for those without helmets.
4. Residents have long complained about property taxes, though in recent years, Act 1 has succeeded in stemming the rapid increase in school property taxes. Does the state need property tax reform? Why or why not? And, if so, how would you approach the issue? Should property tax relief be restricted to homesteads (a homeowner's primary place of residence) or provided for all property owners? Why?
Shaw: The property tax system has failed homeowners and the education system. Education is an expensive public priority, but the permanent link to the size of a private home no longer makes sense.
I support eliminating school property taxes. I think we must be bold -- explore shifts that rely more heavily on a consumption or sales tax, standardize funding and move toward an approach that funds the child, not a particular educational approach. Property tax elimination is long, long overdue. I have knocked on thousands of doors in the last couple of months, and there is a resounding call to eliminate school property taxes.
Vance: Property tax reform has been discussed for decades. The problem is that everyone wants to eliminate or reduce them but no one can agree on how to replace them while continuing to fund public education.
In 1988, the Legislature passed a law to reduce property taxes dollar for dollar with a tax shift to a local income tax. The voters rejected that proposal by 3 to 1, illustrating the difficulty of finding a solution. With that being said, clearly we need to control property taxes. Many of our seniors and low-income workers struggle to pay their property taxes along with other bills.
I would insist that any change be approved by the voters and they be given the direct opportunity to decide what is reasonable in this regard. We must all be certain that the result is not merely shifting from one onerous tax to another.
5. State funding for education, and especially higher education, has declined under the Corbett administration. Do you agree or disagree with the approach the administration has taken toward education funding? Explain your answer. What changes would you recommend in terms of funding education?
Shaw: Gov. Corbett is making tough, difficult choices. When it comes to education, he's right. We've lost sight of the idea in government that more dollars don't automatically produce improved results.
When we spend in the range of $11,000-$15,000 per student, each year, we should be looking at ways to put dollars into teachers and classrooms, not just education infrastructure. Education spending shouldn't be confused for results; there's just no connection.
Once again, the teacher's union is cutting the governor's reforms off at every opportunity. They attack reform and anyone involved in proposing even a basic conversation regarding a system based on excellence and results.
Vance: Gov. Corbett ran on the platform that he would balance the budget without tax increases, and he has done that. However, there can certainly be differences of opinion as to where cuts are made in our budget and how deep they are in specific programs.
While I respect the enormity of his task, I believe education, including higher education, has taken a significant percentage of the cuts. Last year, I was pleased to be part of a legislative majority that restored money for our local schools and higher education, without a tax increase. That is a plus for taxpayers because often state education cuts result in higher local real estate taxes.
With regard to higher education, I believe the focus should be on helping students from lower- and middle-income families afford higher education. PHEAA grants and loans have been an important part of making education affordable for the students and deserve state support.
6. Why should voters cast a vote for you on Election Day? What qualities make you best suited for the position?
Shaw: Like our Founding Fathers, I believe in the idea of a citizen legislature. Come to the Capitol, bring your energy, life experience and passions -- do battle, then go home. In the last century, we wisely placed limits on presidential service. We do the same for our governor.
Serving 10, 20, 30 or 40 years in a single "job" produces a kind of entitlement and defensiveness in politicians. I'm running because it's time for a new generation of leaders to offer our service and take responsibility for our communities. Andrea and I want our little girls to stay and grow their own families here in Pennsylvania. But we've got some work to do if this state is going to offer any incentive to keep them here.
As a small business owner, and one that works with other small businesses, I understand the daily needs and struggles of businesses. I know what it is like to have employees dependent on me for their paycheck each week.
I will stand for the conservative values that made this state and nation great.I ask that you stand with me for tried and true conservative principles.
Vance: I am qualified for this position because I will not be a puppet for any individual, special interest or party. I believe in being honest, forthright and accessible.
I am a fiscally conservative Republican, and my goal has always been to put the people I represent first. I will continue to listen to their concerns and represent their interests.