This November, Democratic incumbent Pamela DeLissio will face off against Republican opponent Linda Wolfe-Bateman in the race for Pennsylvania’s 194th District State Representative seat, which covers portions of Montgomery County and much of Northwest Philadelphia. NewsWorks contributor Erin Cusack sat down with the two candidates to learn more about their positions on some of the most pressing issues facing the state. See what they had to say about health care, jobs and the economy, and the future of public education in our state.
This is the second in a series of two articles. Yesterday we heard from Rep. Pamela DeLissio. Today we talk to Linda Wolfe-Bateman.
Background: What experience, expertise and ideas do you bring to elected office?
Over the years, my family has been very involved in Philadelphia and trying to improve our political situation. After working in a variety of jobs up and down the eastern seaboard, I came back to my hometown of Philadelphia in 1979 where I later became became ward leader, Vice President of my local AFSCME union, and worked in the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. Through these many experiences, I have developed knowledge of not only the Pennsylvania tax code and how to bring in revenue, but how to negotiate with unions in the mutual interest of employees and employers.
Health: In June, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. What is your stance on health reform? And how will you move forward in implementing it in a way that’s best for Pennsylvanians?
This particular Act is now law, so as Representative I would take it and work worth with it. I agree with many of the ideas in the law. Insurance companies have been overcharging premiums for years, so creating more affordable health care options is an important change. Since I believe health reform is necessary, I can work within the outline of the law and hopefully try and improve upon it for my constituency and for the state of Pennsylvania.
Economy: Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate stands at 8.1 percent, right around the national average. Additionally, the public sector in Pennsylvania shed 22,700 jobs from December 2010 to December 2011. What plans do you have to invest in jobs and incentivize business growth?
If elected, I would work very hard to get the unemployment rate down. I would create an area in my office specifically devoted to helping constituents find jobs or start their own business in the district. In terms of the public sector, in the last eight to 12 years the desire to make government smaller has resulted in a situation where government employees are retiring, but they are not being replaced with new workers. It’s made the government inefficient because we simply do not have enough employees to get the job done. When I worked for the Department of Revenue, we had 30,000 uncollected files (for the inheritance tax) just in Philadelphia that needed to be closed, but we didn’t have the personnel to do it. If elected, I would go after this problem and rehire in government, especially in the Department of Revenue.
Taxes: Voters have heard a lot about “no new taxes” pledges, and the countervailing call to action to close tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporations. What ideas do you have for generating new revenue for the state, whether it be through tax cuts or increases?
I hope to bring in businesses and jobs, and start feeding the revenue that way. They’ve already raised the flat tax over the last four to eight years, and I’m not sure how that has improved the situation. I don’t like the idea of raising more taxes, but I will look into closing some loopholes. The Pennsylvania tax code is simple for individuals, but when it comes to businesses it can be very complicated. I would like to simplify this process for businesses so that they can continue to stay open and navigate the paperwork. As a service to my constituents, I would also like to offer seminars on tax filing and other topics that are critical to the functioning and survival of small businesses.
Education: Funding for education continues to be threatened in these tough economic times. What are your priorities for funding education in Pennsylvania? And where do you stand in the school choice vs. public education debate?
If elected, I will continue to support public education, as I do not approve the voucher bills as written. What I’ve come up with is a little bit different than a voucher system, and it’s called education checks. We spend an average $16,000 per child on education in Philadelphia, but often a school’s actual spending budget is roughly half of that. I propose that 5 percent of a school’s administrative budget be administered directly to the parents, teachers, and Home and School Association in the form of education checks that are used for supplies, field trips, afterschool activities, and other day-to-day expenses. Not only would this empower the students, parents, and faculty, it would create an influx of cash for school programs that might otherwise be cut in administrative budgets.
Social Issues: What are some of the social issues that define your campaign platform?
I do not want to focus on those Catch 22 issues like abortion or gay marriage because I think they divide people. I’d rather focus on how to take care of children, make sure that they are not in situations that are detrimental or harmful to them, and invest in poorer schools to help our communities grow. My position in Harrisburg will be to improve businesses and improve schools, and stay away from social issues that put us in such a political quagmire.
Make a last pitch to your voters. Why should we vote for you?
I am a moderate Republican, and I need democratic voters to win this race. If elected, my voice will be a voice of reason and common sense, not ideology. I will be committed to my constituency and to growing jobs and businesses in my district.