Pennsylvania State Representative Pamela Delissio of the 194th District is open with her constituents: since being sworn in for her first term on Dec. 1 of this year, she has yet to introduce any new legislation. She has, however, sponsored several amendments to existing bills, including one on patients’ right to specific consent for HIV tests, to no avail.
The amendments “just come winging back at me,” she said at Wednesday’s town hall meeting at Roxborough Memorial Hospital. “It’s that ‘D’ after my name. Not for DeLissio, but for Democrat.”
The woes of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives were a prominent theme of the well-attended meeting, which began with Delissio’s frustrations over the recently passed state budget.
She calls cuts to both basic and higher education “very short-sighted,” pointing to an additional $119,000 in cuts to the Philadelphia school district in the adjusted budget that came from the Senate to the House just 30 hours before the final vote was due. “This saves money on paper,” she said. “But the consequences going forward are going to cost us more than the dollars we save now.”
Meeting attendees, for their part, angrily pointed out the rising tuition costs of state schools which are losing their funding.
“Our lower and middle classes have been cut out of education,” said one ruffled constituent. “Our students are graduating with loans that no reasonable person could possibly expect to pay off.”
Delissio also highlighted cuts to state-level Medicaid programs – even those which receive 55% of their budget from Federal matches.
“We’re taking a beating down here!” one male retiree fumed, invoking fears over President Obama’s warning to federal legislators earlier this week that August Social Security checks would fail to be issued.
Other prominent topics included the taxation of Pennsylvania’s burgeoning shale-drilling industry, including the pros and cons of a local impact fee. “The industry fully expects to be taxed,” she said, dismissing fears that a tax on the industry would cripple job-growing profits. She said the sheer magnitude of the industry means that the proposed taxes will not have a deleterious effect: “no-one is going to take their ball and go home.” However, DeLissio maintained that she would not vote for a bill to tax the industry until the proposed rate was high enough.
One fiery constituent countered that DeLissio should vote for any tax, at the earliest opportunity.
“One percent of a billion dollars is a lot of money,” he said.
Taxes were a recurrent theme, with DeLissio expounding on what she sees as the “irresponsibility” of some Republicans’ recent anti-tax pledges, particularly when they take place before a politician is even in office, including one signed by Governor Corbett during his campaign.
Discussion on the partisan budget feud gave way to even more heated complaints on unemployment. DeLissio declared that for all the “trickle-down” philosophy of low taxes leading to increased profits and more hiring, Gov. Corbett’s budget does “nothing” to stimulate job growth.
“I have so much experience,” said one woman who announced that she works four different part-time jobs. “I cannot get full-time work. I’m not even asking for benefits. I just want one job, and not to have to work ten, twelve, thirteen hours a day.”
“It’s a damn shame that I have to look outside of the state for work,” she said.
For her part, DeLissio touted efforts to make personal introductions that foster jobs, businesses and rentals in the Philadelphia area.
A burst of yells met the night’s most heated topic: the recent controversial initiative to require a state-issued photo ID at the voting booth.
DeLissio admitted that she had removed herself from the vote.
While constituents employed at the polls pointed out empirical evidence of voter fraud (often assisted by infrequent purging of voter files, which can keep deceased citizens on the books for years), DeLissio argued a total lack of hard evidence that levels of voter fraud in Pennsylvania justify the cost to taxpayers of implementing the ID requirement, which she estimated between $8-$11 million.
She insisted that human services and education are better uses for Pennsylvania dollars.
DeLissio’s third and final town hall meeting will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, July 14, at The Conservatory of Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill Cemetery.
DeLissio’s legislative district includes portions of Lower Merion Township and the 21st, 38th and 52nd wards in Philadelphia.