By Steve Ferris firstname.lastname@example.org Updated Oct 27, 2016
The men vying to represent the 52nd Legislative District agree that the state House has too many members, and its size should be reduced. While Democrat James Mari said he hasn’t studied the resolution that would reduce the number of House members to 151 from 203, he said he supports reducing the size because it will save the taxpayers.
Incumbent state Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis, said the number of House and Senate members should be reduced and voted for a bill that would do that.
Any reduction should be done carefully to make sure rural areas are represented, he said.
Pennsylvania has the largest full-time Legislature in the county. Texas is a larger state, but its Legislature is part-time, he said. Both candidates said they would support having an independent commission of citizens set legislative and congressional district maps.
Warner said his district includes half of East Huntingdon Township and the other half is in another representative’s district. Mari said he would also support a plan to provide the area with fair representation.
Per diems and state pension
Warner said he doesn’t take the state pension, nor accept per diem payments for travel or lodging. He said it was difficult to decide against joining the pension plan because he has family, but he promised he would not enroll in the pension plan or accept per diems or a vehicle from the state when he ran for his first term. The pension plan available to legislators is greater than the one for state employees and teachers, he said.
Democrat challenger James Mari, a tax collector in North Union Township, said Warner accepts reimbursements for mileage and lodging, which he contended is the same as accepting per diems. Mari did not say if he would accept per diems or enroll in the pension plan if he was elected. Warner said getting reimbursed for expenses is not the same as accepting per diems. Reimbursements for travel and lodging expenses documented on receipts saves tax dollars, he said. Per diems can be greater that the actual costs and lawmakers who accept them pocket the extra money, he said.
Warner said legislators must be able to disagree without resentment, and understanding the point of view of other lawmakers is the key to bipartisanship. Mari said too much emphasis is placed on party affiliations. “We need to throw the ‘Ds’ and ‘Rs’ away,” Mari said.He said he works with all taxpayers when they need help with their taxes and legislators must work for all state residents. Warner said he is a Republican because he believes the government should be smaller and less intrusive. “I believe the government that governs less governs best. … I just think our federal government has gotten way too big,” Warner said. He said the federal government should be involved only in issues involving the U.S. Constitution and states should be left to handle everything else.
Mari said he is a Democrat because it helps working class people and is supported by unions, which built the country. The men were asked to reveal who they’re going to vote for in the presidential election. Warner said he will cast a vote for Trump, though he doesn’t support everything Trump says or does. “He’s an outsider. He’ll bring something fresh to the equation,” Warner said. He said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would put coal miners out of work and called the National Rifle Association her greatest enemy.
Mari said both candidates have presented good ideas, but he wanted to watch the third debate before deciding who to vote for.
The forum was held prior to the third presidential debate.