WAYNESBURG — In an atmosphere of civility, the two candidates running in the 50th Legislative District squared off in a forum last week and fielded a host of questions ranging from the opioid crisis to property tax reform, from municipal blight to legislative gridlock, and from educational funding to pensions and per diems. The two participants — two term incumbent Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, and her Republican challenger, Betsy Rohanna McClure, a registered nurse from Franklin Township — engaged in a back and forth exchange during the one-hour forum sponsored by the The Mon Valley HeraldStandard,
HeraldStandard and the Greene County Messenger held at Waynesburg Central High School.
Moderator of the event was Christopher Whitlatch, chief executive officer of the Mon Valley Alliance, and the questions he asked were designed to elicit specific responses to relevant issues affecting the legislative district that includes all of Greene and parts of Fayette and Washington counties. “First, there is no magical piece of legislation that is going to fix this problem,” Snyder said, when asked about solutions to the opioid crisis.
She said she was one of four state House members to serve on an opioid taskforce, and while there is so much more to do, there came agreement there has to be education, prevention and treatment. Snyder said she visited all seven school districts in the 50th and spoke to middle school kids. “I wanted them to understand and see the importance of
making good choices, of being leaders instead of followers,” she said. “This is all about communities and kids — educating our kids, making sure we have prevention. And for those who falter, making sure we have treatment.” McClure said as a school nurse, she is on the front line of this. “First, we need jobs and opportunities. If there are more opportunities for people, they will hopefully stay away from drugs,” she said. McClure believes the education process begins in the elementary schools. “We can’t wait to start in high school. That will be too late.”
Property tax reform
McClure said she would be in favor of the elimination of property taxes but questioned where the money comes from to fund schools. “We can’t have other taxes rising,” she said. Snyder said property tax reform and education funding are linked. “Property taxes have to be reduced, but you have you have a sustainable source of revenue to fund out public education system and take the burden off property tax owners,” she said. “I would never vote to cut school funding,” McClure said. She said bringing more jobs to the area would bring more people to help with the burden of the property tax. Snyder suggested that the state doesn’t pay its fair share of the public education system. “They have been negligent,” she said.
Pensions, per diems
Snyder said she does pay into the state pension system. “My opponent says she will not take a pension, but she already has a state pension as a school nurse. I am not doing my job for my pension. I am doing it to protect other people’s pensions,” she said.
With respect to per diems, Snyder said she is reimbursed for hotels and travel back and forth to Harrisburg. “I am reimbursed. I wish I didn’t have to be,” she said.
McClure said she would work to eliminate those per diems. “Many legislators from Fayette and Washington counties do not take per diems.” Each candidate was asked why they became a member of their respective political party, and whether they would tell the audience who they will be voting for in the presidential race. “The Democratic Party has always stood for the working class,” Snyder said. “I believe in the middle class, and I believe in the American dream.” Snyder described the presidential election as an “embarrassment,” and said right here, right now, “I am an undecided voter.” McClure said she has been a Republican all her life. “I believe in less taxes and freedom,” she said. “I became politically active because of health care. “The Affordable Care Act has been an intrusion,” she said. Her vote will go to Donald Trump, she said. No matter who is elected to lead the country, Snyder said when one of her constituents has a problem, they won’t call Trump or Hillary Clinton to fix it. “They will call Pam Snyder, state rep, to fix it,” she said.
The district covers all of Greene County, East Bethlehem Township and Centerville in Washington County and Brownsville, Luzerne and Redstone townships and Brownsville and Masontown boroughs in Fayette County. The 50th includes Albert Gallatin, Bethlehem Center and Brownsville school districts in Fayette and Washington counties, and all of the districts in Greene County.
Election Day is Nov. 8.