By Steve Ferris firstname.lastname@example.org Updated Oct 27, 2016
Both candidates running for the 52nd District seat in the state House of Representatives agreed that drugs are a problem in the area, but have different views on fixing it.
Republican Rep. Ryan Warner, R-Perryopolis, is facing a challenge in his run for a second term from Democrat James Mari, the tax collector in North Union Township. They discussed a variety of topics in a recent forum hosted by the Herald Standard and The Mon Valley Herald Standard at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.
Warner said the supply of opioids should be addressed, and he does not believe methadone or suboxone treatments are the best ways to treat addicts.
“We’ve become way too lax in our society for prescription drugs in general,” Warner said.
He supports a bill to require monitoring when people try to get refills of certain pain killers to reduce the supply of drugs on the streets.Many addictions start with the use of those drugs, he said.
Methadone and suboxone are more addictive and have longer lasting withdrawal symptoms than heroin, he said.
“We’re just feeding them one drug and it takes longer to get off of that,” Warner said.
Mari said parents and schools should educate their children about the dangers of drug use.
He said he would work with police to combat drugs and supports longterm
“It takes a short time to get addicted, but it takes a lifetime to heal,” Mari said.
He said methadone and suboxone help, but are not cures.
Property tax reform, education
Warner said property taxes should be reduced or eliminated — and noted the most recent legislation would replace property taxes by raising sales and income tax rates.
Replacing revenue generated by property taxes with revenue from higher sales and income taxes is a massive tax shift, he said. “We’re looking at a $13 billion tax shift here,” Warner said. Mari, who has been a tax collector for 10 years, said House Bill 76 would eventually eliminate property taxes. He said raising the sales tax is fair because everybody would pay it. The candidates were asked if taxes on casino revenue are helping to reduce property taxes. Warner said the state’s underfunded pension system is eating up the casino money.
“The problem is that the majority of the money for education is going to a faltering pension system,” Warner said. Mari said gaming should be expanded to include military veteran organizations, clubs and other establishments. Warner said solving the pension problem would solve the education funding problem. “I believe, economically, it is the biggest financial problem we have,” Warner said about the pension fund. The pension plan is $7 billion out of balance, he said. “The tax dollars aren’t making it to the classroom,” Warner said. Both men said they would be willing to study school consolidation if it would save money. However, any consolidation plan should protect the jobs of teachers and other employees, Mari said.