Pam Hacker is the Democratic candidate running against incumbent Rep. Tim Hennessey (R)
October 24, 2018
Democrat Hacker challenges Rep. Hennessey in 26th House District race
About the only thing separating the two candidates for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives 26th District seat is the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.
And counter-intuitively, it’s the Democratic challenger who wants to keep the elected Legislature at the size it is and the 25-year Republican veteran of that Legislature who wants to make it smaller.
Republican Tim Hennessey, 71, is seeking his 13th term in the House representing the 26th District and he is being challenged by Democrat Pam Hacker, 58, a construction electrician from East Vincent.
In their responses to questionnaires from Digital First Media, both candidates agreed, with some caveats, on many of the issues facing the region and the Commonwealth.
But one area of disagreement is the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly, one of the largest (and most expensive) in the nation.
“Reducing representation is not going to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to be heard by their representatives,” Hacker wrote in her questionnaire response.
“While on the surface, decreasing the money spent on the salaries of elected officials seems fiscally smart smart, the actual impact will be minimal if not non-existent,” Hacker wrote. “With an increase in the size of each district, each office will have to hire more staffers to properly serve the people, increasing the budget.”
By contrast, Hennessey wrote in his response, “I’ve voted on several occasions to downsize the size of the House of Representatives from 203 members to 151. I’ve consistently voted to downsize whether the state Senate is reduced or no,” most recently in October.
“I believe that a smaller number of members can be effective, with smaller discussion groups better able to focus on the issues without distractions,” Hennessey wrote, adding that “each Representative can properly represent a larger number of constituents, given today’s improved technologies.”
Hacker and Hennessey both wrote that they support not only the enactment of the fair education funding formula, as well as efforts to have it apply to larger portions of education funding to better balance the disparities between rich and poor districts in Pennsylvania, one of the worst in the nation.
Both also said they support the abolition of property taxes, while Hennessey additionally identified “the school tax effort rebate,” which provides tax rebates to those with the lowest family income, as another option.
Both candidates also support removing the statewide Keystone tests as a requirement for high school graduation, a change recently approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Wolf.
Hacker and Hennessey also both indicated support for the legislature creating a window for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to be able to sue the church in the wake of the Grand Jury findings of the investigation of abuse by priests and the church’s efforts to cover it up.
Hacked added that the statute of limitations on child sex crimes should be abolished and Hennessey added that the standard should be expanded to include “teachers and coaches in public and private schools and anywhere that children find themselves in vulnerable situations.”
The only other area of divergence on the questionnaire answers had to do with imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling.
“Unfortunately, we are the only major gas-producing state that does not tax gas companies on the value of the gas extracted,” Hacker wrote. “Drillers now pay a 1.6 percent impact fee which is not tied to production or the value of the gas extracted. The current impact fee provides a short-term benefit for local communities where drilling takes place.”
She supports an extraction tax of 3.8 percent to 5 percent.
Hacker wrote that “passing legislation for a severance tax, while keeping in place the impact fee, would bring millions of dollars into the state, which can be used to increase funding for education, service programs, infrastructure projects and investment in renewable energy.”
Hennessey wrote that the impact fee has already generated $1.4 billion to the state and local governments, pointing out that Chester County will receive $460,000 this year and Montgomery County $720,000.
Adding a severance tax to the impact fee would create a “tax rate so high that Pennsylvania would impose the highest tax in the nation,” Hennessey wrote. “I could support a smaller increase with the impact fee which, when combined with the existing tax, would be reasonable.”
Hacker and Hennessey both agreed that municipalities that rely solely on state police for police services, although Hennessey pointed out at those relying on state police have much longer wait times “so there are trade-offs.”
He does not support the per capita fees that have been proposed to pay for state police.
In addition to a small portion of the borough of Pottstown, the 26th House District includes the following Chester County communities: North Coventry, South Coventry, East Coventry, East Vincent, East Nantmeal, West Nantmeal, Warwick, Elverson, Honey Brook Borough, Honey Brook Township, Wallace, West Caln and West Sadsbury. Source
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