KANE - State representatives Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, and Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, addressed a full room at the Kane Senior Center on Wednesday evening during a town hall meeting.
With the legislative redistricting that will take place later this year, Kane will now fall into Causer's district, with Rapp's district moving further west. Causer, a Turtlepoint native, assured the attendees that he is "willing and eager" to serve them, and he will keep an office in Kane.
The two representatives said a piece of legislation on which they are currently working would establish a regional rural community college system in an 11-county area in Northwest Pennsylvania. Causer said he has been approaching the legislation as about "the students and opportunity." However, Causer said questions are beginning to crop up with legislators in the southeastern part of the state who are more concerned about losing money and "protecting their turf." Causer said the average local student who goes to a community college in the eastern part of the state on average pays double tuition.
Causer also said he will work to protect the conventional oil well drillers in the area. He said the Act 78 legislation by the state Department of Environmental Protection will cripple the small, shallow well drillers by holding them to the same standards as the deep gas well drillers. Causer said he would like to see a separate state entity set up to regulate the shallow well drillers.
Causer said Rapp and he have met with the state House majority leader to discuss the issue.
Rapp said public pension reform has also been a sticking point with the legislators.
She said while there is no proposal within the current budget, one plan that is being considered would only affect new hires to state employment, leaving current state employees and retiree pension plans alone.
Meanwhile, a question was asked about the potential for a bypass for Kane that would allow commercial traffic to be routed outside of the borough.
Mount Jewett Borough Council president Chuck Paar said such a bypass would be helpful to Kane, although he described it as a "pipe dream." Paar said more people might consider stopping to shop in Kane if there were not so many commercial trucks going through the borough in the daytime.
Kane resident Bill Reiter said the bypass was at one time "on the books" but the measure was defeated. Causer said he would look into the possibility of a bypass in Kane.
Causer also said that funding must be protected for local volunteer fire department and ambulance services.
The lawmaker said that without volunteers in these positions, the Commonwealth would operate at a loss. Causer, a 20-year volunteer EMT himself, said that $30 million from the state gambling fund has been appropriated for grant funds for volunteer emergency service agencies.
Another question that was asked to the two representatives was about the best way to fund public schools.
Rapp said while property taxes are cumbersome, if it is eliminated, then income and sales taxes would increase to fill the void.
Rapp said one way to cut costs for education in McKean County is to consolidate the school districts into one county-wide district. She said with one group of administrators instead of several, the savings would be substantial. However, Causer stressed that should such a reorganization take place, no schools would be closed.