Candidate Q&A: Susan Rzucidlo, 158th State House District

Susan Rzucidlo

Susan Rzucidlo

Editor’s Note: Once again, we posed the same nine questions to our legislative candidates and offered to publish them without edits or modification to allow our readers to get an unfiltered view of their positions on some of the top issues of the day in Pennsylvania. We will run the answers of all of the candidates for a given race at the same time — assuming all have responded.

1. There seems to be universal agreement that the state continues to face lower revenues than expenses. How would you address this issue — by additional cuts in spending (if so, where?), raising taxes or some combination of the two? 

Pennsylvania needs to grow the taxpayer base instead of increasing taxes. I would propose:

  • Eliminating internal fraud, waste, and abuse as a way of reducing governmental expenditures. As a private citizen, I took evidence of millions in overpayments by Pennsylvania to the Auditor General who closed that loophole. I will continue to follow up on this kind of waste and abuse as your state representative.
  • Aggressively recruit new business and industry, and encourage innovation.
  • Stop public subsidizing of profitable corporations without offering any public benefit. (End corporate welfare and close the loopholes that allow certain corporations to avoid paying taxes.)
  • Implementation of a natural gas severance tax.

Commercial growth contributes to the economy directly through tax contributions and indirectly through the creation of jobs and an increase in consumer spending.

If we can end corporate welfare, close tax loopholes while reducing the overall tax rate on corporations so that Pennsylvania would become a place where business owners want to start and move their businesses. It won’t be simple or easy, but it can be done.

2. School funding continues to be an issue for many folks — and litigation over fair funding is now working its way through the courts. Does Pennsylvania provide enough funding for local public schools and is it fairly distributed?

For many years Pennsylvania has failed to appropriately and equitably fund school districts across the Commonwealth; cutting state funding and leaving school boards to raise taxes to meet needs and certain schools to lack appropriate resources. The new fair funding formula was a major first step because it removed politics from state funding decisions and based funding on objective measures. However, the formula will only work if it is funded.  While we can’t just blindly throw money at schools in the hopes of fixing what is wrong, we do have to fund schools in a way that is equitable with more of the funds coming from the state and less from property owners.

2A. (The candidate opted to split the question into two parts) Also, Act 1 of 2006 is beginning to put some school districts in a bind — thanks to a combination of lowered real estate values, skyrocketing pension, health care and special education costs — is it time to revisit the act and rework some aspects of it?

Yes, it is time for the public, School Board members, teachers, and legislators to revise Act 1, which determines the limit to which districts are allowed to raise taxes.  The number changes every year for every district.  The factors listed in the question are the factors every district faces when trying to fund its school district year to year.

Pension costs have leveled off at 30% of the budget.  Health care costs for employees continue to go up, as do special education costs.  Revenues of all kinds for districts are decreasing.  Therefore, funding for districts has to be re-worked.  The state needs to provide more funds without pushing the responsibility onto school boards and in turn, onto property owners. We need to limit and reduce unfunded mandates and high stakes tests which cost us money and time. And we need the Legislature to fund the gaps in the pension system that they created.

Probably the number one issue facing the legislature is determining a genuinely balanced budget.  That is exactly the challenge I look forward to working on when I get to Harrisburg.

3. Although Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the nation, it continues to struggle to pay for road and bridge maintenance. How would you address this issue?

In 2013 the legislature passed, and Governor Corbett signed, Act 89 which instituted a gas tax that provided $2.3 billion over five years for transportation funding, which includes repairs to roads and bridges. The Legislature had underfunded transportation maintenance and repair for decades which left us with a massive gap that led to many unsafe roads and bridges. The Legislature’s neglect cost taxpayers significantly more money because it is always more expensive to do massive overhauls than it is to do routine maintenance. Just like in our homes, if we ignore little problems they eventually become costly repairs.

Poor quality infrastructure negatively impacts the business climate and our economy and is something that we just can’t afford. We to need to follow the recommendations from the Auditor General’s office to eliminate waste, fraud, and Pay-to-Play contracts for roads and bridge work, and collaborate with the Federal government to make sure that we are leveraging those dollars to their fullest.

4. There have been at least five gun-related homicides in the county this year — four in the last few weeks — in addition to a number of non-fatal shootings this year. What would you do to stem gun violence?

First, we need to identify the causes of the violence and accidental shootings and work to prevent them. Then we need to enact universal background checks for all gun sales. No exceptions, no loopholes, just like the NRA supported in 1999. We must also prevent people who have Protection from Abuse Orders against them from keeping or buying guns; that would be another important step. My positions do not mean that I don’t support the 2nd Amendment, I do support, I simply support responsible and legal gun ownership. I believe that people who should not have guns, should not be able to buy guns.

 5. As the opioid crisis grows, what efforts do you support both to curtail new addictions and help those already in the grip of addiction?

Addiction is an equal opportunity illness and it knows no boundaries. Addiction is a crisis by no stretch of the word. Strengthening the SAP teams in our schools to help with “ChildFind” for students who struggle with mental health challenges, would be one step forward. These children often end up “self-medicating” with substances and often end up addicted.

Additionally, we need to:

  • Educate the community that addiction is a disease and not a moral failure. We must help people feel that they can reach out for help.
  • Make accessing services easier
  • Better utilize our diversionary court system and implement it across the state.
  • Make a real plan for when someone leaves rehab so that they don’t relapse.
  • Work with medical professionals on their prescribing models, not take away their ability to prescribe but offer options and education to reduce the use of opioids to only when they are needed.
  • Focus on prevention, rehabilitation and recovery.

Addiction is a complex problem that cannot be addressed simply or with one swift action. We will need to partner with many groups to develop and coordinate services is the best way we can address this problem.

6. Land use continues to be front and center in Chester County — from the development of farm lands to housing developments to needed redevelopment in our urban areas. In terms of your district, what should the state being doing now to better preserve open space and target development to areas with existing infrastructure?

I believe the state can learn a lot from Chester County. We have one of the most comprehensive and sustained open space preservation plans in the nation. Our programing should be a model for the rest of the state. What the state could do for Chester County, is to partner with us and assist with the implementation of revitalizing our older boroughs, towns, and cities so those areas can thrive again while maintaining our cherished and protected open space and environment.

7. Do you support efforts by some to take state legislative and congressional redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and put it into the hands of an independent commission? If so, why? If not, why not?

I do support taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. Regardless of which party is in power, they will work to redistrict to their own party’s benefit, and that always means that the people are not served properly.

I support ensuring that whether a commission is developed or a non-partisan legislative group is created, that districts meet our Constitutional requirements to be fair and without partisan consideration. 

8. What issue do you feel that the media/public fails to discuss enough in terms of state government?    

Ethics! Ethics only seems to come up when an elected official is being sentenced, and we never make any real progress is passing laws that have consequences. It gets put on a back burner and ignored again. The pay-to-play culture continues. We must pass strict ethics laws to hold legislators accountable.

9. Can you tell us something mildly surprising about yourself (hobbies, unusual past jobs, etc.) that the public might find interesting?

I used to work in the Horse Business. I was a groom. I worked with some of the best people in the world as well as some of the most fascinating characters you’d ever hope to meet. You don’t earn a lot of money, but for all the hard work and bad weather, it was good work and a great way of life, and now, I have some great stories to tell.

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