When Rep. Justin Simmons ran for office two years ago, he pledged his allegiance to the Lehigh Valley Tea Party and its extreme right-wing agenda. By signing that pledge, he chose to adopt the priorities shared by only a small fraction of his constituents. Instead of being an independent leader for us all, he kept his promises to a few of his Tea Party friends.
During his first term, he voted 95 percent of the time with his party’s majority leader Mike Turzai, and has stuck by the failures of Gov. Corbett. Simmons does not like to talk about his voting record, fortunately, it speaks clearly for itself.
Simmons attempts to deflect attention from a record that clearly favors his special interest friends. He promised he would not vote to raise taxes, and he didn’t raise state taxes for our largest corporations like Shell Oil. In fact, he promised $1.7 billion tax break instead of implementing a fair extraction tax. Pennsylvania’s “impact fee” is a fraction comparable to other states, like New York, Texas, and Virginia, Pennsylvania’s 1.2 percent. Every other state in fact benefits more responsibly from their natural resources. Corbett and Simmons could be getting local municipalities 10 times more revenue if they were working for us -- not the large corporations.
Simmons promised to lower taxes for middle-class families and seniors, but not one of the thousands I have spoken to have had their property taxes decrease.
Why has he not achieved real property tax relief?
Because he signed the Tea Party’s “No-Tax Pledge.” That pledge benefits large corporations, which shifts the burden of funding for our schools and communities onto local municipalities.
Our local communities have been left to do his job instead. While the legislature may have balanced the state budget on time, they did so on the backs of our children and our struggling seniors. That is why our property taxes have continued to skyrocket and our seniors have continued to lose their homes.
Though Simmons promised to limit the size of government and make Harrisburg more accountable to the people, he voted in favor of costly legislation that would give $200 million tax dollars to unaccountable Catholic schools, $20 million on a failed and ill-timed voter-ID law, kept $200 million in a legislative “rainy-day fund” and let charters be overpaid, costing us another $365 million tax dollars. Simmons been fiscally unaccountable. He supported laws that would have lodged politicians between a woman and her doctor and gut funding to general assistance, moves that left thousands of our most vulnerable citizens out in the cold. That, to me, does not sound like small government. On the contrary, the Simmons/Corbett agenda has increased the size of state government, made it more invasive than ever before, and left the future of our state’s public education system in a real, devastating pinch for which our taxes must compensate.
Harrisburg is out of control. Over the last two years, the legislature and Gov. Corbett have made their priorities clear, yet they have accomplished nothing. The rate of employment in the Lehigh Valley continues to drag at a sluggish pace, funding for education continues to dwindle, attacks on women's rights are becoming more frequent, funding for programs aimed at helping our seniors and the disabled are disappearing, and Pennsylvania remains among the bottom 10 states in job creation.
We need a representative who will invest in our crumbling infrastructure, put Pennsylvanians back to work, restore education funding to give our children a brighter future, and reduce our property taxes to prevent even one more senior from losing his or her home.
We need a truly independent leader to work across party lines to protect the most vulnerable among us. Most importantly for the economic vitality of our commonwealth, we need a leader who will stand up to powerful industries that place profit before people, and make sure they pay their fair share in taxes.
Our families are too important to be ignored and our environment is too precious to be exploited.
I will be that leader and I’ll work hard to get Pennsylvania back on track.
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