“Schreck” answers questions after Aument debate

By on October 29, 2014

Aument, ‘Schreck’ debate in the 36th

Dissimilar styles and contrasting philosophies of state governance were on stage Monday when Democrat Gary Schreckengost debated GOP candidate Ryan Aument at Grace Brethren Church of Lititz.
Both men hope to land the open 36th state Senate District seat that opened when incumbent Mike Brubaker opted not to seek reelection.

Aument is completing his fourth year as a state representative serving the 41st District in central-western Lancaster County.

Gary Schreckengost (D)- Ryan Aument (R)

“Schreck” (D)         Ryan Aument (R)

If elected, Aument, of Landisville, said his priority would be reforming the public pension system.

According to Tuesday’s LNP coverage, Aument, a front-runner in the overwhelmingly Republican district, spoke of “leadership that can get results in Harrisburg.”

He echoed GOP themes of privatizing the state’s liquor stores and opposition to an extraction tax on natural gas.

Schreckengost, a Lampeter-Strasburg school teacher and an Elizabeth Township resident, said he wants to reform the property tax system used to fund education. Schreckengost also spoke against partisanship that divides Harrisburg.

Schreckengost said he is running for office as a proud Democrat but has a strong independent streak. Asked which party he would caucus, or meet with in the capital, he responded “none.”

He cast himself as the maverick, while painting his opponent as a party follower.

“As soon as we vote for Ryan Aument, he won’t need us anymore,” Schreckengost said in his opening statement.

Their positions on the Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline project and on term limits were also in sharp contrast.

Schreckengost was adamantly against the proposed pipeline project, calling it a seizure of land for a private corporation.

Aument has not taken a position on the project. The decision whether it will be built rests with the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he said. Aument said he can more effectively serve his constituents by being neutral and directing them where to address their concerns and get answers.

“I believe by holding the position that I do, maintaining the position I have, that I have greater impact on those conversations than if I was attempting to politicize the decision,” Aument said.

“By standing by your neighbors, if that’s politicizing, then I’m all in,” Schreckengost shot back to applause.

Aument maintained the calls received by his office are evenly divided between those that support the project and those who oppose it.

“So which residents are we going to represent? I’m going to represent all of them,” Aument said.

Asked about term limits, Schreckengost said that to do the job of a senator well, he would be exhausted after two terms and would be ready to step aside.

“We need to get fresh water in the pond,” he said.

Aument said he would support a constitutional amendment requiring all legislators to have term limits, but that he won’t take an individual term limit pledge.

At some point, a legislator who promises to only serve a limited number of terms becomes a “lame duck” and will be ineffective, Aument said.

The 90-minute forum was sponsored by the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry and LNP Media Group. Video footage of the event is available on LancasterOnline.com.

The 36th District includes Brecknock, Caernarvon, Clay, Conoy, Earl, East Cocalico, East Earl, East Donegal, East Hempfield, Elizabeth, Ephrata, Mount Joy, Penn, Rapho, Warwick, West Cocalico, West Donegal, West Earl and West Hempfield townships, and Adamstown, Akron, Columbia, Denver, East Petersburg, Elizabethtown, Ephrata, Lititz, Manheim, Marietta, Mount Joy, Mountville, New Holland and Terre Hill boroughs.

Polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m.
The Ephrata Review asked the Aument and Schreckengost campaigns eight questions that don’t necessarily reflect on state business. Some questions gauge a candidate’s knowledge of pressing local issues (affecting readers/constituents) that may help provide a broader profile of how a candidate will legislate on a broader level.

Aument did not respond as of Wednesday morning. If Aument chooses to respond, his responses will immediately be posted to the Ephrata Review website and Facebook page.

Gary Schreckengost

1) What is the single most important issue facing this elected office, and what is your platform on this issue?

“The voters of the 36th want/need/demand lower property taxes. That’s why I’m going to push like crazy for a 3-5 percent severance tax on the frack, recapitalization and reform of the state pension system that is fair to most, expecting some sacrifice. I believe that elected officials should not have a state pension. I’m for raising state sales and income taxes by 1 percent to increase the state share to local school districts under the MANDATE that said school districts must drop their property tax millage in equal proportions. The people are neither anti-public school nor anti-teacher; they’re anti property tax explosion. And they have a right to be angry about it.”

2) Any thoughts on funding of local institutions such as rec centers, libraries.

“In an era of reduced budgets, we have to look at areas where we can get the biggest bangs for our buck. Recreational centers and libraries, although nice, but are not necessities. More and more people are choosing to stay home to do their research or whatever work out. My family, for example, uses neither facility much. That said, we’ll see what we can do. The people want their property taxes lowered, their roads fixed, a chance at a family-sustaining career, and pretty much left alone.”

3) Where do you stand on recent changes regarding new inspection rules (fees) in Lititz; Ephrata’s controversial proposed rental ordinance.
“As a state senator, I would have no opinion on this, as it is a local matter. That said, if my constituents wanted me to talk with the boro council, or help them in creating a plan to talk with the boro council, I will.”

4) What are your thoughts on the proposed Cocalico Regional Police Department?
“As a state senator, I would have no opinion on this, as it is a local matter. However, regionalization is the direction we need to explore in certain instances. I would be more than happy to use the power of our state senate office to help consolidate the police departments if that what the people desire. That includes school districts as well. But according to the people, all I’ve heard is “over my dead body.” Pennsylvanians really like their commonwealth of municipal government power. But it does cost them. The key is to listen to the people, lead, and remove the obstacles that are in their way.”

5) What is your assessment of Rock Lititz, now and for the future of this region?
“I have no opinion of Rock Lititz other than I wish it the best and that we the people get our $3 million in state grants back. That is something my office will have to monitor. As for the noise, etc., the issue was brought up during the initial stages of the project and part of the zoning requirement should have been to sound-proof that puppy. Not enough people got involved, however, and here we are. If we are to make this type of capital investment again, I will be the agent of the people, looking out for their best interests, whether they have chosen to get involved or not. Moving forward, however, especially since Rock Lititz received $3 million of our money, I would ask/insist that they continue to be the good neighbors that they have been for the last 40-or-so years.”

6) The increase of alcohol-themed events and businesses in Lititz region?
“Again, as a state senator, I would have no opinion on this, as it is a local matter. That said, however, it would better if we attracted more manufacturing jobs. But the reality is that not every town can have a new factory. Our state senate district covers several towns and townships: Columbia, Marietta, E-town, Landisville, Mount Joy, Manheim, Elm, Penryn, Lincoln, Akron, Ephrata, New Holland, Churchtown, Shoeneck, and the Earls, etc. Each one has its own business revival plan. If this is what Lititz wants to be, then I leave it to the people of Lititz to decide that. Me personally, I’m not a big drinker, but do understand the draw of niche breweries in the “Old Parts of PA.”

7) Legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania?
“I’m 100 percent for legalization of medical marijuana. I’m for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts. I’m open to discussion about total legalization, but I don’t believe that the majority of the voters in our district are. They are afraid that “more dugs” are not the answer. The counter-argument is that there won’t be any “more”; it will simply be recognition of fact. As such, we can better control what’s in the marijuana and tax it.”

8) Legalization of gay marriage in Pennsylvania?
“It’s already a fact. Before the courts ruled, I said that I would support civil marriage for any two people who wanted to get married. Since the court’s ruling, however, this is a moot point. I will not look to over-ride the decision of the court and wish all good people in the 36th good will and happiness.”

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