Tarah on the Issues
I have come to realize there is no higher calling than public service, and it must be done with the highest principles, values and integrity. It gives me a chance to make a difference in people's lives.
I was honored by my constituents by being re-elected mayor of Stroudsburg last year, by a wide margin. Although this is essentially a figurehead position that requires me to go to borough council meetings twice a month and gives me the power to cast tie-breaking votes, I take this position very seriously. I have worked very hard to provide constituent services to our residents and businesses every day. I have always loved helping people, and through this position, I have truly fell in love with public service. This work has given me the greatest satisfaction in my life.
“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”
Property Tax Relief
I will fight for comprehensive tax reform that immediately reduces school property taxes and lessens the burden on working families. Pennsylvania has one of the worst tax systems in the country, placing a much higher tax burden on the middle class and low-income wage earners than on the highest income earners. We simply need a system that is less unfair.
High property taxes are a huge burden on the homeowners and senior citizens of our region. I will fight for immediate property tax relief that starts with enacting a severance tax on the gas drillers. Every other state with gas and oil drilling has a severance tax. Hundreds of millions of dollars can be put towards funding our underfunded schools and reducing our school property taxes. I will support tax rebates for seniors on fixed incomes to help them stay in their homes.
Taxes can only be reduced by either shifting the tax burden to another source, by increasing tax revenues through economic stimulus, or by cutting government expenditures and waste. We need a comprehensive and equitable approach that includes each of these aspects. The problem with the failed property tax reform legislation of the past 20 years is that the tax burden is always shifted more to middle income wage earners, while taking control away from local school districts.
Pennsylvania needs to eliminate the Delaware loophole, where three quarters of corporations now pay no income tax to the state. At the same time, we have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country at 9.99%. By eliminating the corporate tax loophole and lowering the corporate tax rate to 7.99%, Pennsylvania can generate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax revenue, while also attracting new business to the state with the lower tax rate.
The school funding formula in Pennsylvania is our biggest problem, where the highest funded schools can receive as much as five times the state funding as the lowest funded schools. Only 30 of the 501 school districts in Pennsylvania are severely underfunded. A one-size-fits-all property tax reform is a bad approach that does not address the core problem of inequitable funding. Therefore, we need a comprehensive approach to tax reform that delivers equitable school funding.
I will work hard to bring sensible economic development with jobs that provide living wages for our working families. I will be relentless in working to attract corporate parks and manufacturing facilities that provide good paying local jobs, so our residents can live, work and thrive here.
Pennsylvania is one of the 5 worst states to start a business, where we rank #48 for businesses coming into our state, #46 for new business survivorship past 5 years, #50 in entrepreneurship, and #40 in industry variety. A large portion of our local economy is reliant on tourism, and while tourism provides many jobs and benefits to our region, it makes it difficult for other types of business to create a foothold here. We must improve the business climate in Pennsylvania and reverse these trends.
Job creation is a top priority for me, and I will work for increased technical and skilled trades training. We must focus on specialized job training and work to connect community colleges and technical schools with employers. We must invest in our infrastructure to create good jobs and protect our communities. I will always work to strengthen our workforce and will support policies that support and protect workers.
Our Economy is strongest when we have a strong and healthy middle class, but the middle class has been left behind. I will work to immediately raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour to put more money in the paychecks of working people and boost economic activity in Pennsylvania. We need a plan to have age-based minimum wages with a goal of raising the top age-based minimum wage to $12.00 per hour. I will work for small business development and to provide tax incentives that allow small businesses to grow and to pay living wages.
We must invest in our employees and in our communities and encourage small business development and growth.
Expanded access to high quality affordable health care is a critical need for us all. I will protect the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). I will work to decrease prescription drug costs, especially for seniors. I will work to provide additional state funding to our counties for programs that address child welfare services, mental health, drug and alcohol treatment and homelessness. I will support programs that bring our challenged citizens into the workforce, helps them become self-sufficient, and allows them to thrive.
Opioid addiction and abuse is a national crisis. I will work to strengthen prescription guidelines and expand treatment services. I will support expanded access to naloxone for police, first responders and individuals to treat overdoses. I support increasing addiction education in our schools and working with pharmaceutical companies to find solutions to prevent addiction.
Education is truly the backbone of society. Our commitment to education is the greatest investment we can make in our future.
In addition to fighting for fair and equitable funding for our schools, I will work for expanding career and technical training, and trades apprenticeships for our students. I will ensure that our children are prepared for school by supporting expanded pre-K and early childhood education, tutoring programs, and nutritional and health services.
I will work to make higher education accessible and affordable. I support expanding grant programs for lower income students and reducing tuition at our state universities. Student debt is reaching a crisis level, and I support programs that adjust loan repayment based on income. I will be relentless in working to create good job opportunities for our graduates.
Teachers are the backbone of our educational systems and I support protecting their vastly important profession from ideological attacks. I support their professional development, so they can continue to best serve our children.
I believe that an overreliance on assessment testing of a student's academic progress is expensive and unfair, and it is a bad idea to "teach to the test." I feel that a one-size-fits-all approach is restrictive and can lead to a loss of student creativity and individuality. We need a good system of assessment that does not undermine the quality of our education.
I will always fight for better government to better serve our citizens. I will work to make Pennsylvania government more efficient, transparent, and democratic, and to make our government responsive to the will of the people.
I have endorsed the American Anti-Corruption Act, because Pennsylvania government has a long history of corruption and misconduct. I will fight for social, economic and environmental justice, I will never take contributions from organizations that are working against the public interest, and I will never accept gifts.
Our citizens overwhelmingly support legislative redistricting reform, yet our legislators lack the political courage to enforce the will of the people. We need an independent non-partisan commission to fairly draw our legislative districts. It’s high time we have a system in Pennsylvania where voters choose their representatives, rather than the representatives choosing their voters.
I support open primary elections and automatic voter registration. I will fight against voter suppression and will support term limits at all levels of government. I will work for smaller and more efficient government, for cutting wasteful spending, and for state pension reform.
I will work for campaign finance reform that levels the playing field for candidates. I support full disclosure of all contributions to candidates and elected officials. I support banning gifts and corporate contributions and will work to strengthen ethical behavior in government with full transparency and open access to public records.
I will fight for criminal justice reform that ends minimum sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders. We must stop the practice of privatizing corrections facilities, which inherently leads to private interests influencing legislators to maximize incarceration rates in the interest of profits, and against the best interests of society.
Many of our legislators take their full $179 per diem for daily travel, food and lodging expenses, although they are not required to produce any receipts for their expenses. I have committed to never taking per diems for unvouchered expenses and will always produce receipts for all reimbursed expenses.
As a proud American, I have always known that our diversity is our strength. We must embrace our diversity and the protections and civil rights guaranteed by our constitution. Welcoming our religious, ethnic, racial and gender differences will always help us thrive as a society.
As mayor, I have instituted the Human Relations Act for Equality. I will work to protect equal rights for women and will fight for equitable pay and reproductive rights for women. I will protect the civil liberties of the LGBTQ+ community. I will work to protect our religious freedoms.
I will always support the rights of our veterans and to ensure access the services and benefits they have earned for their great service to our country. Two of my brothers are veterans, and my two stepsons are in the Pennsylvania National Guard. I will work to always see that our veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
I am committed to always fight discrimination of any kind.
As a former member of the Communications Workers of America, I have long known the importance of strong unions to protect workers across Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsed me because I will always fight to protect and strengthen organized labor.
Labor rights and supporting working families are at the forefront of my principles. Recent court rulings and legislative attacks have chipped away at our unions’ strengths. I am very concerned with protecting workers' rights and supporting the right to collective bargaining. I am a strong advocate for jobs with living wages and for raising the minimum wage.
I will work against right-to-work legislation and to strengthen protections against wage theft and illegal independent contractor statuses.
I will fight to protect the natural beauty of our region and to preserve our beautiful open spaces and waterways. Our region is filled with beautiful open spaces and farmland, state and federal parks, and pristine waterways.
I will fight against any downgrading of the quality levels of our waterways to approve construction projects that impact the water quality. We must have strict controls over development and ensure that our waterways are not impacted.
Our region is faced with the significant environmental threat of toxic sewage sludge being spread on farm fields. This practice poses many health and environmental threats due to bacterial and chemical toxins and contaminants. I will fight to end the use of biosolids and end the associated health and environmental threats that come with it.
We also have a serious concern with the dumping of so-called clean fill, and the associated truck traffic that comes with it. Pennsylvania has lower environmental standards than New York and New Jersey for the dumping of construction debris, and therefore a great deal of their construction debris is hauled in to several dumping sites in our region. There is very little oversight and monitoring over what is being dumped and we have had recent toxin violations with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels over 3 times the allowable limits. I will fight for more stringent standards, regulation and monitoring from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
I will work to expand investment in renewable energy to build a strong industry and to lessen our dependency on fossil fuels. We need to be leaders on environmental issues.
I am pro second amendment and a gun owner. I support the rights of gun ownership for sport and self-defense. I believe the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Hunting is a big part of life in Pennsylvania, and I am always encouraged to know that hunters are some of our greatest conservationists.
I am also very concerned with gun violence. We must focus on mental health issues and reporting, and in record sharing of organizations to share information on violent tendencies to reduce gun violence. I support expanding prevention measures for illegal gun sales and universal background checks. Education, awareness and reporting are critical in reducing gun violence.