EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct inaccuracies and misquotes. The clarifications were made with Rep. Joe Emrick in a telephone interview Monday, Aug. 22.
State Rep. R-137th met with about 20 residents at the Friday, Aug. 19 to listen to and answer questions on a variety of topics.
The discussion covered such topics as the economy, jobs, education, taxes on senior citizens, , privatization of and gas drilling.
Here’s what he had to say on various topics of interest:
Q. On the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission:
A. Emrick said that issue infuriates him. The bridge commission is a huge problem because it is run by two states; it’s hard to bring control over its. It has zero accountability, it has zero oversight.
Emrick said he plans to hold another press conference in the coming weeks regarding toll hikes, but wouldn’t give out details.
Q. On Marcellus shale gas drilling (This answer was corrected for inaccuracies on Aug. 22):
A. Emrick said he is a proponent of the opportunities the Marcellus Shale industry offers because of its potential for job creation, infrastructure improvements and funds to the state. He is not in favor of a severance tax on gas drilling. However, there are many questions that remain, including the long-term ramifications on public health and the environment.
“I have as much vested interest in making sure our water and air are as pure and clean as anyone in this state,” he said.
Q. On the possible privatization of state liquor stores (This answer was corrected for inaccuracies on Aug. 22):
A. “If we are going to sell, we need to do it in the most financially feasible way. … The question is what that option is. Representatives all over the state are trying to determine that now,” Emrick said in a phone interview Monday.
At the town hall breakfast Aug. 19, a resident asked him how the state would make up the $400 to $500 million in revenue the State Store system now generates.
“There would be an initial windfall by selling the stores,” he said during a phone interview Aug. 22. “Those new entrepreneur/owners would then pay taxes and employ people – perhaps a lot more people than the stores do now – and those people will pay taxes to the state, too. … On a year-to-year basis, revenue may remain the same; it may even go up. We don’t really know yet.”
Q. On property taxes.
A. “It’s probably the second, if not the first, issue people have,” he said. “The state cannot come up with a manner to address property taxes. It is a huge issue."
Q. Attracting business to the Lehigh Valley area.
A. “Hopefully more businesses will commute here,” said Emrick.
Q. On education throughout the state.
A. He would like to see the restoration of state and federal funding to the , particularly the three districts he serves -- Bangor, Easton and Nazareth -- to offset the impact of local school taxes.
“The educational funding formula is completely screwed up,” said Emrick. “While the state contribution funds were being gutted, it was being replaced with stimulus funding, so we were left with that problem.”
The next town hall breakfast with Emrick will be Friday, Aug. 26 at the Nazareth Diner, 581 S. Broad St., Nazareth.