Jobs and Economy
A robust job market and a vibrant economy go hand-in-hand and are the tides that raise all ships. Maintaining an environment to support these goals requires constant attention. Pennsylvania has not kept pace with ever-changing market and living conditions. The state’s minimum wage of $7.25/hour has not increased in many years and is lower than all neighboring states. A full-time worker making minimum wage earns approximately $15,000 per year – before any federal, state or local taxes are deducted from their paycheck. This is below the poverty line and forces many people to rely on various forms of public assistance. A gradual increase in the minimum wage is necessary and overdue.
Tay, who was raised in a union household, is an advocate for strong unions and the family-sustaining jobs they provide. A healthy union environment is the backbone that supports the middle class and contributes to robust communities. Unions have historically provided outstanding training and apprentice programs to ensure that companies have access to a highly qualified workforce. These attributes must be maintained and expanded to continuously attract quality employers to our area.
Anchor communities in the 39th District such as Greensburg, Irwin, Jeannette and Latrobe have experienced dramatic downturns in recent decades due to shifts away from a primarily industrial base. Focused redevelopment efforts, supported by the state and federal governments, are imperative to avoid further deterioration and promote sustainable economic growth. These hubs are vitally important to overall business health of the 39th District.
Together, a gradual increase in the minimum wage, support of a strong union base and reinvestment in our communities will lift many at the lower end of the income scale out of poverty, increasing the state’s tax base and reducing the burden on state-supported public assistance programs.
A properly educated and well-trained workforce leads to better and higher-paying jobs. Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom in the country in the percentage of funding the state provides to local school districts – a primary contributor to escalating local property taxes.
A state investment increase for K-12, pre-school and college/technical school education is desperately needed and long overdue. Controlling costs within in these institutions is also important, but expenses can only be cut so far without jeopardizing the quality of education. It’s a balancing act, but one thing is certain; the state has fallen behind on its financial obligations to support and promote quality public education.
In the end, a better-educated, well-trained and gainfully employed workforce supports a robust economic environment, reduces the need for public assistance and lowers the overall crime rate. This is a winning combination for the 39th District.
ENVIRONMENT AND ENERGY
As an avid outdoorsman, Tay is committed to protecting the land, air and water resources of Pennsylvania. Toward that end, an adequately funded and appropriately staffed Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is imperative to keep pace with rapidly changing and increasing levels of industrial activity in the state. Energy development in the state supports employment levels, lower utility bills, an increasing tax base and an overall robust economy. However, these projects, including drilling operations and pipeline expansions, must make protection of the environment the foundation of their existence. DEP oversight is the key to make this happen.
Growing Greener initiatives should be vigorously supported in the areas of renewable energy research and development, energy efficiency initiatives, eliminating legacy pollution, and protecting watersheds and open spaces.
Throughout the world, country and state, there is an undeniable movement toward a more sustainable energy future to both combat climate change and reduce pollution. But, fully developing and deploying new technologies that are consistent and reliable takes time. During this transition, Tay will continue to support responsible energy development, including current sources and new technologies.
Tay believes there can be vast improvements made to the overall tax environment at the state and local levels. Property tax relief is the top priority. The current system that places an overwhelming burden of local taxes on property owners must be addressed. The constant increases in local property taxes are a failure to our growing elderly population, discourages aging in place by forcing many seniors out of their homes, and provides insufficient long-term funding for local needs. This must change.
Adjustments to the personal income, corporate and sales tax structures must be considered along with property tax relief to address our changing needs and demographics. The current Personal Income Tax flat rate of 3.07% has not changed in many years, lags far behind all neighboring states and prevents state government from providing equitable support to local communities and school districts.
The corporate net income tax can be adjusted lower if loopholes, accumulated over decades and seriously out-of-date when compared to other states, were closed. Sales tax levels and exemptions should be examined within an overall state tax program.
Additionally, it’s time for natural gas drillers to pay a modest extraction tax along with the current local impact fees. The combination of a state extraction tax and the local impact fees should not exceed the extraction taxes levied by neighboring states. A predictable and level playing field for these companies can be created.
These issues must be addressed in combination with one another with the overall goals of providing local property tax relief and funding state government in an appropriate manner. Together, an equitable tax environment can increase state revenue to support local education efforts, community revitalization, environmental initiatives and enhanced health care coverage options for Pennsylvania residents.
Health care in the country and the state is the best in the world. Health care insurance to cover the costs associated with these excellent services is lacking in many areas and must be improved. This is an ever-changing landscape, but there are actions that can be employed to protect the integrity, availability and affordability of health care delivery.
First and foremost, constant attention needs to be paid to controlling the rapidly escalating costs within the health care delivery system. Whether this involves examining rules and regulations associated with health care providers, how services are accessed, or how associated elements such as equipment and pharmaceuticals are purchased and deployed, there must be a laser focus on controlling costs.
Citizens of Pennsylvania should not be denied health care coverage options because of pre-existing conditions. Additionally, public options for health care coverage for those unable to access or afford private insurance need to be adequately supported by the state.
Tay does not support free, “Medicare for All” proposals. Individuals have a personal responsibility to secure appropriate health care coverage. But, the state should maintain an unwavering commitment to ensure plans are available, affordable, and when necessary, financially supported to those in need of assistance.
Tay served over four decades of his professional career in human services leadership positions in Westmoreland County. He understands the benefit of providing appropriate and effective human services to help the deserving in need. In Harrisburg, he will continue to promote non-discriminatory policies, including LGBT protections. He will fight for rights of veterans, including support in the areas of health care, housing, employment and counseling. Additionally, criminal justice reform should support an attainable re-assimilation into society for those previously incarcerated.
Throughout the state, and specifically in Westmoreland County, the opioid crisis continues to spread debilitating effects. Tay was instrumental in the formation of the County’s Drug Overdose Task Force, which supports education, treatment and recovery levels for this dreaded affliction. He will continue these efforts enthusiastically in Harrisburg .
GUN OWNERSHIP RIGHTS
As an outdoorsman, hunter and gun owner, Tay supports the rights of responsible gun ownership. However, there are rules and regulations that constitute the definition of “responsible gun owner” and the rules currently in place must be enforced.
Universal background checks are imperative to make sure those who’ve forfeited their right to own a gun are identified. Also, a modest waiting period to purchase a gun is not an unreasonable impediment to gun ownership rights. Additionally, bump stocks that alter the performance of a manufacturer’s product and so called “ghost guns,” which are assembled by purchasing individual parts with no registration or identifying serial numbers, should be banned.
The key word in the phrase “responsible gun owner” is responsible.
Westmoreland County has a significant veteran population of 34,000. Many are obviously older, however, supports are needed with individuals and families. All veterans should be allowed to receive healthcare benefits at any healthcare institution. There should be no reason to travel or wait for any services. The financial benefits should be the same. Two years ago, Westmoreland County had a significant number of veterans receiving homeless services. Additionally, we had a large number with drug and alcohol and behavioral health issues, such as PTSD. Tay will support programs that directly provide services to veterans (housing, employment, counseling). Nationally, we lose 20 veterans a day to suicide. This alarming number is concerning in so many ways. We need vets helping vets. Tay supports the "Pennsylvania G.I. Bill" to assist returning veterans.
Tay has spent 39 years working to help others in Westmoreland County. Partnerships, collaborations and volunteers are the glue that holds communities and Westmoreland County together. Tay realizes the value that Westmoreland County residents bring to the success of our total living environment. Tay will continue to encourage community participation while assisting in any capacity now and once in Harrisburg.