Candidate for state House discusses stance on the issues

Voters asked questions about immigration, health care, the environment and other topics Saturday night at Susquehanna State Park, and Airneezer Page, Democratic nominee for state House of Representatives, was prepared to answer them.

Page, a health care professional with UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center and member of the South Williamsport Area School Board running against state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, began the event with a short statement about her candidacy.

“My service in the military afforded me the opportunity to live in several parts of the country,” she said. When she got out of the military, Lycoming County is where she and her family chose to settle down.

Page and her husband started Community Connection, a program which taught personal financial planning and political engagement to young people, which included many trips.

“We were the last tour of the Obama White House,” she said.

The daughter of a pastor and a stay-at-home mom who later became a nurse, Page said the region’s small-town values resonated with the two most integral lessons her parents taught her: Love of family and service to community.

“In small towns, having a safe community is of top importance,” Page said.

She said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment and licenses for concealed-carry and also supports “sensible” gun laws. One example she cited was requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms. She supports increasing the availability of firearms training for gun owners.

Page, who earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Lycoming College while working full-time, called for policies to make post-secondary education more affordable so young people don’t begin their careers with leavy debt loads.

“I care that our children receive a quality education,” she said.

Ensuring voters have the right to choose their elected officials remains important, and Page said she will work to eliminate gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative district boundaries to limit choice.

Page supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She noted many community members with minimum-wage jobs rely on government assistance programs and said increasing wages is key to reducing welfare spending.

“I care about affordable health care,” Page said. “People should not worry about losing their life savings or homes (because of medical debts.)”

She called for a greater emphasis on preventative medicine, including more education efforts to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and reduce teen pregnancies — efforts that include involving and informing families and parents. She added that increased wages also would help Lycoming County families manage the costs of health care.

Page supports eliminating loopholes in the state’s corporate tax.

“If you have a business in Pennsylvania you need to pay Pennsylvania’s taxes,” she said.

Page is personally frustrated with the state’s income and payroll tax burdens, and endorsed a severance tax on the natural gas industry, noting Pennsylvania is one of the few states that doesn’t have a severance tax. On the topic of gas drilling, she also said the state needs vigorous enforcement of environmental regulations and that she has concerns about property rights.

“Who’s checking and keeping a balance sheet on what they’re doing?” Page asked.

She cited efforts in the past several years to expand eminent domain to empower gas drilling companies to encroach on unwilling property owners and said in the past she has volunteered with North Penn Legal Services and fielded calls from elderly property owners confronted by companies reluctant to pay the full royalties due.

“It’s just a sad thing,” Page said.

As a past board member of Keystone Progress, Page offered testimony at hearings on the health effects of poor air and water quality.

“We need to protect our streams, our rivers, our trees,” she said.

After a voter asked about public-sector pensions, Page noted that school districts have to comply with state mandates that divert money away from shoring up the low balances for teacher pensions.

Page said she wants Pennsylvania to be open and welcoming to immigrants and refugees when another voter raised the issue, but said she does not want refugees to be reliant on long-term assistance from government funding and instead become “self-sufficient.”

The campaign plans daily door-to-door canvassing and phone calls from its 800 W. Fourth St. office, starting rounds on weekdays at noon and 3 p.m. and 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. on weekends.