Fall election will bring full debate on critical issues

The upcoming Primary Election does not pit Democrats against Republicans. That happens in the fall General Election. But that was hard to tell at the Lycoming County Democratic Committee’s Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner recently.

Candidates for state and federal offices on the Democratic ticket took full aim at perceived injustices perpetrated by Republicans, labeling existing Republican administrations and a state House majority for education cuts and the lack of a gas severance tax. Corporate greed and political grandstanding were also laid, directly and inferred, at the feet of Republicans.

If the themes continue into the fall, it should make for a heated political season and, hopefully, a full airing of the philosophies behind the votes of Democrats and Republicans.

We hope there will be a full discussion of the “education cuts” on the state level that Democrats continue to decry. The fact is the cuts are in comparison to funding based on the federal stimulus package of several years ago, which everyone knew was temporary. The actual state funding of public education over the past several years has risen and the state’s per pupil expenditures are among the nation’s highest.

We hope there will be a full discussion of how the state has managed or mismanaged its General Fund over the past few decades, leading to frequent indebtedness and mounting fiscal crisis involving pension funds.

It’s fine to insist on a severance tax for gas drilling that goes directly into the state’s General Fund, but it’s naive to believe that will help our local municipalities more than the current impact fee revenues that include locally-determined distribution. The funding stream from the General Fund in Harrisburg has no track record for consistency and fairness.

It’s also easy to fall back on knee-jerk themes and associate political rivals with greed and aloofness on certain issues, until it conflicts with the realities of balancing a state or federal budget so that the next generation isn’t paying for the spending habits of the present-day powerbrokers.

It will be an interesting fall.