Medicare and other budget cuts were among the hot-button issues discussed at the annual Democratic picnic on Sunday afternoon at the Zafar Grotto in South Williamsport. About 60 people attended.
"Medicare is not an entitlement," said state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport. "People pay for it every time they work. It's not an entitlement. It's something they earn."
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, said he has worked hard for people to keep the guaranteed benefit of Medicare and will continue to do so, whether he has two months or six years left in office.
Some of the approximately 60 people who attended Sunday’s Democratic picnic listen as state Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, left, talks. Signs posted around the Zafar Grotto, where the picnic was held, promote the Democratic candidates running in the upcoming elections.
Above left, Phil Scollo, who is running against U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, in the race for the 10th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, talks to the audience about Medicare during Sunday’s Democratic picnic in South Williamsport. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, middle, and Jessie L. Bloom, former longtime head of the Lycoming County Democratic Party, were among the attendees.
The Republican party would rather give out Medicare vouchers for people to use, he said.
"I'm going to fight every day to stop them from doing that," Casey said. "You have to educate your friends about this."
For 10th congressional district candidate Phil Scollo, the $6,000 Medicare voucher would not be enough money to provide the medical benefits people need, which he knows after having worked in the insurance industry.
"Six-thousand (dollars) a year won't get one month of premiums," Scollo said.
He decided to run for office after seeing the budget cuts, including in primary, secondary and higher education.
"I have three children and three grandchildren," Scollo said. "It's really for them I'm running."
While the state budget did not raise taxes, Mirabito said people will have to pay taxes in other ways. Because education took a $1 billion cut, property taxes will have to be raised so schools can balance their budgets, he said.
Public services took a 10-percent cut, which he said would not affect those on welfare but instead those who are mentally disabled or elderly.
He explained that the public services cut is like telling people, "If you are born with Down syndrome, it's your problem."
Twenty-third state Senate district candidate Luana Cleveland described herself as "most recently retired, making artwork" until she heard about the human services and higher education cuts. She was told the higher education cuts were not a problem because people could work in the gas industry.
"If the gas industry leaves, what are the people who quit school to join going to do?" Cleveland asked.
Even though the candidates encouraged the attendees to talk to their neighbors about the issues and how it will affect them, many of them spoke favorably about the upcoming election.
"I'm happy we're a blue state," said Jim Burns, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Party. "It's an affirmation of your hard work in Lycoming County and across the commonwealth."
The Republican National Convention featured people trying to reintroduce failed policies and repeatedly asking about the nation's progress, he said.
"Are we better off now than four years ago?" Burns said. "There are a lot of folks out there that have their jobs back. There are a lot of folks out there that have their homes back. There are a lot of folks out there that have their 401k (plans) back."
In addition, men and women have returned from war, and young adults can have health care on their parents' plans.
"There are still a lot of people out there that we need to help," Burns said. "There is still a lot of work to do."
That includes engaging Republicans and working with them to continue that work, Casey said.