Local and state Republican Party leaders told their members Saturday night at the 19th Annual Lycoming County Republican Committee Lincoln Day Dinner to hold on to conservative values and continue to help support candidates at all government levels.
The event, held at the Holiday Inn, 100 Pine St., featured a slate of party incumbents and candidates for office seeking votes.
Named in honor of the party's first elected president, the dinner gives its members a chance to get ready for this year's political campaigns, said Robert Brobson, county Republican Party Committee chairman.
"This is back to work," he said, as speakers such as state Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley and former U.S. Senate candidate Tom Smith got ready to take the podium.
U.S. Glenn "GT" Thompson, whose district was modified as of the first of the year, and no longer includes Lycoming County, also made a brief appearance.
He said President Obama is using "scare tactics" on the American public regarding the upcoming sequester, which would trigger $85 billion in spending cuts.
Thompson said $85 billion is a "drop in the bucket" compared the the federal government's overall $3.7 trillion budget.
"You're going to hear all week long that the sky is falling," he said about sequestration.
Cawley, who chairs the state's Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee, said he and Gov. Tom Corbett have made sure the state has turned a corner on spending and proposed a balanced budget for the past two years.
"If you spend money you don't have, it eventually catches up with you," he said. "In Harrisburg, that was (previously) OK, and they called it a deficit."
He said this year's budget does not raise taxes, and even lowers some taxes.
But the state's biggest hurdle remains unfunded state employee pension funds, which total $1.3 billion for this year alone. Left unchecked, that number climbs to $4.5 billion for next year.
"That's money we cannot spend on our schools, on our roads," Cawley said. "We've got to do something about it."
One fix, he said, is to change the way public employees contribute to their retirement. Instead of a guaranteed 'defined' benefit plan, employees would contribute on their own, similar to a 401K retirement savings plan.
On liquor privitization, Cawley said the state needs to end its sales monopoly and allow the private sector "to do what it does best."
"It is now becoming clear that the system is beginning to cave under its own system," he said of state-run wine and spirits stores.
Cawley said privitization would provide $1 billion that could be used by school districts to invest in security and instruction in early learning, math and science to prepare children to perform at grade level by the third grade.
City Mayor Gabriel J. Campana rallied members to support and not compromise party beliefs on a strong military, traditional marriage and pro-life issues.
Other speakers included state Superior Court candidates Vic Stabile and Rob Wyda; former U.S. Senate candidate Smith; Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk.
Brobson announced the Committee's Chairman Award to Matt Gartner and Karen Gamble for their service. The Committee's Alvin C. Bush Award was presented in absentia to Dan and Monica Klingerman.