Rapp offers view on recent session

State Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club luncheon Wednesday and touched on A wide range of issues from the the oil and gas industry to state budget, transportation, and pension reform.

Oil and gas

Rapp said she is concerned about small regional oil and gas producers that have been tied in “regulatory-wise with the Marcellus shale” and met with Chris Abruzzo, the acting secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, earlier this week to discuss the difference between shallow oil and gas producers and larger companies.

“We had a great meeting. It was concerning our small oil and gas producers, not to be confused with the big Marcellus producers. It’s really so totally different that the oil and gas guys versus our small producers and we have many here in Warren County, ” said Rapp.

“So we’re trying to work with the secretary of environmental protection to make sure that he understands the difference between the big Marcellus operators versus our shallow producers…These are mom and pop, most of them, producers and we need to make sure we’re not hurting the mom and pop producers and regulating them the same way as the multi-million Marcellus producers. We had a good meeting and it’s one of many I think we’ll have in the future.”

State Budget

Rapp said the state spending plan of $28 billion with no new taxes is “fiscally responsible.”

“Does it please everybody? No, we work very quickly in government; you can’t please everybody all the time.”

Some of the biggest areas are education, health and human services, agriculture, public safety, job creation, the economy and government transparency and accountability, she said.

The Warren County School District did fare very well in this budget, she said, adding the district was ranked 21st from the top in the amount of money received in the budget.

The WCSD wouldn’t receive the same amount of funding without the Hold Harmless program which enhances state subsidies for districts in rural areas with limited tax base, said Rapp.

“We, as legislators, have to fight for that money every year,” she said. “We do not have the economic tax base…we just don’t have the tax base as some of the faster-growing school districts. And there’s always in our caucus, and I’m sure they have it in the Democratic caucus, too, a lot of conversation, a lot of debate of who gets those education dollars.”

Money was put in the budget for vocational schools and the WCSD is eligible to receive $15,000 for equipment at the Career Center, she said.

Transportation

“I think you all know there was a transportation bill that failed. It started in the Senate and was passed with a majority in the Senate. Senator (Scott) Hutchinson was a ‘no’ vote in the Senate, I was a ‘no’ vote in the House. It would’ve increased gas 28 cents a gallon over three to five years,” said Rapp. “I talked to many constituents and they just did not feel that was something they wanted to see here in rural Pennsylvania.”

With a total transportation budget of nearly $6.2 billion, PennDOT in Warren County has been doing a good job replacing bridges, said Rapp.

“Are our roads one hundred percent where they could be? No, but they have replaced a lot of bridges. That has been the focus for PennDOT. And they are doing some paving jobs, not as many roads as many would like to see, but they are still on track with replacing those bridges,” she said.

Pension reform

The budget was passed without pension reform and Rapp said it will be back on the table and will focus on a plan for new employees.

“We are looking at anywhere between $42 billion and $49 billion in debt for the pension fund, both the state employees and the state teachers. So we’re almost, well, we are at a crisis where we have to do something. We just don’t have the money,” said Rapp.