Candidate Q&A: Stephen Barrar, 160th State House District

Stephen Barrar

Stephen Barrar

Editor’s Note: Once again, we posed the same nine questions to our legislative candidates and offered to publish them without edits or modification to allow our readers to get an unfiltered view of their positions on some of the top issues of the day in Pennsylvania. We will run the answers of all of the candidates for a given race at the same time — assuming all have responded.

1. There seems to be universal agreement that the state continues to face lower revenues than expenses. How would you address this issue — by additional cuts in spending (if so, where?), raising taxes or some combination of the two?

It is true we have not seen much growth in state tax revenues over the past 5 years. We have done everything possible to control spending in every area of the budget. Many of us feel that any broad based tax increase will hurt our economy cost us jobs and not produce the revenues the state expects.  Right now we need to work together and spend only what we can afford and not continue to take more from our taxpayers.

2. School funding continues to be an issue for many folks — and litigation over fair funding is now working its way through the courts. Does Pennsylvania provide enough funding for local public schools and is it fairly distributed? Also, Act 1 of 2006 is beginning to put some school districts in a bind — thanks to a combination of lowered real estate values, skyrocketing pension, health care and special education costs — is it time to revisit the act and rework some aspects of it?

Pennsylvania spends over $15,500 per student with the national average is around $11,000 per student…Education cost increase about $500 to $600 million each year with salaries and benefits being the main driver of those increases. For years many legislators have complained about the formula use to drive out education dollars to our school. Most of the schools I represent like Unionville-Chadds Ford receive much less than other schools around in the commonwealth.

During last year’s budget battle many southeast legislators wanted to eliminate the hold harmless language in the budget and move to the Fair Funding formula recommended by the study on school funding. The Governor wanted to use the Fair Funding formula only for the new education fund in the budget not all funds this needs to change. Act 1 has help to protect property taxpayer and slow down the rate of property tax increases, and I would oppose changing it.

3. Although Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the nation, it continues to struggle to pay for road and bridge maintenance. How would you address this issue?

In my opinion, PennDOT is struggling with the backlog of maintenance work and bridge construction that needs to be done on our highways due to many year of neglecting the problem. Now we are moving forward with many projects that have been on our list… some for decades like RT. 322.

4. There have been at least five gun-related homicides in the county this year — four in the last few weeks — in addition to a number of non-fatal shootings this year. What would you do to stem gun violence?

We must do a better job with enforcement of our laws dealing with straw gun purchases and longer jail sentences for felons who buy guns and use them in the commission of a crime. Most guns used in crimes today are not purchased legally, state and federal law enforcement resources must be brought together to help communities combat this crisis.

5. As the opioid crisis grows, what efforts do you support both to curtail new addictions and help those already in the grip of addiction?

We certainly must better educate our young people to the dangers of drug use, with extra attention paid to opioids and heroin. For many this problem starts in our own medicine cabinet so we must be vigilant in our own homes to what dangerous prescriptions are just laying around. Treatment must be available to everyone, insurance companies are required to pay for treatment under Act 106 in many cases they do just the bare minimum…we need better enforcement of current requirements. This year in our state budget we added $39 million new dollars for treatment centers.

6. Land use continues to be front and center in Chester County — from the development of farm lands to housing developments to needed redevelopment in our urban areas. In terms of your district, what should the state being doing now to better preserve open space and target development to areas with existing infrastructure?

No easy answer here, land values here in Chesco are amongst the highest in the nation making it hard to find the funding needed when property taxes are also the highest in the state. The only way we can preserve these farms is with support from Federal, state and local government working together to save open space.

7. Do you support efforts by some to take state legislative and congressional redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and put it into the hands of an independent commission? If so, why? If not, why not?

No, the duty to reapportion the legislative district is a responsibility of the General Assembly and the Supreme court. The current system needs to be improved with more oversight by the courts. I would question where would these independent people come from and who would appoint them…members of the General Assembly or the courts or the governor?  Would they still be independent?

8. What issue do you feel that the media/public fails to discuss enough in terms of state government?

Candidate did not answer.

9. Can you tell us something mildly surprising about yourself (hobbies, unusual past jobs, etc.) that the public might find interesting?

I use to be an aerobics instructor in my young days working at the Sports Factory in Woodlyn PA. I still try to get fit by biking and kayaking.

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