Candidate Q&A: Andy Dinniman, 19th Senate District

Andy Dinniman

Andy Dinniman

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?

There are numerous opportunities to cut spending and eliminate duplicative services. For example, in education, between the state and local school districts, we have spent $1.1 billion on standardized testing since 2008. Instead of expensive and redundant high school graduation exams, we can cut costs on those tests by 2/3 by using ACT or SAT exams, which many students already take. We can also raise revenue by closing the “Delaware loophole” once and for all. The loophole allows out-of-state corporations to establish holding companies in Delaware to avoid paying part of their taxes in Pennsylvania. Updating our laws to close the loophole will result in at least $250 million in increased revenue.

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?

The legislature recently enacted a new school funding formula that is more equitable for districts across the Commonwealth. It is time to not only revisit Act 1, but also to rethink the way we support and fund education. The property tax can no longer sustain the cost of education. Property tax reform must finally be accomplished. That is why I am a supporter and co-sponsor of SB 76, to eliminate the property tax. I also voted for it when the bill was narrowly (by one vote) defeated in the Senate.

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?

One of the problems in terms of completing bridge and road maintenance has been resolved. A growing portion of the budget for the Pennsylvania State Police was coming from revenue generated from the gas tax. This has been changed so that, step-by-step, all of the revenue will go to repairing and updating our transportation infrastructure.

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?

I have co-sponsored and backed legislation for universal background checks on gun purchases. There is still a loophole involving private (person-to-person) sales of long-guns that needs to be closed. Certainly, it is just common sense that we limit access to guns for criminals and those with mental illness.

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 need to continue to build on the availability and use of Narcan (Naloxone) to save lives. But we also must expand and improve access to recovery programs and services, as well as drug abuse prevention and education programs. In addition, a big part of this effort must involve taking on growing role of prescription drug abuse and addiction.

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?

As a Chester County Commissioner, I was one of the architects of the Landscapes, the Chester County Open Space plan. As a result of the plan and the efforts of so many in Chester County, more than a quarter of the land in our county has been preserved in perpetuity. At the state level, we must continue to support open space, planned growth, and parkland and farm preservation. Protecting farming and making agriculture more economical will also result in more land being saved and less sold for development.

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?

I am a strong supporter and co-sponsor of a Senate Bill 484, which calls for establishing a Citizen’s Redistricting Commission to redraw district lines. Under the bill, the voters would then approve the proposed redistricting map. We need to end gerrymandering and get politics out of the redistricting process.

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

The media/public needs to spend more time discussing the great expense and negative impact of the state’s excessive standardized testing program on students, schools, and taxpayers. In addition, there should also be more coverage of the challenges and difficulties citizens face in gaining access to necessary public information.

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

First, I grew up on a dairy farm and that’s why I usually win the cow-milking contest at local county fairs. However, I could never beat my friend and colleague, former state Rep. Arthur Hershey. I’ve never seen Art lose a co-milking contest.

Second, I helped pay for my college education by working as a toll collector on the Connecticut Turnpike. Sometimes I’d have people come to my toll and ask me if I sold Toll House cookies! No kidding.

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