Yeager: Constituents will benefit from my broad life experiences
At 62, Ted Yeager, if elected, would be one of the oldest freshman members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives - if not the oldest. He believes the 107th District, and the House, will benefit from the fact that he is not, and will never be, a "career" politician.
It's those broad life experiences, as a teacher, real estate agent and community volunteer, Yeager said, as well as his philosophy of government that make him the better candidate in Tuesday's election.
Yeager, the Democratic candidate, has promised to bring a common-sense approach to the job.
That means, he explained, that his votes will be based on the merits of an issue, not partisan considerations.
"I see things as 'good ideas and 'bad ideas,' rather than Democrat and Republican ideas," Yeager remarked in a recent interview at The News-Item. "I have always been able to work with anyone to get things done, and I have accomplished this by seeking the middle ground. It's important to build a consensus, rather than dictate to others what should be done."
Yeager said a legislator should never be hesitant to cross the aisle to seek and find common ground. This approach, he noted, can be successful if a House member is committed to building good working relationships, one colleague at a time. He has vowed to do exactly that.
3 major issues
Yeager said that in talking to people throughout the district - Democrats, Republicans and independents, three issues - Act 22, Marcellus shale and cuts to public education - resonate above all others.
Yeager has charged that legislators - including his opponent, incumbent Rep, Kurt Masser - abrogated their responsibility to the citizens of Pennsylvania when they voted for Act 22. The law, which expired at the end of the last fiscal year, gave the secretary of welfare the authority to implement sweeping changes in how programs are delivered.
"Legislators removed themselves from the equation when they said the secretary could do whatever he wants without legislative oversight," Yeager said. "If the administration is serious about eliminating abuse, fraud and waste and dealing with rising costs, it should recommend what should be done and then let the legislature decide."
Yeager said the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging was already doing an outstanding job operating the waiver program, despite the fact that funding for the program wasn't increased for 11 years. The waiver program allows seniors, otherwise eligible to reside in nursing homes, to stay in their own homes, with necessary assistance.
"The secretary cut money to enroll people in the program and also cut reimbursement for at-home services," Yeager remarked, adding that, in the end, the state actually ended up paying private industry more to perform the same services.
Yeager has been critical throughout the campaign of the policy of the Corbett administration and Republican legislature with respect to taxing the Marcellus shale industry. "The nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has said that if we had done exactly what West Virginia does - taxing gas production, not the number of wells - from July 2009 to the end of 2011, $357 million in revenue would have been generated in Pennsylvania," he remarked.
Yeager said the argument has been that overregulation would hurt the growing gas industry. "It's been suggested that we don't want to tax so much that we would force this industry out of the state, as if they would actually leave. Where would they go? We are now the largest gas-producing state in the country. They are not going anywhere."
The impact fee that was eventually imposed on the gas industry is less than impact fees that are in effect in other states, Yeager said. "Fortunately, the courts threw out the provision that if municipalities wanted to share in the fee, they would have to give up their zoning rights," he said. "Impact fees are supposed to take care of the areas that are being impacted, yet the state government is taking a percentage, 40 percent, and putting it in the general fund."
Yeager charged that the Republicans have trouble defining just what the impact fee is. "It depends on who you talk to," he explained. "Is it (the money the industry is paying) a tax or is it a fee? Corbett says it's an impact fee. But Kurt says we are taxing (the gas industry). But yet he ran on a platform of not raising taxes."
Yeager said that had the state imposed a fair tax on the gas industry the past few years, the resulting revenue could have helped fund critical repairs to highways and bridges.
In addition, Yeager believes the state should find more ways to utilize natural gas. For example, he proposed that the state encourage transit systems to operate their vehicles on compressed natural gas. The resulting reduction in fuel costs could lead to lower state appropriations to major urban systems such as the Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA).
Yeager, a retired teacher, said the legislature must act promptly to deal with cyber charter schools, which he described as "cash cows." He cites a report from the auditor general's office which found that school districts paid $86 million to these schools in 2009-10. Districts are required to pay the cyber school the average cost per pupil, Yeager said, a figure which he believes greatly exceeds the cyber school's actual expense.
"But if a student decides to return to public school two weeks after the cyber school receives the district funds, the cyber school still keeps all that money," he added.
View on AOAA
Asked his views on the proposed Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA), Yeager said the process should be slowed down while questions by the public are thoughtfully addressed and resolved. He admits that much of the information he has on the AOAA comes from what he has read in the newspaper.
"I really don't have a specific opinion, and certainly as a legislator, if the park proves to be viable, I would fight for additional state support, if needed," Yeager remarked.
Yeager acknowledged that the state's allocation of $1.5 million for the AOAA does show Harrisburg already views the park as viable. "I still would like to see the final plan, and hear more about how the AOAA would be governed," he remarked. "There have been enough questions raised that I think it would be better to move slower."
Yeager is not sure how, if at all, the outcome of the presidential election will impact the legislative race. "Our issues are not Romney-Obama; our issues are local issues," he remarked. The question, he said, is whether people are really satisfied with the way things are going now - with respect to taking care of senior citizens, school funding and Marcellus shale.
"The Republicans cut funding to education and senior citizens. Are you OK with that?" he asked.