District 20 News: State Rep. Kinkead
Despite the fact that we live in a democracy, research shows that a majority of Americans have an extraordinarily low level of confidence in our government’s ability to actually solve problems. How did we end up in a situation where people get to elect their local, state and federal officials, but are repeatedly displeased with the results those officials deliver?
I believe that if members of the public — especially eligible voters — have a greater understanding of how our government works, it would better enable officials to create positive changes in communities throughout our nation — changes that are long overdue and would benefit all of us. So, let’s explore how our elected officials work together at different levels of government through the lens of a state representative like me.
First, let’s talk about money — specifically, tax dollars! From securing funding for our schools to paying for bridge and road maintenance, the officials we elect at every level play a huge role in shaping how our tax dollars are ultimately spent. As a state legislator, I often write letters supporting grant applications of community organizations and other eligible entities who are seeking grant funding. State and federal grant programs are often highly competitive, and there’s a finite amount of money to be awarded through each grant program. And as a member of our House Appropriations Committee, I have unique access to push our state departments and agencies to prioritize different policies. So how do I determine which projects and policies to support? By listening to the concerns of the people in my community and working with municipal and county officials to gain an accurate understanding of the biggest challenges our region is facing.
If officials have priorities other than what’s best for the people they represent — for example, if their biggest priority is boosting the profits of a corporation like Norfolk Southern — those officials would probably be likely to advocate for grant funding and policies that reflect their priorities. Following the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, that has wreaked havoc on the town and surrounding environment, many people are rightfully demanding answers as to why previously discussed federal regulations for rail cars that might have prevented the derailment were never implemented. The answer may lie at the bottom of the deep pockets of the four companies who control over 80% of American rail freight. This is why it is absolutely critical that the officials we elevate to public office are prioritizing what’s in the best interest of the people — the power they wield is very real and impacts all of us!
Beyond funding, close collaboration between state and local officials is necessary in shaping legislation and policy changes. Last year, I was very proud to introduce legislation with state Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny, that proposed creating a universal free school meals program for all K-12 students in Pennsylvania public schools. Fittingly, this legislation grew out of conversations with elected officials at all levels of government, including North Hills School Board Member Deanna Philpott. Now, a universal free school breakfast program may be on the horizon for Pennsylvania schools — Gov. Josh Shapiro included funding for a free breakfast program in his budget proposal. While I’ll continue to advocate for adding a universal free lunch program, I am very excited to see what I consider to be a huge step forward for our education system happening in this moment.
Considering all of this, I think it’s crucial to recognize that real change starts from the ground up. Changing the nature of our political system must start at the local and state level and requires an informed and engaged voting population. I am deeply troubled by the growing distrust the public has in our government institutions — but I completely understand why it exists. I have always believed that the role of our government is to do the most good for the most people, and I will continue doing everything in my power to be a force for positive change for residents here in Allegheny County and Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth.
If you want to stay updated on all the ways I’m working for you, visit RepEmily-Kinkead.com/EmailSignUp to receive weekly email updates on what I’m up to in Harrisburg and here at home.