As we enter a New Year, a new legislative session is beginning in Harrisburg. After two years of a primary unilateral approach towards governing in the Commonwealth, the time is now for a bi-partisan approach in tackling the truly important issues that are before us.
With the majority party controlling both chambers of the General Assembly and the Governor’s mansion, Democrats have on many occasions been left out of the legislative process.
That approach needs to change this session as both parties need to work together in order to solve problems for all citizens in the Commonwealth.
One of the biggest disappointments from the last legislative session was the inaction by the majority on addressing our state’s transportation crisis.
It has been nearly a year and a half since the Governor’s own Transportation Advisory Commission issued a set of recommendations to help solve the funding issues we face today and to date, no action has been taken.
We need to begin considering these recommendations and finding solutions for a sustainable and dedicated funding source for mass transit.
While I am happy a deal was struck to stave off proposed service cuts to the Port Authority in 2013, the solution was a one-time fix. There needs to be a commitment to find a long-term funding stream to our region’s mass transit. We also need to address our deteriorating infrastructure as our Commonwealth has more deficient bridges than any state in the country.
A commitment towards restoring our infrastructure will not only improve our transportation system and keep our residents safe, it will also create jobs.
While the national unemployment rate has slowly declined over the last several months, Pennsylvania’s rate has trended upward, reaching 8.1% in October, a figure higher than the national average. Senate Democrats have put forth a comprehensive jobs plan, PA Works, that has been largely ignored by the majority.
The PA Works Now investment strategy would create more than 80,000 new jobs. These jobs would provide an immediate economic stimulus. PA Works Now would make use of state resources, leverage private resources and make critical long term capital investments that would create new opportunities for future growth and development.
I will also continue fighting on behalf of children in the Commonwealth urging passage of legislation I authored that would require school employees to report suspected child abuse to both school authorities and law enforcement immediately so that the discretion of the school is removed. During last session, my legislation had over 35 co-sponsors and clearly shows bi-partisan support, yet never made it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Action is long overdue and the time has come to better protect our children from abuse. My legislation helps do that.
With the 2012 Election behind us, voters have made it clear they want their elected officials to end partisan bickering and start working together to solve problems at all levels of government.
I stand ready and willing to work with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, who is interested in finding solutions to the problems facing this Commonwealth. The time for action is now.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District