What are your top three legislative priorities in 2022? My priority is properly funding our public schools. For decades, Pennsylvania has failed to provide schools the funding they need for success, which leads to gross inequities between districts and communities that can afford to fill the void through local taxes and those who cannot.
We just passed a budget that invests a record $1.1 billion in K-12 schools, including $850 million for basic and special education and $200 million for school safety, school-based counseling and other mental health services. When the commonwealth works to meet its obligation to adequately fund schools at the state level, it not only helps our students and educators succeed—further supporting our growing economy—but it also saves homeowners from the burden of skyrocketing local property taxes.
Next, I have long stood up for the best interests of hardworking Pennsylvanians and their families, so many of whom have struggled with job instability and soaring prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m proud to say the budget we just passed provides vital funding for families in several areas including significant childcare investments to help providers hire and retain great teachers and to help families afford the high cost of childcare through a new state tax credit.
We also leveraged our remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to make targeted investments to address the housing crisis, assist with utility bills and property taxes and afford the high cost of a college degree.
Finally, I am committed to protecting our communities and our school children from the uniquely American gun violence epidemic. The recently passed budget invests significantly in local law enforcement grants, community violence protection initiatives, mental health services and school security.
Additionally, I will continue fighting for common sense and reasonable gun safety measures, most importantly universal background checks, in the upcoming legislative session.
What is the biggest concern you hear from your constituents? I recently hosted a series of constituent breakfasts in my district and one of the biggest concerns I hear about are high property taxes, especially for seniors on fixed incomes.
For too many years to count, Pennsylvania has not been living up to its obligation to fully fund public education at the state level, and this inevitably leads to higher property taxes for families and seniors in districts at the local level. Thankfully, the historic funding we secured in this year’s state budget will help to some degree to stabilize costs for districts, and in some cases, even allow them to lower local taxes.
Additionally, we are using a portion of our remaining ARPA dollars to provide one-time bonus payments for those eligible for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. I will continue advocating for increasing the income threshold for this program so that more homeowners can become eligible.
Where do you shop locally for food? Talluto’s in East Norriton for authentic Italian, Merrymead Farm in Worcester for delicious local milk and ice cream and of course, Collegeville Bakery for baked goods and a variety of prepared foods including pizza, pasta, hoagies and wings.
It’s been amazing to see how these stores—both small, locally owned shops to regional and national chains—have adapted to the demands of their shoppers and worked around the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is your favorite vacation destination? My family and I are headed out soon on a trip to Cape May. I will also never turn down a trip to Clearwater to see the Phillies Spring Training with my baseball obsessed family!
What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district? The pandemic certainly laid bare the challenges of keeping food on the table. From supply chain issues to rising prices to maintaining a strong frontline workforce, our grocers have certainly had more than their fair share of challenges over the last couple of years.
It’s been amazing to see how these stores—both small, locally owned shops to regional and national chains—have adapted to the demands of their shoppers and worked around the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, online ordering and curbside pickup is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity to stay competitive in this market.
Getting this infrastructure up and running takes a significant up-front investment in technology, but it also requires a long-term investment in the workforce to keep shelves stocked while serving customers in a variety of new ways.
What I see in my district is likely no different than what is happening in stores across the commonwealth—a complete commitment to innovation and the workforce to carry it out, all with the goal of ensuring everyone has the food they need to keep their families fed and healthy.
What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator? Divided government is an important part of our democracy, but it certainly doesn’t make things easy in Harrisburg! Being in the minority, it is frustrating to come up with great ideas for helping people and investing in our future but facing huge challenges in getting that legislation to the finish line because the majority party controls the bill calendar. Unfortunately, Pennsylvanians are often held hostage when meaningful legislation is gridlocked. That’s my biggest frustration.
Successes include several important initiatives that we have been fighting for years, and were able to achieve in the budget we just passed. These includes historic state funding for education, support for workers and families through initiatives like the new childcare tax credit and tax relief as part of a long-term vision for economic growth across the commonwealth.
What is your favorite food or meal to cook? Anything on the grill, especially steak.
What do you like to do for fun? I am diehard fan of all Philly sports! The Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and of course, my alma mater, Villanova Basketball.
But more than anything I like to spend time with my family. Most weekends are spent cheering on my four kids in their many activities and shuttling them to practices and games—watching them play sports they love is my happy place.
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Liz Kemmery, director of communications