The second 6th District State Representative Candidates Forum was held Tuesday, Oct. 27. It was moderated by the Meadville Tribune. Matthew Ferrence, the democratic candidate, is challenging incumbent Pennsylvania State Representative Brad Roae, a Republican. Each candidate had two minutes to answer each question and two minutes for a closing statement.
Roae opened the forum with the discussion of representing the majority of people. He discussed the tax set-up in Pennsylvania.
“All those taxes automatically rise due to inflation, so there is no need to raise them,” Roae said.
Roae highlighted his way of voting by voting distinctly for the local area’s majority opinion. He discussed how he grew up in the local area and truly represents the local people and what they want.
Ferrence’s opening statement touched on how he grew up in an identical county to Crawford in Ohio. It had been left by big corporations and it also has a college in the area. He discussed how he is running not as a Democrat, but a representative of all the people of Crawford and Erie County.
“We rank in Crawford County 56 out of 67 counties in per-capita income,” Ferrence said. “One in four people in Meadville live in poverty, and the state will be a big help.”
After each candidate gave their opening statements, the candidates moved on to the first question.
“How can the general assembly best help small rural school districts, which are gradually losing students?,” the moderator asked. “And how can it help them get through the financial challenges that they face this year and in the coming years?”
Roae answered first. He discussed how much state funding covers school budgets.
“Locally, about 50% is covered by state funding,” Roae said.
He went on to discuss that locally, schools are receiving more money than the average. Roae discussed how in 2016, the PA House passed a Fair Funding formula that increases school funding. Roae does not support further changing school funding.
Ferrence tackled this question as well. He discussed how Pennsylvania has one of the worst school funding policies in the country. Pennsylvania school funding is apportioned by ZIP code. He wants the funding to be distributed evenly throughout the state.
“Crawford Central pays $1.6 million to pay for students who are going to a cyber charter school,” Ferrence said.
The second question was, “what forms of checks and balances are appropriate when it comes to the governor’s emergency powers?,” the moderator asked. “And what role should the general assembly play as a check on executive authority during extended disaster declarations?”
Ferrence took this question first. He discussed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and hyper-partisan bills that were put forward to be vetoed instead of bipartisan bills that would have been put through.
“A good example is, as early as April, there were bills coming across to open the state up completely,” Ferrence said.
He argued that the legislature didn’t work together.
Roae stated that when the legislature passes a resolution to end a state of emergency, the governor is required to issue a proclamation ending the state of emergency. However, that didn’t happen with the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, and Roae feels that keeping the state of emergency up was a bad decision. He thinks it hurt Pennsylvania economically.
“That caused an extra 500,000 people to be unemployed,” Roae said.
He says without the pressure from Roae and other representatives, it wouldn’t have been lifted.
“Many school districts and municipal governments are facing revenue shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the moderator asked. “What efforts would you support, if any, to help them in recouping their lost finances?”
Roae went first. He said that there is a lot of discussion on how much money was lost, but also on how much money was saved.
“The heating of the buildings was turned way down, the water wasn’t running and the sewer wasn’t being used,” Roae said.
Roae went on to say that a lot of spending went down and a lot of the expenses went down.
“You get what you pay for,” Ferrence said. “Sometimes, you have to invest in schools in order to have the good schools that I think we need to.”
Ferrence continued to discuss how much they had to spend in order to make sure students have the best education they can while following pandemic health guidelines. He has a plan that would lower the taxes of 86% of the residents of District 2 and would tax the wealthy, that would generate $2 billion in the first year.
The conversation continued to touch on incomes and taxes. Ferrence’s plan proposes raising the minimum wage. Roae discussed that during the lockdown, people’s wages were $0. Roae also said that 1.5% of jobs pay minimum wage jobs and half of the employees are high school and college students that work part-time.
Ferrence ended by stating that the 6th District is a complicated district. Ferrence said he is running as a candidate for everyone in the district and everyone that feels that their problems have not been helped. He said he wants to be an advocate for the district where people are being ignored.
Roae’s ending statement focused on how he has done a good job representing the area. He said he votes according to how the majority of the district would vote. He also said he has only missed one voting day to meet with federal officials. He discussed his business degree as an asset in his job when looking at financial statements.
Voting is on the local ballot and the candidates ended by highlighting the importance of going out and voting on Tuesday, Nov. 3.