KINGSTON - The two Democrats running to represent the 120th state House District agreed on many issues Wednesday night, including support for the Act 76 proposal to eliminate school property taxes and imposing an extraction tax on gas drilling.
But during a League of Women Voters forum, West Wyoming Councilwoman Eileen Cipriani and Edwardsville Councilman Gary Mack disagreed on whether the state should drug test welfare recipients.
“It sounds like a good idea, but it would be cost prohibitive,” said Cipriani, who noted she worked in the toxicology department at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital for 26 years. “It’s very expensive to do drug testing and drug follow-up testing. We don’t want anyone who is on drugs to be receiving welfare. And if they were arrested and had some sort of issue with police, they should be tested. But random drug testing to the entire population on welfare would be so costly to the state of Pennsylvania.”
Mack responded by noting that Florida and New York drug test welfare recipients.
“We are getting an influx of those residents here because we don’t test,” Mack said. “We are taxing the welfare system by allowing them and not testing. I do believe we have to drug test, and I do believe in several years, it will pay for itself.”
More than 70 people attended the event at Wyoming Seminary’s Buckingham Performing Arts Center. Mack, 55, teaches math and algebra at Wyoming Valley West Middle School.
Cipriani was a legislative assistant for the current incumbent, Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston. Mundy is retiring this year and won’t seek a 13th term.
Mack and Cipriani touted their municipal accomplishments.
“We put police in our low-income housing,” Mack said. “That’s not just to protect the residents of low-income housing. That’s an entire West Side issue. We don’t want Wilkes-Barre coming here. And I don’t want to give Wilkes-Barre a bad name, but we all know about last year and the murder rate. We don’t want that happening on the West Side.”
Cipriani said her borough has made “a remarkable recovery” from a financial crisis in 2009.
“As council president, I led the efforts to change our entire culture of government,” she said.
Mack said Act 76 would make education funding to school districts more equitable. Cipriani said a 5- percent tax on gas drilling could help funding education, including early education programs.
Both said they opposed perks and gifts state legislators receive and are willing to reduce the compensation state legislators receive. The salary range for lawmakers starts at $84,012.
The 120th District next year will consist of the townships of Exeter, Jackson and Kingston and the boroughs of Courtdale, Exeter, Forty Fort, Kingston, Luzerne, Pringle, Swoyersville, West Pittston, West Wyoming and Wyoming.
Edwardsville is currently part of the 119th District but will become part of the 120th District next year due to statewide redistricting, which occurs every 10 years, and is based on the latest U.S. Census.
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