Pattye Benson

Community Matters

PA State Rep Warren Kampf’s Town Hall Meeting — Budget, Pension and Property Tax Reform, Liquor Privatization & the Legalizing of Marijuana

I attended State Rep Warren Kampf’s Town Hall meeting last night in Phoenixville. Kampf opened the meeting with a 15-20 min. update on the budget, pension reform and status of legislation, liquor privatization, and property tax reform. Following his presentation, the evening continued with Q & A from the audience members, with about 30 questions on a variety of topics.

In his discussion of the recently passed 2014-15 PA Budget, Kampf offered the following highlights:

  • The budget passed on time for the fourth straight year, with no tax increases to the residents.
  • Although there was a modest increase in the 2014-15 budget from the previous year, the budget increase remains well below the rate of inflation.
  • Pennsylvania received a $340 million cut in Medicaid Funds from the Federal government.
  • The budget includes an additional $250 Million to implement Affordable Care Act provisions;
  • The budget includes an additional $600 Million in increase in pension costs
  • The budget includes an additional $600 Million for Medicaid increase

There has been much discussion about Corbett cutting education spending but according to Kampf, the 2014-15 budget has education spending at an all-time high, and that the recently passed budget includes an additional $520 Million in educational spending. This topic was one of much interest from the audience members. We have all seen the campaign rhetoric with one side claiming cuts to education and the other side saying it is untrue

Kampf further clarified that Corbett’s budget includes $10.5 Billion on Pre K – 12 line items, stating it is the most ever committed. The budget includes an additional $20 Million for Special Education. The Pre-K Counts Program, which increases access to quality pre-kindergarten to PA children and their families with a priority in at-risk communities, received a $10 Million increase in the budget.

To help offset the cost of postsecondary education, the budget includes a new $5 Million ‘Ready to Succeed Scholarship’ that provides up to $2,000 to eligible students whose families earn up to $110K.

Pension costs and the need for reform continued to be a significant discussion point. Kampf offered the example that the PSERS line item on the 2014-15 PA Budget increased from $375 million to $1.4 Billion this year! As taxpayers, we know firsthand the effect that the skyrocketing pension costs have had on our own tax bill. The pension costs have impacted the school districts statewide, forcing school boards to make difficult decisions and painful cuts.

Clearly, pension reform is needed sooner rather than later. Kampf’s hybrid pension reform bill, HB 1353, which includes a traditional 401k type plan, was presented as a possible solution. It was interesting to note that there continues to be confusion among some of the residents – the suggested pension reform bill, HB 1353 is for new hires; not those workers currently in the system. Kampf believes that his plan would create $11 – $20 Billion in savings.

I was glad for a discussion on liquor privatization but it does not look like House Bill 790 is going anywhere anytime soon. The House approved the bill 105-90 in March 2013 but according to Kampf, the Senate has not agreed to move the bill forward. We hear the argument that the 600 states stores generate money and therefore the government should keep things status quo. Pennsylvania loses millions annual to neighboring states because of the inconvenience of buying at states stores. What is it going to take to bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century – 48 other states enjoy convenience and choice, why can’t we? Other than Utah and Pennsylvania, states don’t want to be in the business of selling alcohol.

On property tax reform, there were updates but little ‘new’ news. PA House Bill 76, the ‘Property Tax Independence Act’, remains in the House Finance Committee and has not moved forward for a vote. This legislation would eliminate school property taxes across the Commonwealth and replace those taxes with funding from a single state source.

Kampf voted yes on House Bill 1189, which would amend the Local Tax Enabling Act to provide school districts with the option to eliminate property taxes. Although Kampf supports HB 1189, he added that the Senate has not taken action on this legislation.

Because the Town Hall meeting was held in Phoenixville, several audience questions were local to that area. One question related to Phoenixville Area School District’s decision to acquire the Meadowbrook Golf Club via eminent domain and where did Kampf stand on the topic. Kampf supported the legal right of the school district to take the property [using eminent domain] but suggested it should only be used when all other alternatives were exhausted.

On allowing illegal immigrant children in the US, Kampf deferred to the Federal government, stating that as a State Representative he was not in a position to cast a vote.

A couple of people asked Kampf for his personal opinion on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania. Although he was not aware of any currently proposed legislation in the House on the subject, he said he could support the legalizing of medical marijuana. He was not going to commit himself beyond the use of marijuana for medical usage, preferring to take one step at a time.

On June 27, the Senate Law and Justice Committee unanimously voted in support of the bipartisan Senate Bill 1182, known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act, to ease the suffering of people with epilepsy or other ailments. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have approved medical cannabis programs, could Pennsylvania be next?

I give credit to any elected official who holds a Town Hall Meeting with no pre-screening of questions. Last night numbers were distributed and the questions asked in numerical order; everyone with a question was given an opportunity to ask it. Nothing was off limits – only requesting that questions be asked by residents of Kampf’s legislative district. As a registered Independent, I am pleased to report that the evening contained no political party bashing by audience members or by Kampf. Would love to see a similar forum in Tredyffrin Township. Or how about a PA-157 State Representative debate between incumbent Warren Kampf and his challenger Marian Moskowitz?

Share or Like:


Add a Comment
  1. As a retired person on a fixed income I am a strong supporter of moving the funding of schools to a source that would be fairer. Removing the property tax would benefit all property owners especially the retired and unemployed segments of the population where it places a heavy and sometimes unbearable burden.

    Would this legislation also attract companies to, and retain existing companies in, our area benefiting the local economy?

  2. There has to be a reason why the PSERS costs would quadruple right? Are they being forced to fiancé future costs in a shorter period of time or something similar?

    1. The massively underfunded public pension systems continues to snowball. The disastrous stock market downturn in early 2000 and then again in 2007-09 coupled with the government’s holiday from contributions now has the state and the school districts facing increased pension contributions to pay off the debt that has already occurred.

  3. Warren,

    This makes NO sense. Cigarette smokers are outcasts, 32 ounce soda drinkers can get arrested in NYC, yet a big smile emerges across our faces as we roll out the red carpet for weed legalization?

    Smoking cigarettes makes you die, drinking kills hundreds of thousands of people per year and we’re now legalizing pot to add that misery? This is insanity Warren.

    Cigarettes and alcohol are so part of our society, I don’t see anyway we can get rid of them. Legalizing pot will make matters much worse. Worse than the cost of keeping it illegal. At least cigarettes don’t lower IQ. Do we really want our kids on this? Normalizing pot smoking by legalizing it will have life crushing effects on people’s lives. Critical skills related to attention, memory and learning are seriously diminished. Students who smoke pot have lower grades and are less likely to get into college. Their ability to memorize and organize information is greatly diminished.

    Warren, is legalizing pot going to make PA better or worse? Do you want to live in a neighborhood with people smoking pot? Do you want your kids to be around that?

    I don’t.

  4. A recent Northwestern University study found that marijuana users have abnormal brain structure and poor memory and that chronic marijuana abuse may lead to brain changes resembling schizophrenia. The study also reported that the younger the person starts using marijuana, the worse the effects become.

    In its own report arguing against marijuana legalization, the American Medical Association said: “Heavy cannabis use in adolescence causes persistent impairments in neurocognitive performance and IQ, and use is associated with increased rates of anxiety, mood and psychotic thought disorders.”

    So, there’s a good reason most habitual marijuana users come off as stupid. The drug is making them stupider, even when they’re not high. You really want your kids on that?

    4) Marijuana is terrible for your physical health: How bad is marijuana for you? It’s even more toxic than cigarette smoke. Regular users are hit with devastating lung problems as much as 20 years earlier than smokers. Even small amounts of marijuana can cause temporary sterility and it has a terrible impact on the babies of women who smoke including “birth defects, mental abnormalities and increased risk of leukemia in children.” If your standard is, “Well, it’s better for you than Meth or Crack,” that’s true, but you’re deluding yourself if you think pot is anything other than absolutely horrible for your health.

    5) The drug decimates many people’s lives: Movies portray potheads as harmless, fun-loving people who spend their time giggling and munching Cheetos, but they don’t show these people when they’re flunking out of school, losing their jobs, frustrated because they can’t concentrate or losing the love of their lives because they just don’t want to be with a pot smoking loser anymore. Even in the limited number of studies that are out there, the numbers are stark.

    A study of 129 college students found that, among those who smoked the drug at least twenty-seven of the thirty days before being surveyed, critical skills related to attention, memory and learning were seriously diminished. A study of postal workers found that employees who tested positive for marijuana had 55% more accidents, 85% more injuries and a 75% increase in being absent from work. In Australia, a study found that cannabis intoxication was responsible for 4.3% of driver fatalities.

    …Students who use marijuana have lower grades and are less likely to get into college than nonsmokers. They simply do not have the same abilities to remember and organize information compared to those who do not use these substances.

    It’s bad enough that we already lose so many Americans to cigarettes, alcoholism, and drunken driving. Do we really want to endorse the loss of millions more potentially productive Americans via Marijuana? Do we move on from there to Crack, Heroin or Meth? Some people would say, “If they want to do it, great, then it’s no business of ours.” But, you can also bet that those same people will be complaining about all the junkies and welfare cases that will be created by the policy they endorsed.

    So, ask yourself a few key questions. Is legalizing Marijuana going to make this a better country or a worse one? Would you want to live in a neighborhood filled with people who regularly smoke marijuana? Would you want your kids regularly smoking pot? Now is the time to think about it because although it’s easy to thoughtlessly legalize a drug like marijuana, when things go predictably wrong down the road, it will be a lot harder to put the genie back in the bottle than people seem to think.

    This is from an article by conservative John Hawkins. He cites a recent Northwestern study and The American Medical Association. I did not check with the American Medical Association to verify his claim. He cites studies of postal workers and college students which I also did not follow up on but I think it would be easy to do. I know any reader could present articles arguing the opposite and I welcome the opportunity to consider them as well.

    . .

    1. Alcohol has inflicted MUCH more damage on society than pot ever has or ever will. Approximately 38% of Americans report to have tried pot at least once. This stat has remained constant since the 1980’s in spite of the fact that pot has been largely de-criminalized. There is zero evidence that more people will flock to pot once it is de-criminalized or legalized. For one thing, many employers still ban it. Even if it is legal, if you fail a drug test, you can be terminated.

      Smoking? There isn’t one single health benefit to smoking. At least with Alcohol, with moderation and things like red-wine, there are at least some health benefits.

      Some of the most creative and smartest people today regularly use pot.

      Put it this way, I’d rather see pot legalized than having a crappy gambling establishment in Valley Forge.

      So part of our society? So was slavery and Jim Crow laws at one time.

      Pot will be legalized and more importantly, taxed. I gather you are a conservative and love low taxes and more specifically love a low tax bill for yourself. If you want to keep that low bill and address the many fiscal issues we face, then you better get on board with it. If you don’t get on board with it, then don’t complain about your bigger tax bill.

      You have made a ton of statements that are not supported by the facts. That’s not surprising for here.

      By the way, YOU live in a neighborhood where people smoke pot. I don’t have to know who you are to make that statement. You are naive and uninformed.

      Legalizing pot is like legalizing same sex marriage. It’s not that it’s going to happen. It is happening as we speak.

      1. Im not sure to whom you are referring your response t..But I do wonder… is it GOOD that people inhale pot smoke? Is it GOOD for the lungs? I get it. since we have certain other licenses with booze and cigarettes, we should have another. Actually, as I at least have stated before, it is just a business decision.. and I would leave it to the states to adjudicate.. enjoy your dope.!!

  5. whats so funny? This legalization issue is not about what it does to the ambition, desires, mental acuity of the smoker. Lets face it, it is about taxes, and decriminalization. states like Colorado who have legalized it have an increased homeless problem as people are flocking there to smoke dope w o worries of prosecution…guess all 50 states will have to legalize it, or the clouds above the colorado landscape will get foggy.. is that air pollution?

    I don’t see neurosurgeons and others “flocking” to Colorado to smoke weed.. 32 ounce sodas anyone?

  6. Pretty ironic that the ny times is for states rights. They Old Gray Lady must be getting ossified. Yes!!! States rights!! Bring em back! Maybe the editors there can review the constitution w the hope they will support it!

  7. All good information. And that’s the problem. Has anyone noticed that there is almost no organized opposition to the legalization of marijuana?

    Looking at polls from around the country, 48% against, 52% for, in many states, yet the 52% for are so organized,so vocal so motivated to get their opinions out there yet there is no voice from the opposition saying hold on a minute. 48% is almost half. The other side is vulnerable, you just don’t know it because in a matter of seconds anyone can pull up an article supporting all the wonderful reasons why this drug should be legal.

    So, this conversation is a very small example of the talk going on all over the country. And just because the 48% aren’t as organized or vocal about it, doesn’t mean we should legalize marijuana.

    1. Above is a great question………

      In the 60’s and 70’s, there were smoking lounges in the high schools……….FOR THE STUDENTS. They aren’t there now for a reason. Can you imagine smoking lounges in the high schools now? People who smoke are pariahs, looked down upon in society. Smokers sneak around and find isolated places and hang their heads in shame hoping others don’t see them. Tobacco products are not allowed in the schools, but tobacco is legal. How much in time resources and money are spent, (not to mention the healthcare costs) on trying to convince smokers to stop. After pot is legalized, will the campaign against it start then?

      Warren, this is insanity. Vote no.

  8. Harvard Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers, and the Results Don’t Look Good Image Credit: AP

    The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable. As more and more politicians and noted individuals come out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion. But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health effects of marijuana?

    According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18- to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn’t. What they found was rather shocking: Even those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation.

    “There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana recreationally is not a problem — that it is a safe drug,” said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. “We are seeing that this is not the case.”

    The science: Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study that has found the same link with recreational users. The 20 people in the “marijuana group” of the study smoked four times a week on average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all.

    “We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana — no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues,” said Hans Breiter, another co-author of the study.

    Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.

    “This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch,” said Breiter. “I don’t want to say that these are magical parts of the brain — they are all important. But these are fundamental in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things.”

    Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations.

    What will happen next? The study’s co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes. That would be a major and important step in this science because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it’s unclear what that might actually mean for users and their brains.

    But for now, they are standing behind their findings.

    “People think a little marijuana shouldn’t cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school,” said Breiter. “Our data directly says this is not so.”

  9. Interesting tidbit on TV last night about Hawaii… very high homeless population.. incredibly lax enforcement of drug violators…Prostitution… could there be a relationship? the point of the story is there is a correlation..

  10. Does anyone have any insight into why Wolf interviews have seemingly endorsed strengthening the PLCB ”

    “Asked if he didn’t agree with the premise that government shouldn’t operate, say, a kitchen cabinet business (the same kind of business on which the Wolf family has built a very profitable enterprise), Wolf didn’t see much wrong with the state running a giant liquor business. In fact, he talked of expanding Pennsylvania’s existing cluster-cluck of a monopolistic system to supply other states.

    Given Pennsylvania’s volume buying power, Wolf sees the Keystone State as something of a regional, if not nationwide, liquor broker and reaping a huge windfall. “Pennsylvania, State of Liquor”? Think again.” (

  11. The bill in Pennsylvania is regarding the legalization of Medical Marijuana, not free-rein use such as in Colorado.

    I don’t want to get high, but I very much would like to see MM legalized here in PA. Why? Because I have been living with Stage IV (that’s the worst, folks) colon cancer since 2007. I have had a lot of chemo, radiation, surgeries, tests and procedures as well as a wide variety of medications that go along with all those things.

    My message-board acquaintances who live in MM-legal states cannot believe we don’t have it available. They, too have had to cope with the ravages of this illness and its treatments. Without exception, they have found MM to be a valuable aide in fighting pain, nausea, poor appetite, and more. Most vaporize it or mix it into foods or tea, thus negating the harmful effects (and odors) of smoking.

    I am presently taking pain medications that could easily kill me if I accidentally screw up on the dosage. They are legal, but not especially safe. Fortunately, I have few side effects from these drugs, but many other patients have a tough time achieving a level of effective relief without associated problems, sometimes major.
    You would be surprised at the wide variety (and quantity) of people who have offered to help me acquire pot since my diagnosis. With a few classic stoner-dude-type exceptions, these real-live users are people I know to be upright, productive, bright, well-educated, well-heeled and aware citizens! I had no idea these people were pot users.

    As stated before, I do not want to get high; it’s just not a feeling I enjoy, and I prefer the sensation of “two feet on the ground”. The legalization of MM would ensure access to strains of the plant that offer greater easing of symptoms while lessening the factors that cause the high — those strains are by nature unpopular on the street, and I have heard they are hard to find outside of states with dispensaries. (I haven’t tried sourcing any yet as I would be too scared to mix pot with my prescribed pain meds) Legalized MM would also decrease a patient’s chances of having other illegal substances mixed in with the pot, as sometimes happens with the street-procured stuff.

    In conclusion, I would bet (and win!) this: If any of you ever develop and suffer from an advanced cancer and its treatments, you, too, would appreciate having a low-risk medical option that would provide treasured relief.

  12. Your post softened my rigid all or nothing position on legalization.

    Albany, NY (July 7, 2014)

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed a bill to establish a medical marijuana program for New York State. The new law includes provisions to ensure medical marijuana is reserved only for patients with serious conditions and is dispensed and administered in a manner that protects public health and safety.

    “This new law takes an important step toward bringing relief to patients living with extraordinary pain and illness,” Governor Cuomo said. “The legislation I am signing today strikes the right balance between our desire to give those suffering from serious diseases access to treatment, and our obligation to guard against threats to public health and safety. I applaud the lawmakers and advocates whose efforts over the past years were crucial in making medical marijuana a reality in New York State.”

    Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey D. Klein said, “Today we take the historic step of offering a new level of patient care to the citizens of New York State. Under one of the safest, most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country we will bring much needed relief and effective treatment to thousands of desperate patients suffering across this state each day. This is a common sense, patient-centric program that will continue to stay on the cutting-edge of care to ensure the best possible treatment for New Yorkers in need for years to come.”

    Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “The Assembly Majority has been passing the Compassionate Care Act for many years, and now thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership we finally have a law that will deliver much-needed relief to patients in New York. Our goal now will be to get this program up and running swiftly, safely and efficiently so that they can get the treatment they need.”

    Senator Diane Savino said, “From this day forward New Yorkers will now have access to the same life-changing treatment that other patients across the country have had. This is an historic victory for the countless health care professionals, physicians, advocates, families and patients who know that the safe and reliable use of medical marijuana is a sensible, compassionate course of treatment for debilitating illness and disease. I stand with the thousands of New Yorkers who now will no longer have to suffer needlessly through their courageous medical battles.”

    Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried said, “This is a major victory for patients. If the patient and physician agree that a severe debilitating or life-threatening condition should be treated with medical marijuana, it is cruel for government to stand in the way. Now it’s important to work to get the law implemented as quickly as possible.”

    Medical Marijuana Reserved for Patients with Serious Conditions:

    To ensure medical marijuana is available only to patients with serious conditions who can most benefit from the treatment, the law establishes a certification and registry process for physicians to administer the drug.

    To be prescribed medical marijuana, a patient must receive a certification from a licensed practitioner who must register with the Department of Health and be qualified to treat the serious condition for which the patient is seeking treatment. The serious conditions for which medical marijuana can be prescribed are cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication on intractable spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathies, Huntington’s Disease, or as added by the DOH commissioner.

    To ensure medical marijuana is in the hands of only individuals in need and their health care provider, Registry Identification Cards will be issued by DOH to certified patients. The card will contain any recommendation or limitation on form or dosage imposed by the practitioner as well as other information. The Department will be able to suspend or revoke the card of a patient who willfully violates any provision of the new law.

    Health insurers will not be required to provide coverage for medical marijuana.

    Administering Medical Marijuana Safely:

    Any form of medical marijuana not approved by the Department of Health is prohibited, and under no circumstances will smoking be allowed. DOH will issue guidelines regulating the allowed dosage amounts, and patients will not be allowed to possess an amount of medical marijuana in excess of a 30 day supply. Additionally, the patient will be required to keep the medical marijuana in the original packaging in which it was dispensed.

    The law puts in place a process for patients to obtain, and manufacturers to dispense medical marijuana. Organizations seeking to manufacture or distribute medical marijuana must be registered with DOH and conform to a specific list of requirements. Registration will be valid for two years at a time, renewable, and subject to revocation. Registered organizations will be required to comply with strict security and record keeping requirements. The law allows for five registered organizations that can each operate up to four dispensaries statewide. Registration identifications and registrations for organizations will be issued no later than 18 months after the effective date of the bill, unless DOH or the Superintendent of State Police certifies that the new program could not be implemented in accordance with public health and safety interests.

    Registered organizations will be able to dispense medical marijuana to individuals who present a registry identification card. The organization will not be able to dispense an amount greater than a thirty day supply to a patient. The medical marijuana will be dispensed in a sealed and properly labeled package with a safety insert included. All manufacturing and dispensing of medical marijuana by registered organizations will take place in New York and registered organizations will contract with an independent laboratory to test the medical marijuana.

    Tough Penalties for Individuals and Physicians Who Abuse Medical Marijuana Program

    The law makes it a Class E felony for a practitioner to certify an individual as eligible to facilitate the possession of medical marijuana if he or she knows or reasonably should know the person who is asking for it has no need for it. The law also makes it a misdemeanor for recipients of medical marijuana to sell or trade the medical marijuana, or retain beyond what is needed for treatment the marijuana for their own use or the use of others.

    Distribution of Tax Revenue from Medical Marijuana

    The law puts in place a 7 percent excise tax on every sale of medical marijuana by a registered organization to a certified patient or designated caregiver. Proceeds from the excise tax will be allocated as follows: 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was manufactured; 22.5% to the county in New York state in which the medical marijuana was dispensed; 5% to the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to be used for additional drug abuse prevention, counseling and treatment services; and 5% to the Division of Criminal Justice Services to support law enforcement measures related to this law.

    The law grants DOH the authority to issue any necessary regulations to implement the state’s medical marijuana program, as well as set a price. The Governor will also be allowed to suspend or terminate any provisions of the program based on the recommendations of the Commissioner or Superintendent.

    The bill will take effect immediately and sunset in seven years.


  13. Deb, you make a great argument for medically regulated marijuana… Theres vicodin, dilaudid, and other strong narcotics that are legal and perhaps your argument for weed is salient… I hope you remain ok.. best wishes..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Community Matters © 2024 Frontier Theme