RUSH TOWNSHIP — State Sen. Jake Corman is getting to know Philipsburg again.
The Benner Township Republican legislator held a town hall meeting at the Philipsburg Elks Country Club on Thursday morning. Philipsburg and Rush Township will rejoin the 34th Senatorial District officially in 2014 thanks to what Corman called “the magic of reapportionment.”
Twelve years after the boundaries were re-drawn to take the western edge of Centre County and give it to state Sen. John Wozniak’s 35th district, Corman talked budgets, education, pensions and more with concerned locals.
“We need to generate jobs in Pennsylvania,” he said. “As long as I’ve been serving, that’s been my focus.”
That focus led to a small debate about priorities on the budget graphics he brought to illustrate the state’s revenue and expenditures.
The charts showed 40 percent of the outflow going to education (33.6 percent to pre-K through 12th grade, and 6.4 percent to higher education). This is just .2 percent less than the total personal income tax collected.
For local businessman Jay Krause, this is a concern. He suggested the state pull back on the higher education funding and pour more money into economic development.
“I don’t know any society that has been successful without an educated work force,” said Corman, calling it a chicken-and-egg argument. When research was criticized as “nonsensical,” he pointed to it as a good opportunity for private and public partnerships “that can be the keys to success.”
Rush Township Supervisor Mike Savage asked about infrastructure development, particularly regarding transportation. Savage is working to develop more public transportation opportunities with the Centre Area Transportation Authority and state Department of Transportation.
Corman said infrastructure has to be a priority.
“We need the investment,” he said. “Not improving infrastructure doesn’t save you money. If I thought was saving you money by doing nothing, I’d do that.”
Others questioned the possibility of a constitutional convention in the near future, something that Corman said made him “leery.”
“We have a process to change the constitution,” he said. “It’s long, but it should be.”
One of those changes could be a reduction in the number of municipalities and legislators, a move that has been talked about by leaders of both parties for years.
“Everybody is for it, except they don’t want to consolidate their own municipalities,” Corman said. He believes the Senate to be a good size at 50 members but said he thought the General Assembly’s 203 legislators could be cut by half. He pointed to a proposal from Speaker of the House Rep. Sam Smith that would reduce the size by about 25 percent as a “good start.”
Corman said afterward that he appreciated the chance to talk with his once-and-future constituents again. “I’m happy to do it,” he said.
He doesn’t believe he will be putting an office in Philipsburg as Wozniak did, due to budget constraints, but said he intends to be very accessible and engaged in the area.