Get to Know Your Candidates for PA Senate District 30
Once again the Huntingdon County Chamber of Commerce has partnered with The Daily News to help you become an informed voter. With the November 6 Election approaching quickly, we will be running a series of candidate questions and answers over the next few weeks. The Chamber conducted a survey of local businesses to determine what issues are most important to them. Those results were used to develop the questions.
Judy Ward (R) and Emily Best (D) are running for PA Senate District 30. This is the position being vacated by Senator John Eichelberger.
Question 1: Presently, large areas of land mass are unavailable for economic development due to the lack of rural broadband. What specific steps would you take to help us obtain broadband service for the entire county quickly and how do you envision this being funded.
Judy Ward: “I do support broadband availability for rural areas because access to the internet and technology is a necessity in today’s world. I am part of the House Rural Broadband Caucus. This bipartisan group is trying to bring parties together in the Commonwealth to get broadband to every community. We met recently and learned that work has begun to map every broadband asset in the Commonwealth to see where the needs are. We are also working on funding sources with a possible federal match for state dollars.”
Emily Best: “Having lived and managed a business in the part of southern Huntingdon County serviced by Century Link, and stymied by the inability to improve our phone and internet services due to the lack of upgraded lines, this issue is very important to me. There is funding available at the Federal and State level to improve rural internet accessibility and there are a few options available in terms of how to spend it. First of all, oftentimes it is only the largest providers which have access to the funding, so I would work to ensure that providers like Century Link and Frontier are able to access the funding they need to improve services. Second, much of Huntingdon County is serviced by Valley REC for electricity. In other parts of the state, like Potter County, the Rural Electric Coops are taking on the broadband project. I would work to encourage Valley REC to take on this project if it couldn’t be done through the ISPs. Third, I would not sit back and wait for action to happen on this important priority. I would be advocating for it constantly to bring change because I know it won’t happen overnight. Fourth, I would encourage other communities to learn from the Mill Creek Broadband Cooperative and help communities as much as I can to provide the services they need if the other options are not moving fast enough.”
Question 2: Developing a skilled workforce has been identified as a key issue by our Chamber members. What would your strategy look like to ensure that appropriate training is available?
Judy Ward: “Education is the key to a skilled workforce - for both our children, as we prepare them for the world, and for displaced older workers. This is why I support more innovation in education that fosters cooperation between our educational institutions and the private sector in developing curricula that prepares students with needed skills. We must also continue to invest more in technical and vocational education that provides needed job skills.”
Emily Best: “The work done by CareerLink and SAWIB is invaluable in helping to train Huntingdon County residents to be better prepared for the job market. As a state senator, I would, first of all, fight to ensure fair funding to our region so that we have the resources needed to run the programs that train our workers. Second, I would also support proper levels of funding for Penn Highlands Community College so that workers who want to increase their skill set through a two year degree or other program will have that option available locally.”
Question 3: What incentives will you put into place to spur municipal consolidation and cooperation and how do you see your role in encouraging use of those programs to better serve the residents of Huntingdon County?
Judy Ward: “Although it is not the role of state government to force municipal consolidation, I am extremely supportive of efforts by local residents and municipalities to cooperate and possibly consolidate. There are great efficiencies and savings to the taxpayers when services are shared or consolidated. This is a win for taxpayers.”
Emily Best: “I know very well the value of cooperation and would encourage our municipalities to work effectively and efficiently to provide needed services to residents by cooperating where they can. Because Pennsylvanians, especially those in our rural areas, are very tied to their roots and their community, we don’t see many municipal consolidations occurring regularly. As a state senator, I would examine the regulations around municipal cooperation and consolidation and seek to make the process more streamlined for the communities which want to pursue those paths.”
Question 4: Rail service is a strong economic driver for Huntingdon County. What part will you play in increasing the availability of freight and passenger rail service to Huntingdon County?
Judy Ward: “First, I would work to steer infrastructure project dollars from the infrastructure improvement act passed in 2014 to our communities. Second, I would encourage the creation of tax credits/deductions to bolster private sector investment in improving and extending rail services in Huntingdon County. There will also need to be a greater promotion to businesses to utilize the rail service. If there is a greater demand for the service, the market will respond.”
Emily Best: “With the recent news that PennDOT will examine the feasibility of passenger rail between Altoona and Pittsburgh, I hope that we will again see increased passenger rail travel in central PA, including to Huntingdon. I would work to ensure that Amtrak has the funding needed to service our area. Additionally, I would look towards other regions and other countries’ rail policies to see how we could innovate here in central PA to again make rail a key part of Huntingdon County’s infrastructure and appeal.”