The two, along with candidate John Ryan, independent, went up against the issues Oct. 19 at Pennridge Central Middle School in a debate sponsored by the Pennridge High School social studies classes.

By: Toni Becker

Last week, John Norvaisas, Democratic candidate for representative for the 145th District, found himself in a situation similar to one more than two years ago - squaring off against Republican incumbent Paul Clymer.

The two, along with candidate John Ryan, independent, went up against the issues Oct. 19 at Pennridge Central Middle School in a debate sponsored by the Pennridge High School social studies classes.

"Harrisburg is like a submarine with screen doors," Norvaisas said. "It's time for a change. It's time for representatives of the people."

Norvaisas, a Richlandtown Borough resident and council person, is running for the second time against Clymer, who has served for 26 years as state representative for the 145th District.

"I want to thank the people for giving me this high honor," Clymer said, adding that he doesn't consider his name "etched in stone" as representative.

"I try to think about the families and look at the faces of older Pennsylvanians."

Approximately 20 people turned out to hear the candidates spar on issues ranging from gun control to open space to rising property taxes, with Clymer and Norvaisas each speaking on a plan to address the latter.

Clymer has been part of the Pa. Plan for Economic Growth, which seeks to eliminate property taxes by lowering the state sales tax from 6 to 5 percent and expanding it to clothes and food, without using state gaming money.

"In a three-year period, property taxes can be reduced by one-third, one-third, one-third, until eventually you don't have it anymore," he said.

An opponent to legalized gaming in the state, Clymer spoke on the social problems that could arise, saying it will cost the state $300,000 to deal with those problems as a result of the legalization.

"It was rejected four times by the House of Representatives," Norvaisas said, of the proposed legislation to lower and broaden state sales tax. "We need to find another way."

Norvaisas supports gaming in the state, and using those funds along with additional revenue gained through raising the sales and earned income taxes in an attempt to abolish residential and farmland taxes.

"We have so many seniors in this district, seniors in this room, who are struggling to pay property taxes," he said.

Clymer has also called for a one-year moratorium on granting casino licenses.

Asked why he doesn't just accept that gaming has been legalized and move forward, Clymer said he's not the only state legislator in opposition.

"We do it because we know the devastation it's going to cause families and the community," he said. "Why do we continue to fight? Because it's for the people seated right here in this auditorium, for the children, the families, the district, the way of life we have."

While he said he's all for eliminating property taxes, Ryan did not propose or support a specific plan to deal with the issue.

"My primary interest is illegal immigration and the impact it's having on Pennsylvania," Ryan said, of the one platform on which he's running.

After seeing, what he said, was little interest on the part of legislators to do anything about illegal immigration, Ryan, a West Rockhill Township resident, said he decided to run for office.

When it came to the question of state laws regarding illegal immigration, and a move to make English the official language of the state, Ryan said he doesn't think either is necessary.

"We don't need states to deal with this, with the U.S. code on the book," he said. "The state laws seem to cloud the issue, if you ask me."

Clymer said he's in support of laws putting tougher penalties on employers hiring illegal immigrants and supports English as the primary language.

"We don't need to make English the official language of the United States if we got rid of the 30 million illegals taking up our space," Ryan said.

The one issue that seemed to unite the three candidates was whether or not to increase state gun-control laws, with all three against it.

"A criminal with a criminal mind is still going to commit a crime," Clymer said, adding that what is needed is a change in society, and early intervention of children.

Norvaisas said the laws in place need to be enforced, while Ryan supported rescinding some of those existing laws, teaching gun safety in schools and sanctioning "shooting" as a school sport. Both Clymer and Norvaisas were also in supporting of preserving open space in the county, while Ryan said he doesn't see the point.

"If the space is there and usable, use it," he said, appearing baffled by the idea. "What do they do with this land? Do we get to visit it?"

Toni Becker is a reporter for The Free Press. She can be reached at tkbecker@berksmontnews.com.

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