David Kessler shrugged off the low turnout at his recent town meeting in Boyertown. He settled into one of the yellow seats at the back of the meeting room. Seven of his constituents formed a semi-circle."Thanks for coming," said Kessler, who represents the 130th District in the Pennsylvania House. "I don't mind if only one person comes."
Kessler, who has already held similar meetings in Fleetwood and Oley townships, will spend the summer months touring his district. Town meetings in Exeter, Amity and Ruscombmanor townships are scheduled for June, July and August.
During his latest stop, at Boyertown Borough Hall on Thursday, May 10, Kessler discussed a wide variety of subjects, including property tax reform, legislative and tort reform, pensions, estate taxes, farmland preservation, alternative energy and immigration.
Kessler announced he would vote against Act 1 in Tuesday's primary election. He denounced the legislation, which is intended to provide property tax relief for the elderly.
"We're the ones crunching numbers in Harrisburg every day," said Kessler, who also serves as a supervisor in Oley Township. "We should be responsible for doing tax relief."
His initiative would increase a homeowner tax rebate. Currently, elderly couples on a fixed income are eligible for $650 from the county, Kessler said.
Later this month, he is planning a tax rebate day at his Oley office, where local residents can sign up for the rebate.
Kessler favors a proposal to raise the sales tax increase from 6 to 7 percent, but only if the entire amount goes towards property tax relief. He suggested allowing a partial tax-write off for purchases, such as clothing.
He didn't rule out Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal to lease the turnpike to cover the $1.6 billion PennDOT deficit.
"If there are between 50 and 100 companies lined up to make all this money," Kessler said, "maybe we're not doing something right."
He said he appreciates the conciliatory atmosphere created by 50 freshmen in the state House. The newcomers meet once a month to discuss issues.
"It's really great to see the interaction," said Kessler, whose party holds a one-vote margin in the legislative body. "We all want to do the right thing. The voters made a statement last November."
House Speaker Dennis M. O'Brien, a Republican, is expected to allow a proposal by Kessler that would prevent businesses from challenging township zoning ordinances due to procedural defects to reach the floor.
Citing a court challenge won by a quarry company in Berks County, Kessler said the bill would save municipalities millions in legal fees.
Aided by a research assistant, Kessler is formulating bills that would provide a handful of blueprint options for school development and expansion projects and force developers to pay impact fees to school districts.
Kessler also wants to figure out how to revitalize dilapidated buildings, possibly by offering incentives to developers, while simultaneously preserving more open space.
"We've got to cluster our developments better," he said. "When people from Europe come here, they always say, 'You are so wasteful with your land.'"
The 130th district covers Boyertown, Birdsboro and Fleetwood boroughs as well as Amity, Colebrookdale, Douglass, Earl, Oley, Pike, Rockland, Ruscombmanor and Union townships and part of Exeter Township.
Contact reporter Bradley Schlegel at 610-367-6041, ext. 240 or email@example.com.