TOWN HALL MEETING English answers concerns
The government must live up to its educational funding promise, English said.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- Local school taxes aren't a topic that a congressman is normally asked to address, but U.S. Rep. Phil English of Erie, R-3rd, got the opportunity at a town hall meeting here.
Bonnie Silvis of Sharon, who said she is a senior citizen, complained to English about rising school taxes in the city that she said are making it difficult for retired people on fixed incomes to keep their homes.
Educational funding and operation are primarily state and local issues, but English said the there is something the federal government can do to ease the local tax burden.
It could begin funding federal education mandates at the proper level, he said, citing special education as a prime example of where the federal government is lagging behind.
The government committed to a 40 percent funding level for those programs but is only providing funding at the 18 percent level, he said, adding that he and others are pushing to get it increased to 40 percent.
Others at the meeting had concerns about health care, or the lack of it.
Gale Klingler of Greenville, a nurse, said she has to buy her own health insurance and, following a bout with colon cancer, finds her self on her insurance company's high-risk list, even though she's been free of cancer for years.
Her carrier will offer her only high-cost, low-benefit insurance, Klingler told English, adding that she was told that, if her income drops, she would be eligible for a better protection plan at about one-third the cost.
"That's patently unfair," he said, suggesting there needs to be a way to deal with those types of issues.
People should have access to a reasonable package of benefits and this is one area that Washington clearly hasn't thought through, he said.
English ran into some unfriendly faces at the meeting, which attracted about 40 people.
Linda Howard of Sharon, wearing a campaign button supporting English's Democratic election opponent, Steven Porter, wanted to know why English is opposed to allowing people to go to Canada and to buy prescription drugs at a lower cost than they can find in the United States.
English told Porter she was misinformed and that he voted for the "re-importation" of cheaper drugs at least three times.
However, the government needs to be sure those drugs are safe, he said, explaining why he insists that safeguards be built into the process.
He cited the case of U.S. citizens' getting drugs from a Canadian company that were actually drugs imported from Sri Lanka.
"This is a very serious safety issue," he said.
"Don't block the border to senior citizens [who go to Canada to buy drugs]," Howard said.
"We're not," English replied.