HARRISBURG – State Rep. Camille “Bud” George, D-74 of Houtzdale, emphasized that the Legislature must continue to promote job-creating policies and lift Pennsylvania out of the recession that has ravaged the nation.
“Under Democratic leadership in the Governor’s office and the House, we’ve been able to keep our statewide unemployment rate lower than the national average,” said George after being sworn in as a member of the 2011-2012 House of Representatives. “However, more needs to be done, and I hope the Republicans now controlling the House, Senate and Governor’s office realize that we must continue to promote job-creation while not cutting services to those who desperately need them in Clearfield County and across the Commonwealth.”
George, now beginning his 19th consecutive term in the House, congratulated newly elected Speaker Sam Smith, R-66 of Armstrong, Indiana and Jefferson Counties, and said he looks forward to working with Speaker Smith and other members from across the aisle to continue Pennsylvania’s economic recovery.
“Both Speaker Smith and I have constituents in the Penelec service territory who saw their electric-generation rates jump nearly 17 percent on January 1,” George said. “I trust that the Speaker and I can agree that with our constituents facing double-digit rate increases while confronting stagnating or decreasing incomes, now is not the time for draconian cuts to services that will exacerbate the hardships people already are facing.”
Besides emphasizing the need for job creation, George urged his colleagues in the House and Senate, as well as Gov.Elect Tom Corbett, to fight for stricter safeguards on the extraction of Marcellus Shale gas and to ensure that local governments are compensated for the costs stemming from gas drilling.
“The gas industry’s huge contributions to Senate campaign coffers played a major role in the failure to implement a natural gas severance tax,” George said. “The gas industry tried the same with the House, but Democrats, along with a few conscientious Republicans, managed to pass a severance tax bill out of our chamber.”
George said he will continue to champion crucial energy and environmental legislation such as his severance tax bill, which would fund environmental programs and reimburse local governments for road repairs and other costs stemming from gas drilling.
He also will resume his efforts to tighten restrictions on how close wells may be drilled near drinking water supplies and to impose responsible inspections during the various drilling stages.
“If we don’t learn from our errors of the past, we will repeat them once again,” George said. “I need only remind people of the barren wastelands and rust-colored creeks that scar our land because of lax regulations on coal mining decades ago.
“We have the opportunity to make sure that we don’t make the same poor judgments with industrial gas drilling, and I intend to re-introduce my key pieces of legislation to protect our water and forests.”
George warned that the gas industry could push hard for a “forced pooling” measure in which landowners can be forced into leasing their land for drilling as long as the owners of adjacent tracts of land have agreed to the leasing.
“We must respect the rights of property owners and not sell them out to big-business gas,” George said. “I remain adamantly against the idea of forcing any landowner into a lease agreement and will fight to ensure that landowner rights are preserved.”
George also anticipates continuing his service on the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority – Pennvest – where he has been able to secure more than $150 million for sewer and water projects in Clearfield County.
“It has been my distinct honor to serve the residents of the 74th legislative district, and I intend to continue fighting to make sure they have a strong voice in Harrisburg,” George said.
The toll-free telephone numbers for George’s Houtzdale and Harrisburg offices – (1) 866 523-5279 and (1) 866 354-0890, respectively – will remain the same. Also unchanged is his webpage address – www.pahouse.com/george.
“We face some tough challenges ahead of us, especially with a projected budget deficit of $4 billion or more,”George said. “However, I remain confident that I can work to keep vital services available for my constituents and implement strong, job-creating policies that will allow Pennsylvania to lead the nation out of this recession.”