Young wants to fight for the American Dream

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Says he worries opportunity is slipping away

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times


Joshua Young

In the end, for Joshua Young, it’s about preserving that basic American Dream: starting with almost nothing and working one’s way into prosperity.

Sitting outside the example of the auto service facility owned by his family he manages, Young, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for State Representative in the 74th District, said he is worried that dream is slipping away. Young is battling Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell for the Democratic nomination. The winner will face Republican Harry Lewis Jr. for the newly created seat in the fall.

“My grandparents started with a $100 dream and they were able to build their way into the middle class,” he said. “I want to make sure that everybody can do the same and has the same opportunity. Folks have to be able to start from nothing and make something of themselves.”

Young does bring a traditional working-man mentality to his approach to politics, he agrees, but one tempered by his college degree — not to mention serving as the youngest president of the board of trustees of a state university, Slippery Rock, in state history and now in his third term as a Caln Township Commissioner.

“I know what it’s like to put in a hard day’s work, standing on my feet all day on concrete. But also can go to a university and help students learn,” he said. “I do have kind of a complex background that lends itself well for myself being in the legislature. I can do everything from work on the brakes of a car all the way up to write legislation, which I’ve done in Caln Township and in Slippery Rock.”

With the financial crisis looming for the state, he notes, the state could use someone with experience in seeing problems, diagnosing a fix and making the needed repairs.

Take, for example, the current financial crisis — some estimates suggest that the state is going to be $1 billion short in the next budget cycle. But that, Young says, is more a result of the choices made by the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett and something that is fixable with new leadership in Harrisburg.

“There’s a couple of things you can do to raise revenue pretty quickly,” Young said. “By putting a tax on Marcellus Shale, which will bring in somewhere between $170 million and $600 million depending on what tax and how much gas is extracted. There’s $40 million from smokeless tobacco that we don’t currently tax. If we pick up the Medicaid expansion (as part of the Affordable Care Act) we can pick up $878 million from the federal government. So there’s a couple of things that you can do to raise revenue, pretty quickly.”

He said he supports an extraction tax of between 5 and 8%, assuming that current impact fees for local counties and municipalities are maintained.

And yes, he agrees that there is a lot of wasteful spending, too, and room to make cuts. He said he thinks the first place the legislature should look at is itself.

“If you make legislators put in receipts for per diems, that could be tens of thousands of dollars, it could be a hundred thousand or more,” he said. “Some of the staff of the legislature, especially on the committees, is a little bloated. I think if the legislature wants to cut, it should look internally before other places in the budget.”

Another driver of financial worry for the state and local school districts is the growing burden of pension payments — the result of poor decisions made in 2001 to cut state and district contributions while raising benefits. Young isn’t among those who think switching to a 401K makes sense — he argues even Corbett’s “hybrid” plan — where income above $50,000 would go to a 401K plan for new hires — would ultimately bankrupt the system cost the taxpayers.

He said he supports more modest reforms, such as reverting the vesting back to 10 years, as it was prior to 2001 from five years. But beyond that, he said, the state needs to pay what is owed to the system.

“The legislature and the governor at that time made the choice to cut the amount of funding that we funded into the pensions, so we have to pay what we didn’t pay at that point,” he said. He said he would be open to using bonds to pay for some of the cost, with the idea of paying lower interest to save some money, but said he was leery of the state falling into a perpetual trap, being forced re-bond pension deficits repeatedly.

He does agree with many that the current system of school funding no longer works.

“We create a system of haves and have nots based on where you live and the value of the overall property tax,” he said. “My opinion is that there needs to be some property tax left, because it is a stable source of income. Sales tax and earned income tax goes up and down with the economy — you’re seeing that with the state budget right now, they’re struggling a little bit because those revenues aren’t coming in right now.”

Young said he’d like to see all three combined to pay for schools, reducing the burden on districts, such as the Coatesville Area School District, which struggles with low property assessments and relatively high property taxes.

One area he said he doesn’t see a broad need for fixes is with the state’s liquor stores. He opposes privatizing the state system for a couple of reasons. First, he points out that the state makes some $500 million yearly from the system, funds that are badly needed right now. Second, he disagrees with the idea that pricing would improve if liquor sales were all private, arguing that the state system is the largest single buyer in the country and gets the best volume discounts. He said he does see room for improvement, better selection, Sunday hours and so on, but feels the basic framework works for Pennsylvania.

On fostering redevelopment — a key issue in the district — he points to the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program Caln has used, which offers property tax discounts for businesses that build new buildings or expand in a targeted area along Lincoln Highway as model of what could be done across the district.

“It works,” he said. “We’ve already seen it with Del Toyota, Kia of Coatesville and Popeye’s and we are actually taking Softmart, which is most likely moving from downtown Downingtown into Caln Township because of our program. And that will bring 100 to 200 high-tech jobs to Caln Township.”

On social issues, Young makes it clear he is pro-choice and supports family planning. He said he’d like to ease some of the new restrictions on women’s health care in the state as he thinks they are too restrictive.

He also supports gay marriage.

“When you have a distinction, you have two classes of citizens,” he said. “You’re either an equal, or you’re not.”

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