By William Rickards
As the race for the gubernatorial election begins in Pennsylvania, the Democratic primaries are right around the corner, at least that is the case for John Hanger. Hanger is running for governor in the Democratic primary and has served two Pennsylvania governors, both Bob Casey and Ed Rendell. From 2008 to 2011, he served as secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency. Hanger recently visited Delaware County Community College on Jan. 29 for an interview with The Communitarian.
Q: Being students in a community college, college affordability and education are important to us. What is your plan as governor to improve upon the system we already have?
A: A good education is the top issue in my campaign. We have a number of plans that set us apart from the other candidates. Specifically, we have a college affordability plan, which would allow every Pennsylvanian to go to two years of community college or one year of state college without taking on debt or writing an upfront tuition check. The student signs a contract that says they will pay back the tuition when they get a job. Our second plan is our K-12 plan which would increase funding for education. We need
a fair funding formula for our schools.
Q: Over the past few years in Delaware County, we have experienced broad cuts to education, affecting the arts and music programs in Upper Darby. How could you return funding for these programs and how do these cuts affect Pennsylvanians?
A: The past three years have been the worst in Pennsylvania in education. 21,000 educators have been laid off in the past three years, teacher, nurses, bus drivers. We’ve seen bigger class sizes. 70 percent of school districts have raised school taxes. We are seeing
broad cuts to programs like music, art, foreign language, sometimes even math classes, kindergarten cut to half day kindergarten.
Fees are being implemented for extra curriculum.
I plan on increasing funding to schools by one billion dollars, implementing a fair funding formula, and holding all schools accountable to the education of our children, including charter schools. I actually support a longer school year and a longer school day.
Q: What is your position on charter and cyber schools in Pennsylvania?
A: I support a charter school that performs well. I am evidence based. We have 14 cyber schools in PA, they consume $ 350,000,000 a year. Eleven of the fourteen have made state reports so far and all eleven have failed. I don’t think tax payers should keep funding failed cyber schools.
Q: Working in the Department of Environmental Protection, what is your experience dealing with drilling in Pennsylvania?
A: When I became Secretary of Environmental Protection in 2008, I found an agency not ready to regulate the shale gas industry appropriately. I passed five new regulations. I required the chemicals being used to be put on public notice. I stopped them from dumping into rivers and streams. I required that gas drill rigs be designed to a higher standard. We also made a 150 foot buffer for our high quality streams from the drill sites.
Q: Do you believe that taxing and regulating would slow down the growth of the gas industry?
A: It would not. The first reason is that every other state that has major gas drilling going on has a drilling tax. Only Pennsylvania doesn’t have such a tax in place. The second reason is this is the lowest cost gas, highest profit margin in the country. This means
that they will stop drilling everywhere else in the country before they stop in PA. I know the energy business inside out. I understand that gas drilling poses public health and safety risks and must be strongly regulated. Non-renewable energy accounts for 90 percent of our energy today.
Q: Senator Daylin Leach in the past year has proposed bills that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania. What is your stance on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania?
A: I’m for legalization and taxation. We want to get marijuana out of criminal hands and into the hands of legitimate business owners. We can save $500 million in new tax revenue, that’s $500 million per year that we’re not receiving. Marijuana arrests account for about half of all arrests in the United States. It makes those people [who were arrested] less able to get a job. We’ve had three presidents who have admitted to use marijuana, it’s very hypocritical.
We also know African Americans are being arrested at five times the rate of whites, so we know that racial discrimination plays a role in the enforcement
of marijuana in the country. I’m tired of throwing so much money into jails and not schools. Doctors in 20 states can prescribe cannabis as a medicine. Tom
Corbett is siding with a minority of 14 percent of people who don’t want marijuana to be prescribed as a medicine, according to a recent poll. I side with the other
86 percent. It’s the only medicine that we withhold, and it’s madness.