A general election challenger has emerged for state Representative Frank Ryan, the two-term Republican serving the 101st District which covers the southern and western portions of Lebanon County.
Former veterinarian “Doc” Calvin Clements (D) is vying for the position on a platform of protecting retirement income, reforming legislature, opposing tax expansion, and remaining trustworthy.
Prior to coronavirus-related social distancing, LebTown met with Clements at the Timeless Cafe in Lebanon. He explained why he joined the race and what his goals would be as a PA house representative.
Clements joined the race soon after retiring, having practiced as a veterinarian in Palmyra for 35 years. He planned to farm in his retirement.
He decided to enter politics against his opponent Ryan, formerly running unopposed, largely to counter Ryan’s House Bill 13.
The bill proposes the elimination of a property tax, with the creation of a 4.92% retirement income tax and a 2% local sales tax specifically for school districts put in place to replace funds. However, Clements argues that this bill’s retirement income tax and addition of food and clothing to the sales tax place too much weight on seniors and the poor.
“I think that the goal of reducing school taxes is good, but strapping it on the back of senior citizens and the poor — because they’re going to be the ones who are going to suffer with the taxes on food and clothing — is ridiculous,” said Clements.
Clements supports the reduction (rather than elimination) of property taxes. Having owned four veterinary clinics, two rehab centers, and an imaging center, Clements paid almost $12,000 annually in school taxes. The elimination of property taxes altogether, he expressed, would give corporations “a massive gift in terms of tax credits.”
He suggested that, to ease the burden of property taxes on seniors, a property tax exemption could be given to seniors below a certain income level.
As a potential alternative to House Bill 13’s retirement income tax that still decreases property taxes, Clements suggests earned income tax. While 3.07 percent of House Bill 13’s 4.92 percent retirement income tax would be distributed at a state level, earned income tax is distributed locally, Clements noted.
“I think that we should use the earned income tax to generate more income for schools in a fashion that’s equitable to everybody paying it as opposed to starting a new tax,” said Clements. “I want to stay away from starting new taxes.”
Another top priority of Clements’ is introducing or supporting a bill reducing the payroll cost of senators and representatives in Pennsylvania. PA lawmakers, 50 in the Senate and 203 in the House, are paid $88,610 per year. Upon election, Clements would support legislation reducing the amount of representatives from 203 to 100 to cut costs.
“It’ll be an uphill battle, and I suspect that it’ll have to be something that’ll have to be done with a Constitutional Amendment,” said Clements. “But it’s interesting that when I talk to people they agree that we’re spending way too much money in Harrisburg.”
Clements also noted his disapproval of House Bill 1100, which provides tax credits to energy and fertilizer manufacturers. He expressed concerns that bills like this are the result of lobbying and not in the best interest of Pennsylvanians.
He also commented that because natural gas producers use Pennsylvania’s resources, the state should share in the profits through taxes. He noted that various other states have similar taxes and he does not believe that such a tax would deter the industry from the state.
“I think that Pennsylvanians in general need to wake up to the concept that we’re being fleeced because these guys are making these large political deals and it’s costing us money and it’s costing us programs,” said Clements. “All that money that’s going into the gas industry; why don’t we take that and put it into the education of Pennsylvania students?”
While Clements is running as a Democrat, he sees himself as being in the middle, politically. If elected, he would emphasize practical solutions and compromise within the office.
Clements discussed the importance of compromise as a veterinarian through treatment plans. When deciding a treatment plan, he thought about what would be the best treatment, evaluated it with other veterinarians, and talked to pets’ owners about what would work for them.
“We would put together a plan that is a collage of opinions,” said Clements. “All of my life I’ve worked on compromising, and I think that’s the only way you have a job well done.”
His focus on compromise and the gathering of opinions is clear in how he speaks about educational issues. Schools should not be teaching to the test or focusing on college as students’ post-high school plans, Clements said. During his campaign and if elected, he hopes to talk to local educators to determine the best ways to improve education.
“I grew up in a family of 8, we were probably low income,” said Clements. “Without the dedication of the teachers in the school system, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get where I did.”
Clements was initially planning on holding a campaign kickoff event in the last few weeks. The event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Clements commented last Wednesday, March 25, that he plans to release a video kickoff statement within 10 days.
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