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PA House District 92: Dawn Keefer (R) vs. Doug Ross (D)

Incumbent Rep. Dawn Keefer (R) is facing opposition from Doug Ross in the 2020 election for the 92nd District.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — PA State House District 92 serves part of York and Cumberland Counties. It consists of the following townships: Washington, Franklin, Monroe, Carroll, Warrington, Monaghan, Fairview, and Newberry. It also includes Franklintown Borough, Dillsburg Borough, Wellsville Borough, Lewisberry Borough, and Goldsboro Borough.

Dawn Keefer is a Republican seeking reelection in 2020 for the 92nd District seat. She was first elected to the seat in November 2016. She currently serves on the following committees: Aging & Older Adult Services, Health, Insurance, Labor & Industry, and State Government.

Keefer is a fiscal conservative who understands the struggles of small businesses and is committed to challenging the policies and regulations that create a hostile small business climate in the state.

During her time serving as state representative, Keefer has lead the fight to ensure that tax dollars are being used appropriately. She also challenges Pennsylvania's tax structure that impacts small businesses and hinders investments.

Credit: Dawn Keefer
PA State Rep. Dawn Keefer (R)

Doug Ross (D) is president of the Newberry Business Association and president of the Friends of the Red Land Community Library. 

He earned his Bachelor of Arts in education from Penn State University and was a stay-at-home dad to his three daughters for 14 years. During this time he also prepared taxes professionally during evening and weekends.

For the past 12 years, Ross has been an entrepreneur and business owner. He has also served as a volunteer at the Red Land Community Library for 25 years and can still usually be found there several days of the week.

Ross says he doesn't agree or disagree with any party on 100% of issues and believes people should have as much freedom as possible with little government interference. 

He does however believe in a strong social safety net because he has seen his customers fall on hard times and knows that most people come across hardships in their lives and government should be there to help if needed.

Credit: Doug for PA
Doug Ross (D)
  1. Why do you want to represent your district?

REP. DAWN KEEFER: Government continues to grow every day and as government grows our freedoms and liberty decline.  We’re witnessing the true impact of exactly how a government so great, as to provide us everything, can just as easily take it away.  From mounting laws dictating more and more of our actions, to the growth of taxes, to imploding regulations, to never-ending licensing and permitting, government has inserted itself into our lives at every facet.  I’ve been diligently working to stop this growth and overreach, at the state level, with policies that make elected officials make conscience decisions and take responsibility for their legislative actions with full transparency.  

DOUG ROSS: I’ve spent nearly all of my adult life serving my community as a volunteer and leader of various nonprofit organizations. I am seeking this office as an opportunity to expand my service to the people of the entire 92nd district. As this run is all about service, I plan to donate my paychecks from this office to the libraries and volunteer fire companies in the district. 

2. What area of public policy are you most passionate about and why?

REP. KEEFER: Sound fiscal stewardship and discipline is my passion.  Waste, abuse and fraud of government resources in Pennsylvania is an affront to all taxpayers.   Pennsylvania’s budget continues to expand beyond the rate of inflation further burdening all of us and is a key contributor to the state’s number one export – skill-trained and/or educated workers.  The auto pilot, incremental budgeting method utilized in Pennsylvania is regressive as it doesn’t force agencies to identify and establish priorities, look for ways to streamline operations, programs or services, and provides no incentives to reduce costs.  To that end, I have introduced legislation for zero-based budgeting which forces a full accountability of spending, requiring each agency to sbumit and justify any and all line-items to assure funds are appropriated both economically and strategically.  Additionally, I challenge manipulative budgeting efforts and I consistently call for full transparency in all government spending.  I believe it’s incumbent upon all elected officials to be judicious with every dollar with which they’re entrusted.  Ensuring the fiscal health of our state operations provides a sound platform for economic growth, and is key to preserving the freedoms Pennsylvanians rely upon to access the abundance of opportunities within our Commonwealth.

ROSS: Economic policy has the potential to help the most people lead a happy, fulfilled, and productive life. Good paying jobs can be the solution to so many of the struggles that families face.

  1. Name three goals you wish to accomplish in the next term if elected: 

REP. KEEFER: Regulatory Reform – REINS Act, 2.) Pension Management Reform, and 3.) Budget Reform – Zero-based budgeting, Two-year budget

ROSS: 1. Raising the minimum wage is long overdue. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a rising minimum wage eventually raises all wages. Rising wages not only help people and families, it cuts the need for public assistance programs, saving the state money. 2. Marijuana should be legalized. It is a safer drug than alcohol in almost every way. States that legalize cannabis see binge drinking decline by 5% on average and have had less of a problem with opioid addiction. 3. We need to allow Pennsylvanians to legally purchase prescription medicines from Canada. Several states are already working on this and PA needs to be one of them. The problem is that so many politicians are in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies which charge Americans much higher prices than anybody else in the world. 

  1. What is the biggest challenge facing Pennsylvanians in the next couple years?

REP. KEEFER: Financial collapse.  Half of Pennsylvania’s spending is taking place off line in special fund accounts.  The two major issues with this are 1. Spending is outside of the purview of elected officials and priorities do not reflect those of elected officials selected by the people, and 2. Since the money sets outside of the general fund budget the Commonwealth faces cashflow issues requiring the state to borrow money from and pay interest to these funds when it is ALL taxpayer money.  At minimum is inefficient, at maximum its deceptive.  Further the unfunded liability of the state’s pension fund is extraordinary, and the risk level of investments places these systems in an exceptionally vulnerable position.  At the end of the day, the taxpayers will be expected to pick up the tab for both the interest paid for the cashflow issue and the pension shortfalls and this simply isn’t sustainable.

ROSS: The pandemic is going to have far reaching consequences for years to come. Job losses, medical bills, evictions, foreclosures, and student loan defaults are some of the problems that we will have to come to grips with in the years ahead.

  1. COVID-19 will continue to be a part of our lives in 2021 and beyond. What should Pennsylvania’s top priorities be as it relates to the pandemic?

REP. KEEFER: What do we do for the flu?  There are years when the strain of the flu infecting individuals is more dire than others, (even with a vaccine,) but we don’t mask and quarantine healthy people - we don’t even mask sick people, we simply advise the sick to stay at home.  Certainly, at the onset of the disease outbreak extra precaution was warranted as information, treatment and resources were limited, however, once the science was understood, healthcare providers were prepared and stable, and mortality rates were declining, mitigation efforts should have been adjusted.  The collateral damage being realized from the aggressive and long-term mitigation efforts is substantial and the full scale of the impact has yet to be seen.  Worse, the known collateral damage of the Wolf administration’s mitigation efforts continues to only be given “lip service” and largely ignored.  Access of suicide services has more than tripled in some areas, drug overdoses are soaring in York and Cumberland counties, and the increased demands on mental health services stemming from isolation, anxiety, desperation and panic, far exceed capacity.  We should focus efforts on protecting the most vulnerable, (elderly and immunosuppressed individuals,) educating and informing the remaining population, (as opposed to the media’s perpetual state of panic,) and facilitate state driven mitigation efforts as the actual science and data dictates when.  

ROSS: The state needs to be prepared at all times for a catastrophe of this magnitude. Hospitals need to be adequately staffed and supplied. And above all, we need to be able to protect our medical care workers – if they go down in a pandemic, we all will suffer.

  1. Deborah Birx of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force praised Pennsylvania for how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. How would you assess the commonwealth’s response?

REP. KEEFER: Pennsylvania is ranked the 2 nd most restricted state in the country, seconded only to California.  The governor shut down all non-life-sustaining businesses providing only an arbitrary list of what his administration deemed life-sustaining, without a plan.  The life-sustaining business list created by Wolf’s administration failed to consider supply chains, causing many “life-sustaining” businesses to come to a screeching halt.  The governor did not include his Secretary of Labor and Industry in discussions regarding business closure, thus the governor never obtained the from the secretary of labor and industry, the impact on Pennsylvania’s labor force nor the impact on or needs of the state’s unemployment compensation system.  This caused the state to have the highest unemployment compensation rate in the country for a period of time, with the rate still far above the national average, ranking 8 th highest in the country.  The governor had no system in place for businesses to challenge the list of life-sustaining businesses and he had to be forced to establish a waiver process.  The governor never established nor published criteria for determining a life-sustaining business, nor criteria for a business waiver.  The communication for the waiver process was nominal to non-existent.  The governor ended the waiver process with little notice, denying thousands of businesses due process.  The governor failed to understand the impact on the state’s unemployment compensation system and operated with severe staffing deficits causing unemployed Pennsylvanians to go months without a penny of income, through no fault of their own.  The governor order nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive individuals back into their facilities AND provided guidance that allowed for the cohabitation of both COVID-19 positive and negative individuals in the same room.  The governor spent millions on a contract with a company that was supposed to oversee the compliance of long-term care facilities with state regulations and guideline, who provided a report demonstrating nominal activity.  Governor Wolf marched with hundreds of protestors in Dauphin county that was still in the yellow zone, violating his own prescriptive order.  The governor refused to provide data and criteria utilized to make decisions and refused to comply with right to know requests until the General Assembly passed transparency legislation forcing him to do so.  Governor Wolf, on numerous occasions vetoed bipartisan legislation regarding the emergency declaration, only to turn around and issue an executive order allowing for the very thing he had just vetoed.  The governor required each school district to develop a COVID-19 plan pertaining to how they would facilitate education programs that went unreviewed as the Dept. of Education explained they did not have the manpower to conduct such a review of 500 plans.  The Dept. of Education lacked manpower for 500 plan reviews, however, the Dept. of Agriculture was able to conduct more than 1000 inspections of restaurants in just two weeks.  The governor has remained condescendingly disconnected from the people of Pennsylvania, believing them to be too dumb to make decisions for themselves.  We have learned that throughout this pandemic his decisions were not data-driven nor based upon science, but often they were based upon “gut feelings” of the Secretary of Health or based upon the actions of other states.  Nice way to set up the question though…..

ROSS: While hindsight will always be 20-20, I think Pennsylvania did a good job with the information that it had. We need to be better prepared in the future.

  1. What needs to be done in order to improve Pennsylvania’s economy?

REP. KEEFER: OPEN UP!  I trust businesses to make responsible decisions.  And I trust individuals to make decisions appropriate for their circumstances.  Government is not the keeper of every individual’s choice of risk.  Just like the governor, who was able to determine for himself if marching in a public protest with hundreds of people was worth to potential risk of contracting COVID-19, people must be permitted to determine if their actions are worth the risk.  But even before COVID-19, Pennsylvania remains economically hostile.  PA has more than 153,000 regulations.  Pennsylvania licenses more professions and skills than most states with little to no benefit to the consumer.  The PA Corporate Net Income Tax is one of the highest in the world.  From net operating losses to like-kind exchanges, Pennsylvania’s tax structure is convoluted and stifles economic growth.  Doling out corporate welfare and special tax credits creates and unlevel playing field and is nothing more than government picking winners and losers.  Pennsylvania is ripe with opportunity, but we can’t get out of our own way.

ROSS: Raising the minimum wage would improve Pennsylvania’s economy by putting more money into the hands our lowest paid workers. As a business owner, I know that when my customers are doing well, my business thrives. I call raising the minimum wage, “trickle up economics”. The productivity of the American workers has increased significantly over the past 40 years, but wages for the lowest paid workers, when adjusted for inflation have actually fallen or barely increased. A higher minimum wage lifts all wages at the lower end, costs the state nothing to implement, actually saves the state money, and grows the economy.

  1. Social unrest has played out in front of us as citizens protest the killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and other Black men and women. What changes are needed to state laws as it relates to criminal justice reform?

REP. KEEFER: Pennsylvania has been a national leader in criminal justice reform.  The state’s crime rate has declined every year from 2014 to 2019, while the inmate population in state correctional facilities decreased steadily as well.  This is a result of  Pennsylvania’s 2012 Justice Reinvestment Initiative that reformed our criminal justice system.  The successful legislation of the initiative provided new sentencing practices for low-level offenders, established a more reasonable and effective parole process, removed mandatory minimums and focused on prioritizing prison sentences for violent offenders.  And last year we passed two of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative II package of bills that restructured and retrained county probation and parole offices to assist prior inmates with securing and maintaining a job to prevent recidivism and reformed sentencing practices to match offender’s community risk to prevent over-incarceration.  There has been a consistent bipartisan effort to reform Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system focused upon reducing correction costs and reinvesting those savings in efforts to reduce recidivism, improve public safety and aid victims.  Significant strides have been made and I believe that if we remain focused on efforts that address the root of the crime (treatment courts, access to services and support, education and training, etc.,) with practical solutions the deter recidivism and keep the community safe, we’ll continue to see a decline in crime rates and correctional facility populations.

ROSS: We need to make sure that police are well trained in deescalation techniques for violent situations. Compared to most of the industrialized world, police in the United States undergo much less training before earning a badge.

  1. What changes would you make to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation system?

REP. KEEFER: The lack of oversight and accountability in past unemployment compensation system contracts cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for a product that failed to deliver.  Now the state is engaged in a new contract for the unemployment compensation benefits software system, complete with a panel of advisors, to assure contract compliance.  This arrangement has forced accountability and transparency that was desperately needed.  Unfortunately, the roll-out of the new system will be delayed once again due to COVID-19 challenges.  Better management and oversight is needed within the agency and the legislature must continue to demand performance reports.  Additionally, eligibility criteria and formularies for businesses must be revised to unfairly burden participants.

ROSS: I’m intrigued by the unemployment system in Germany. Rather than laying off workers, German companies can reduce the hours of workers during a slowdown and the state unemployment system makes up the difference. This results in much less disruption during the slowdown and a more speedy recovery when the economy turns around. I would like to explore whether we could implement an unemployment system like that in Pennsylvania.

  1. Are you confident in the security and results of this election?

REP. KEEFER: Yes, in the majority of Pennsylvania counties.  There are some counties with suspect activity that must be surveilled to ensure the integrity of the process is not compromised.  Allowing the canvassing of ballots received three days after the election regardless of post markings should not be permitted and if permitted, would cause the results to be questioned, rightfully so.  The state is paying for the postage of all ballots and voters have the ability to hand deliver ballots in person to the county election office, thus there is no reason election offices should not adhere to ballot submission laws.  Unmanned, unsecured ballot collection boxes provide ample opportunity for nefarious election activity, specifically, ballot harvesting, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.  Failing to ensure the integrity of ballots cast disenfranchises voters complying with voting process as determined in statute. 

ROSS: Studies have shown that fraud in our elections is almost non-existent. My biggest concern is that we have a president who has already claimed that the election is rigged and refuses to say that he will accept the results of the election. This could be the first time in American history that we will not have a peaceful transfer of power.