With apologies to the Erie area (which must think the rest of Pennsylvania is pretty worthless for only having to deal with 30 inches of snow this winter) and parts of the northern part of the state that escaped this storm (were there really only 2 inches of snow in Scranton?), the story of the week in Pennsylvania was the blizzard that shut down much of the Commonwealth for days. The part of the snowstorm that has evoked the most reaction in Harrisburg was the incident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that caused more than 500 vehicles to be stranded for 24 hours between Bedford and Somerset. If you haven't heard about the incident, you can read the story here.
The safety of drivers on Pennsylvania’s roads is an important public policy issue for the Commonwealth. The General Assembly has reacted to the transportation difficulties of the week by holding a public hearing on requirements to clear ice and snow from vehicles and planning a further hearing on how the Turnpike reacted to the accident which stranded motorists. Mobility is critical for Pennsylvanians, both for individuals and for the Pennsylvania economy. Having motorists stranded on the Turnpike is an extreme situation, but our transportation network is critical to our way of life. Ensuring it functions at a high level is a reason why so many organizations, including AARP, are part of the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, which works with elected officials to plan transportation system improvements.
Motorists can also improve their ability to react to driving conditions which are less-than-ideal. Numerous organizations, including AARP, offer driver refresher courses which increase the awareness of motorists about changes both traffic laws and in their driving abilities. If only the truck driver that caused the accident which shut down the Turnpike in the blizzard had taken the AARP Driver Safety course….
TAKE A STAND ON SOCIAL SECURITY
As streets are cleared and sidewalks are shoveled (with no more snow in the forecast for this week), those who follow public policy are shifting their attention from the weather to the Presidential race. After months of polls and speculation, voters will finally begin to cast ballots in primaries and caucuses, with the Iowa Caucus kicking things off on February 1.
Our process for choosing Presidential candidates places a great deal of emphasis on the first few states that hold nominating elections in February, whether in the form of a primary or a political party caucus. By the time most states hold their Presidential nominating votes, starting in March, each political party is likely to have narrowed the list of candidates significantly, but if one candidate has not emerged with a majority of his or her party’s support, each subsequent primary or caucus grows in importance and drama. Pennsylvania holds its primary election on April 26 and if the nominations have not been effectively decided by then, voters here could have a big say in who will be running for President in the fall.
Each voter has different priorities when determining what candidate to support, but AARP hopes that the candidates’ views on addressing the future of the Social Security system will be a part of their decision.
AARP has set out five core principles for Social Security:
- Achieve long-term solvency and adequacy. Social Security should be sufficiently financed to ensure solvency for the long term. Solvency proposals must ensure meaningful benefits for future generations.
- Ensure protections for those most in need. Reforms should take into account the needs of those most reliant on Social Security and those who have difficulty postponing retirement.
- Recognize the value of Social Security’s core elements. Social Security should continue to reward work. The key elements of Social Security’s successful program structure should be preserved: progressive, defined benefits that cannot be outlived; inflation protection; and benefits related to earnings.
- Make improvements to reflect today’s workforce. An updated Social Security program must address the economic and demographic changes over the last 80 years to be able to respond to the needs of future beneficiaries and their families.
- Ensure fairness. Changes to the program should be implemented gradually and should protect current beneficiaries and near retirees.
Most (but not all) of the candidates have described their thoughts about Social Security and AARP has gathered them here.
AARP volunteers in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have been extremely active in attending political events and asking the candidates about their ideas for ensuring that Social Security will continue to be a strong source of retirement security for Americans. As the nominating process continues, Pennsylvania voters should look forward to their opportunity to question the candidates about the future of Social Security.
“Ray’s Round Up” features updates on current state and federal issues by Ray Landis, AARP PA’s Advocacy Manager.