Candidate Q&A: Josh Maxwell, 74th State House District

Josh Maxwell

Josh Maxwell

Editor’s Note: Once again, we posed the same nine questions to our legislative candidates and offered to publish them without edits or modification to allow our readers to get an unfiltered view of their positions on some of the top issues of the day in Pennsylvania. We will run the answers of all of the candidates for a given race at the same time — assuming all have responded.

1. There seems to be universal agreement that the state continues to face lower revenues than expenses. How would you address this issue — by additional cuts in spending (if so, where?), raising taxes or some combination of the two?

I believe we need to do several things to move to a more fair tax system and one that incentivizes investment. In order to raise revenue, enact a severance tax on Marcellus Shale. While the revenue this industry generates may vary from year to year, a severance tax is an important step towards creating a fair system of taxation and brings us in line with other gas producing states. We need to reform our property tax system in a way that allows middle class families the opportunity to invest their tax dollars into their communities, creating commercial activity and revenue for our schools. A fair tax system includes cuts to corporate tax incentives that do not generate the long-term economic growth and making sure large corporations are paying an equal share of the tax burden as smaller industries and businesses. I support lowering our corporate tax rate in exchange for closing loopholes by adopting combines reporting.

2. School funding continues to be an issue for many folks — and litigation over fair funding is now working its way through the courts. Does Pennsylvania provide enough funding for local public schools and is it fairly distributed? Also, Act 1 of 2006 is beginning to put some school districts in a bind — thanks to a combination of lowered real estate values, skyrocketing pension, health care and special education costs — is it time to revisit the act and rework some aspects of it?

I strongly support a fair funding formula that takes into account struggles faced by districts like Coatesville. Pennsylvania continues to lag behind most other states in education funding. I believe in a tax incentive system that encourages economic growth in school districts with struggling tax bases. It is unfair to ask a school district to fund the state’s obligation of public school funding by raising property taxes on small businesses and families. A compromise, I believe, would be a finance-side incentive program that encourages economic development and investment in school districts with underutilized tax base. The emphasis should be providing property tax revenue to school districts either by a fee-in-lieu-of-taxes or through a contracted KOEZ. By contrast, the Keystone Opportunity Zone that my opponent has proposed would cost the school district revenue it needs- I believe that there are more favorable programs available that should be implemented. In Downingtown, we have worked with community investors to pay local property taxes to the schools, while making sure our tax rate does not go up on our residents. Downingtown is the only borough in Chester County that has not had their school district or local taxes raised in any of the last three years. We can do the same thing throughout the district.

3. Although Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the nation, it continues to struggle to pay for road and bridge maintenance. How would you address this issue?

In Downingtown, we are partnering with private investors to help maintain and build our infrastructure through zoning and planning incentives that do not cost our residents anything. For example, we are partnering with PennDOT and a community investor to build a $150 million new rail station in a brown field. Part of the incentive to the community and PennDOT is that the community developer will maintain and perhaps build much of the public parts of the project, saving Downingtown and PennDOT financial and human resources while giving public agencies the oversight necessary to make sure the public space is properly protected. Our model, which I believe can be implemented in Coatesville and Parkesburg, will create 10 years local construction jobs, hundreds of thousands of dollars in school district revenue for Octorara and Coatesville schools, provide beautiful, privately maintained train stations under public ownership and give our communities the necessary first step to attracting new businesses to our area.

4. There have been at least five gun-related homicides in the county this year — four in the last few weeks — in addition to a number of non-fatal shootings this year. What would you do to stem gun violence?

I am proud to be endorsed by the Chester County Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. I believe we need to provide background checks on gun sales and to partner with our faith-based leaders to do gunbuy-backs that get guns out of the hands of dangerous actors. I also believe in social advocacy. Recently I partnered with a church in Coatesville to do a peace walk in which we walked the streets of Coatesville at dusk, hand in hand. I’ll be a legislator that is up early and out late working in our community to make it safer for everyone.

5. As the opioid crisis grows, what efforts do you support both to curtail new addictions and help those already in the grip of addiction?

I strongly believe that we need to treat addiction as the disease it is and not as a crime. I will support legislation that removes the legal entanglements that prevent people with the disease of addiction from getting immediate and necessary help while also giving our law enforcement the tools they need to arrest and prosecute dealers that target our citizens.

6. Land use continues to be front and center in Chester County — from the development of farm lands to housing developments to needed redevelopment in our urban areas. In terms of your district, what should the state being doing now to better preserve open space and target development to areas with existing infrastructure?

This is the dichotomy that makes Chester County a great place to live. We have a beautiful landscape of parks and open space, along with urban areas that are ideal for families to go to dinner and shop. In Downingtown, as part of our rail project, we are bringing the Chester Valley Trail into our downtown center, giving the borough of Downingtown access to a beautiful trail network that goes all the way to Philadelphia. Throughout Chester County, our local zoning should control where our urban centers are and where the open space is that must be protected. I will enforce local control over those zoning decisions in the legislature and advocate for the shared goals of our urban areas in infrastructure investment and commercial growth.

7. Do you support efforts by some to take state legislative and congressional redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and put it into the hands of an independent commission? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes. Independent redistricting is in the best interest of our community and I’ll make a goal of mine to be the type of reform-oriented legislator that sponsors such reforms. Additionally, I support campaign finance reform and will turn down the per-diems that I believe legislators like my opponent take advantage of.

8. What issue do you feel that the media/public fails to discuss enough in terms of state government?

I think we get caught up in a good versus evil narrative too often. It appears that politicians have discovered that they often get more attention by speaking ill of their rivals rather that promoting compromise and getting things done. It is my hope that I will be able to bring attention to shared progress and a better community as a whole by working together. Additionally, and this is an issue I feel it is my responsibility as a man to discuss, sexual and domestic violence affects all corners of our communities. Sexual and domestic violence statistics have not gone down significantly in decades and we need to implement reforms and create partnerships that provide prevention and also protections for victims. Just last month I helped to bring non-profit stakeholders, law enforcement, school districts, students and Mayor’s to implement reforms here in Chester County through an organized campaign.

9. Can you tell us something mildly surprising about yourself (hobbies, unusual past jobs, etc.) that the public might find interesting?

I ran the New York Marathon last year in the support domestic violence center. Previous to that day I had never run more than 10 miles at any time in my life. Also, I once met Bruce Springsteen in a college dorm room.

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