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Freshman consultant wanting to get to work in Harrisburg – Williamsport Solar-Gazette

Newly elected State Representative Joe Hamm sits down with the Sun-Gazette Editorial Board Wednesday morning in Williamsport. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Joe Hamm will raise his hand this week to take the oath of office as a member of the state House of Representatives.

But he’s already at work, he said, focusing on his top priorities as a state legislator including reigning in government spending.

“I believe Harrisburg has a spending problem,” Hamm told the Sun-Gazette.

The days of “kicking the can down the road” and borrowing excessively, he said, need to come to an end.

Hamm, elected to the 84th House seat In November, conceded he and other lawmakers will have tough decisions to make.

He has already become a co-sponsor of the Taxpayer Protection Act directed toward limited spending based on population growth and inflation.

Hamm, a Republican, said another of his principal priorities is to increase broadband internet service to rural areas, including his own legislative district, which encompasses much of Lycoming County and parts of northern Union County.

Broadband is essential for students, businesses and even farmers, he noted.

“COVID has broadened the need for it,” he said.

Lycoming County is the largest county in the state and mostly rural and sorely needs to be hooked up with broadband, according to Hamm.

“So rural broadband is going to be high on my list,” he said.

Hamm said the state’s roads and bridges need to be kept in good repair.

He said he looks forward to working with the state Department of Transportation to ensure projects are prioritized and funded.

Unfortunately, much highway infrastructure in disrepair is not being addressed in a timely fashion.

He pointed to the Warrensville Road bridge, which has been closed the past two years, creating detours for residents in that area.

“We need to get it open,” he said. “Frankly, people who live out there are upset.”

Areas of Route 44 in Lycoming County, which have sustained rock slides and closures, also need to be addressed.

Hamm said regulations and high taxes are strangling businesses and overall economic growth.

Reducing the state’s high Corporate Net Income Tax from 9.9 percent to 5.99 percent, he noted, will go a long way toward keeping businesses and attracting others to Pennsylvania.

Workforce development is changing and the notion that a college education is the only entry toward finding good-paying jobs is simply not true, according to Hamm.

Local schools and Pennsylvania College of Technology are helping train future workers for skilled employment and good-paying jobs.

“Penn College offers great programs,” he said. “Our area is blessed with Penn College.”

Hamm said government has grown too large, and in Harrisburg especially, there exist way too many layers of government.

Society works best, he said, when government gets out of the way.

He questioned the perks lawmakers enjoy, such as government-funded vehicles.

Regarding COVID-19, Hamm pointed to the lack of a collaborative approach in dealing with the pandemic. He criticized the governor for going ahead with his own plans for dealing with the coronavirus without consulting with lawmakers.

He acknowledged that he is among Republicans lawmakers to back a resolution calling for the impeachment of Wolf as a result of the “unconstitutional edicts” he has pushed.

Hamm questioned why the governor in December ordered restaurants to be shut down to indoor dining when infections are mostly spread, he contended, in large family gatherings.

“Less than 2 percent of COVID transmission is out of bars and restaurants. Why target them?” he said.

His hope is that there is an end in sight to the pandemic.

Hamm said he will reach across the aisle to work with Democrats in Harrisburg.

“That’s why people elect us,” he said. “I’m not going there to only represent Republicans.”

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