REYNOLDSVILLE — Having recently viewed the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech,” Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati told guests gathered at the Jefferson County Department of Development’s annual luncheon Thursday that what America needs now is “a King’s Speech.”
He described how the film, based on a true story, portrays King George IV who, despite a debilitating speech impediment, learns through unique and unorthodox techniques to find his voice, which he uses to inspire the pre-World War II United Kingdom.
“What this nation needs is a statesman and a leader, just as King George did in 1939,” Scarnati said.
He said Pennsylvania has leaders and statesmen in the form of Gov. Tom Corbett, state House Speaker Sam Smith of Punxsy, who also attended the luncheon, and others.
“We have a real need for great statesmen, real leaders who are not afraid to tell the people the problem, and say, ‘Here we are,” and that it’s going to take some tough medicine,” Scarnati said.
He described his own rise into the state Senate, running in 2000 against a pseudo-incumbent who had already spent time in jail yet wanted his seat back.
“I thought there was something wrong about that,” Scarnati said.
In that way, “We were way ahead of reforms,” he said. “We were reforming the state government before Harrisburg.
“We’ve solved a lot of problems in Pennsylvania; we’ve given the tough medicine,” Scarnati said, citing a balanced — and on time, for the first time since Pennsylvania’s pre-Ed Rendell administration — budget without tax increases, with tax cuts for job creators; legal reforms; the Castle Doctrine; and a reduced state government, in terms of reducing staff and duplication on services.
“The list is even longer and harder for this fall,” Scarnati said, citing changing public education — “not here, because we have great schools here,” but in inner cities where students fail to performing in failing districts, enter a life of crime, a life of incarceration and eventually a life of welfare.
“(Those students) are locked into a school district because of where they live,” he said, and that Corbett has taken a stand to let parents decide which schools their children attend.
Scarnati also specified changes in corrections; transportation and infrastructure; and continuing to use or lose the burgeoning Marcellus Shall gas industry in Pennsylvania.
“It’s been called the worst evil known to man, and the savior for our economy,” he said.
It would be great if companies such as IBM, Google or other giants chose to set up shop in Jefferson County, Scarnati said, “but we have an industry here, and it’s going to provide jobs.”
He said no fee or tax on Marcellus Shale will protect the environment, but if a tax becomes necessary, the funds should come back to Jefferson County, “and I’ll be going to hell if it’s going to Philadelphia.”
Scarnati also discussed proposal to shut down the state-controlled liquor system.
“I’m all for getting Pennsylvania out of some businesses, but not for giving them away,” he said. “We’ll get the best value we can, and tell people the truth: There could be less stores in rural areas, and the prices could go up. We need to tell people what’s in front of us.”
Scarnati said for him, the American Dream has always been work hard and be successful. But America is losing its hold on the dream.
“We’re going to lose that if we don’t get some things changed,” he said. “Just as in 1939, trust me, I believe we need king’s speech now.”
In his remarks, Smith commended the Department of Development’s Board of Directors for its diversity among business and industry as a means to seek opportunities and a board sense of what’s good for the county.
Also, Peter Winkler, representing U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, said Marcellus Shale drilling will be a focus in Jefferson County, as one of the counties through which Interstate 80 passes.
He also cautioned against something happening in Jefferson County as it did many years in his home county, Venango, the home of the oil drilling industry.
“All the drilling companies originated in Venango, but we lost them,” Winkler said. “Venango probably had an opportunity, but they let it go.”
He suggested that county leaders and groups not only focus on the future, but years beyond it.
“We should stay focused on the next generation,” Winkler said.
In his remarks, John Weible, the director of economic development in the county, said he has been on the job since April, formerly serving as an employability council for the Northwest Regional Planning & Development Commission, as well as a business development coordinator.
Highlights of the last year include the department’s revolving loan program, which has lent $148,000 to two different companies to purchase equipment and to create jobs for 12 full-time and five part-time jobs.
Weible also cited the relocation of Sintergy to a site in the Reynoldsville Industrial Part with the help of state and local loans.