Mary Ellen Balchunis
on the issues

Supporting Working Families

For a vibrant economy, we must both incentivize growth and support our workers. I have always believed in economic growth from the ground up, which is why I am committed to reducing the burden on working families and small businesses, while making sure that the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay their fair share. Further, workers and their families are stronger when unions are strong, so I will continue to stand by Labor to make sure that we don’t just create jobs, but good, lasting ones that allow workers to support their families and prepare for retirement. That’s why I support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Also, as our national and local economies change, workers must be able to get the training they need to compete for jobs, which is why I will work with community colleges to provide low-cost job training for workers at any stage in their careers.


Advocating for Women

It is a travesty that there is not one woman included in Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation. With that in mind, it is no surprise that our representatives are doing nothing about the fact that women in PA earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to similarly employed men. Worse, if current trends continue, women can’t expect to see an equal paycheck to men until 2072. As woman in politics, I know we cannot wait for male legislators to gift us equal rights, we must fight for them in Harrisburg and in Washington, DC. When elected I will fight for equal pay in the work place and paid leave to support working families. Also, as someone who has personally experienced sex-based discrimination in the work place, I am proud to have the endorsement of women’s rights and labor pioneer Lilly Ledbetter, and will join her fight to make sure that all women enjoy true equality in our America.


Protecting Our Environment

It is long past time that Americans recognize the impact we have on our environment and adopt policies that recognize the full cost of our reliance on fossil fuels. I support instituting a tax on carbon emissions to combat climate change and expanding limits on carbon output from power plants. To encourage a transition to a more sustainable energy economy, I also support raising the fuel efficiency requirements for automobiles, expanding public transportation projects, and increasing investment in clean energy solutions like wind and solar. Additionally, I am deeply concerned about the long term environmental impacts of fracking and have called for a moratorium on the practice in Pennsylvania until further research is completed. Along the same lines, I will repeal laws that exempt oil and gas companies from the clean water act.


Reproductive Rights

I am proud to hold the endorsements of the national and Pennsylvania chapters of the National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and the national and state chapters of Planned Parenthood. I have advocated for women’s reproductive health for over 30 years and will continue to do so in Washington. As a college student, I was a patient/advocate and used the health services of Planned Parenthood. As a legislator, I will fight to increase funding for women’s health services, end federal restrictions on abortion funding, encourage insurers to cover the cost of contraception, and roll back the onerous burdens many state legislatures have placed on abortion providers.


Gun Violence Prevention

I support common-sense reforms to curb gun violence in America. As a Million Mom Marcher, I will fight for universal background checks, not with empty gestures, but with tireless advocacy. As a proponent of banning assault weapons, I know that weapons developed for a war zone have no place in our streets. Further, I will not only fight to close the gun show loophole, but also the loopholes that allow domestic abusers and even suspected terrorists to buy guns. When a suspected terrorist who is banned from flying can still legally purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, our government is not fulfilling its responsibility to keep us safe. I can be trusted to prioritize the safety of American families ahead of the NRA’s demands.


Protecting Social Security and Medicare

For decades Social Security and Medicare have allowed America’s seniors to retire with confidence and dignity. However, as the population grows older, the futures of these programs are under an increasing strain. Americans who have worked hard their whole lives should not have to worry about their government upholding its end of the bargain. I personally promise to preserve, update, and expand Social Security without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age. Also, unlike my opponent, I will make sure that Medicare is there to make sure that seniors get the care they need and deserve. I will fight Republican efforts to convert Medicare to a voucher system that would result in higher costs for seniors.


Taking Big Money Out of Politics

When I first started teaching as a political science professor in the 1980s I used to tell my students that the Senate was nicknamed “the millionaire’s club”, but unfortunately that title is now applicable to the House as well. To make matters worse, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision it has become even more difficult for the will of the people to win out over corporations and special interest groups. Solving this problem will not be easy, but I am committed to restoring a truly representational government. To begin, I think the Supreme Court erred in both the Citizens United decision and 1976’s Buckley v. Valeo, where in 1976 the Court established the fundamental principle that money is protected speech. I promise to explore every avenue to reduce the influence of Big Money on our representatives and make sure that America has a government by the people, for the people.


Fighting Terrorism at Home and Abroad

Keeping Americans safe is one of the most serious responsibilities placed on our elected representatives. As we have seen too often in recent years, terrorism poses a unique threat that cannot be met without a comprehensive framework. While we must continue to strengthen relationships with foreign allies to oppose threats from abroad, we also need change within our borders. When a suspected terrorist who is banned from flying can still legally purchase a high-capacity assault weapon, we are not fulfilling our responsibility at home. That’s why I am a proud supporter of HR 1076, the “No fly, no buy” bill, that would keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of suspected terrorists.


Caring for Our Veterans

We must prioritize care for those who have risked everything to insure our freedom and security. No veteran should be inconvenienced by a lack of access or prolonged waiting lists at VA Hospitals. I support increasing VA funding to modernize medical records and data sharing, open more outpatient clinics for vets, and provide transportation services to individuals in need. Further, we must continue to research the causes of and therapies for PTSD and traumatic brain injury so that all veterans can live the fullest lives possible. Finally, I will advocate for expanding the GI Bill and increasing job training programs to make sure that our veterans have the skills required to succeed in the economy of the future.


Protecting Civil Rights

As a former political science professor, I take the right to vote seriously. So first, I will work to fully restore the Voting Rights Act and implement a universal voter registration program to push back at efforts to disenfranchise voters. Beyond that, I will fix our criminal justice system by reforming sentencing legislation for nonviolent offenders. I am also committed to fighting racial profiling, closing private prisons, and reducing our reliance on civil forfeiture. Finally, with over two million Americans incarcerated and a federal prison budget exceeding $8.5 billion, we must end mass incarceration today.


Solving the Opioid Crisis

Unfortunately, statistics show that only 1 in ten Americans with substance abuse problems receives the help he or she needs. That’s why I applaud Hillary Clinton’s proposal to launch a $7.5 billion fund to support new federal-state partnerships to fight the drug epidemic here in America. We must approach the opioid crisis with a multifaceted approach that focuses on education, treatment and recovery. Specifically, I support funding to give first responders universal access to Naloxone, a drug that can save lives after an opioid overdose and tougher monitoring of physicians who prescribe controlled substances.