Cris Dush describes himself as a constitutional conservative.
“Our Constitution was set up as a contract between the citizens and the governments at whatever level, either the state or federal level,” he said. “A lot of people are getting away from the idea that it is a contractual agreement,” and there are people in state and local government who think they know how to run people’s lives better than the people know themselves.
“Our Constitution was meant to give us freedom, not put us under control. And it was the citizens saying, ‘The government can do this,’ not the other way around,” he said.
According to Dush, some reforms and changes are needed.
“We need transparency laws” for spending and the 62,000 constituents in the 66th District need to be able to go online and check what the state is spending and where, he said. “With that many people looking at things, you’re bound to find out when there’s fraud, waste and abuse.”
Dush has said Harrisburg can’t fix some of the state’s problems until its citizens fix what he feels is a “broken political system.”
Instead of reducing the number of state representatives, Dush thinks the number could be increased, but at less cost.
“If we were to eliminate the pensions for the state Legislature, put in term limits, cut the salaries down to $40,000 or so instead of $100,000 that they’re getting paid now, we could double the size of the Legislature and northern Indiana County and maybe Punxsutawney could have a legislator of their own … and we’d still save money. … Increase the size of the Legislature but reduce the cost. That way (incumbents are) vulnerable to their constituents rather than the lobbyists.
“I would like to see our state Senate in the hands of the municipal governments,” Dush said. “Each township, each borough, the county government and the schools would each have a single vote in a senatorial district. In this way, if a township supervisor’s constituents started talking to him about the problems that legislation was going to put on (the constituents), that township supervisor would call the senator and he would be one of about 250 rather than 250,000 people trying to get that senator’s ear. … It would be easier for the people, and the businesses, to express their views and their needs, as well as the local governments, to the Senate.”
Dush believes such a change would prevent many of the burdensome unfunded mandates now coming down to local governments and school districts from the state Legislature.
“Consequently, too, you would see our teachers would have much greater freedom with the classroom to actually instruct rather than have to react to mandates from the Department of Education,” he said. The Legislature, Dush said, has been “abdicating a lot of the responsibility over to the various departments instead of taking on their role as watchdogs over the executive branch.”
Dush said people in the centralized government are reacting to lobbyists and career bureaucrats rather than getting wisdom from “the people at the working end.”
Dush said, if elected, he’ll hold meetings with township supervisors and other local government leaders to find out what the unfunded mandates are and what the burdens are. He’ll use the local government leaders as his subject matter experts.
Two years ago, Dush carried Jefferson County but fell significantly behind incumbent Sam Smith, the House speaker, among northern Indiana County voters.
“I ran a Christ-centered campaign that stayed positive, stayed focused on the issues rather than attacking the speaker,” Dush said. “That’s basically what people want. They want somebody who knows where he stands, has something to stand on and has a plan. The doors have opened up to me remarkably. I received more than enough signatures just in northern Indiana County to get me on the ballot.”
Dush said most of his campaigning is door-to-door.
“I don’t have a big money campaign,” he said.
From his campaigning he’s learned many people in northern Indiana County want infrastructure.
“They want their businesses back. Rochester Mills, Rossiter, Marion Center — they would love to see their kids back,” he said. “And the one way that’s going to happen is if businesses come back.
“I would like to see a Texas-type solution for the coal (industry). Their power lines stop at the Texas border. They mine their own coal, they burn their own coal and tell EPA to take a hike because there’s no interstate commerce going on here.
“We need to salvage our coal industry and one way to do that is through … our coal-fired plants,” Dush said. “Pennsylvania has a constitutional responsibility for protecting the environment. The federal government doesn’t have one. Our DEP and our mining inspectors are well-qualified and capable of doing what they need to do. … The federal government doesn’t need to be the baby sitter of the people in Pennsylvania.”
Dush said he would support the concept of a local sales tax, probably set at the county level, to help offset and perhaps eventually eliminate the property tax.
Such a tax, he said, would work best as the state starts getting businesses back and reverses the trend of jobs leaving the state. The local sales tax revenue generated in a particular county would be used just by that county to offset property taxes in that county.
“I don’t want Harrisburg taking a cut,” Dush said.
If elected, he plans to spend time with municipal and business leaders in Indiana County and hold meetings at places such as fire halls where constituents can bring concerns to him directly. And he may create a district office near Marion Center.
“Indiana County won’t be forgotten with me,” Dush said.
Cris Dush, at a glance
Home: Pine Creek Township, just outside Brookville
Occupation: Previously was an insurance fraud investigator and corrections officer with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Education: Brookville Area High School, attended Clarion State College
Family: Dush and his wife, Traci, have two grown sons.
Fast fact: Dush is a master sergeant in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.