Former health care executive and Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee member Brett Burman has thrown his hat in the ring as a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 9th Senatorial District.
“I’m tired of living in a state that’s perennially ranked one of the top five most corrupt in the entire country and that doesn’t have gift prohibitions for state legislators,” Burman said of his decision to run Thursday.
Burman, 34, of Edgmont, said the flood of gifts and money into Harrisburg has crippled the Legislature’s ability to address problems in health care, education and public safety. He also pointed to the need for increased transparency and expanded Right-to-Know laws.
While both the House and Senate have adopted rules against cash gifts, Pennsylvania has no law on the books limiting the amount lawmakers may receive from lobbyists. Any gift with a value above $250 and any transportation, lodging or hospitality expenses exceeding $650 must be reported, unless it comes from friends or family members. There are almost annual bills offered to ban cash gifts in both chambers, but none have taken root.
“It’s astonishing,” said Burman. “You talk about low-hanging fruit or no brainers. It’s astonishing and it tells you a lot about the culture in Harrisburg.”
Burman, who previously taught at an underserved New York City school with Teach for America and works with Delaware County’s Child Guidance and Counseling Services, also said education is not being properly administered in the state.
Pennsylvania at one time funded public education by 50 percent, but that has not been true for many years and Burman said the problem is escalating. As fewer dollars flow into the public school system, he said, costs continue to rise – especially for special education programs. This leaves local districts turning to residents, who have to pay more in local taxes.
Though a newer “fair-funding” formula is starting to pay dividends in the state’s poorest districts, it only applies to a small percentage of overall public education. In order to more fully address costs, Burman said he would work to repeal and replace the charter and cyber school law that he argues is disproportionately siphoning money from the system with no real gain for students.
“We need to write a charter school law that makes sure the charter school operators – which have a place in public education but are not a replacement for public education – that they’re operating in the students’ best interest and not the best interests of their bottom line,” he said. “At the end of the day, we need to make sure that the essential services that schools offer to all students are being provided.”
A sixth-generation Delaware County resident who began working at his family’s pharmacy in Chester at the age of 12, Burman took over the Brookhaven and Media locations as director of government affairs in 2009 and later became vice president of business promotion.
He said the state needs to address wasted money in overpaying for things like hospital fees while increasing funding for mental health and nursing programs that directly impact patient health.
Burman would face state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, next year if he is selected as the party’s nominee in the May Primary Election. The district includes parts of Delaware and Chester counties.
Burman said Delaware County Democratic Party leader Colleen Guiney is supportive of his candidacy but is remaining neutral until there is an official nominee. Guiney could not be reached for comment Thursday.
“I’m confident that we’re going to put together a very competitive campaign and be able to deliver victory and better government for the people of the 9th District come 2020,” said Burman.
Burman, who is gay, would be the first LGBTQ candidate elected to the state Senate if he wins. State senators serve four-year terms and earn a base salary of $88,610.