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United Way of Lancaster County


Rep. Sturla says he’ll campaign on his track record

State Rep. Mike Sturla (Source:

State Rep. Mike Sturla (Source:
State Rep. Mike Sturla (Source:

"I'm glad to stand on my record," state Rep. Mike Sturla said.

Sturla, 61, has represented Lancaster city as state representative since winning election in 1990. He is facing his first Democratic challenger since that 1990 race: Ismail Smith-Wade-El, who formally announced his candidacy for the 2022 primary Tuesday evening.

Speaking with One United Lancaster by phone after Smith-Wade-El's kickoff event, Sturla said he has a lengthy track record of substantive accomplishments to set against the City Council president's "rhetoric."

That includes securing funding for new playgrounds at city schools and for the Spanish American Civic Association's Tec Centro job training center; his role on the Fair Funding Commission and his ongoing efforts to have more education dollars allocated according to the formula it developed; improvements to the PACE prescription drug program; work on environmental issues, municipal funding and more.

"That's not me just saying, 'If you elect me, I promise you I'm gonna do better than the last guy,'" he said. "I've done those things. I'm doing those things. I continue to do those things."

Sturla represents the 96th District, which includes Lancaster city and parts of Lancaster and Manheim townships. He currently is Democratic Chair of the House Urban Affairs Committee. He served 12 years as chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee but lost the position to Rep. Ryan Bizzarro at the end of 2020.

Smith-Wade-El's promises to reshape state law, he said, don't account for the realities of a Republican-dominated legislature. Uniting small "Third Class" cities is fine -- Sturla said he has launched a Third Class City Caucus with Rep. Bob Freeman of Easton -- but all 53 of them together only command about 20 House votes, and they are a diverse group with varying interests and priorities.

He said he stands by his suggestion that Lancaster allow truck stops with video gaming terminals, saying they could go in peripheral, industrial areas. A facility with five VGTs would bring the city about $500,000 a year, he said, saying he was "astounded" when City Council voted to disallow them.

Instead, the city was pushing for a bill allowing small cities to have a higher earned income tax. Sturla said he told city leaders up front it wouldn't pass, and it didn't. Besides, he said, raising the cost of working in the city is a disincentive, and it wouldn't have brought in enough revenue to fill the city's structural deficit for more than a few years.

A better approach Sturla said, is legislation he is sponsoring that would allow counties to impose an optional 1% sales tax. They would distribute the revenue to their municipalities based on their share of non-taxable properties. It would bring in tens of millions of dollars while maintaining a level playing field among municipalities, and because any county could use it, it can win bipartisan support, he said.

Sturla said he can point to his work ethic, honed since he was a young boy selling vegetables by the side of the road, and maintained as an entrepreneur and a legislator.

"I'm going to express how I get things done by actually building something and making it work," he said.