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Dante Santoni reflects on 2 decades in Pa. House

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Dec 31 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 02 2013 05:20:13 AM CST

For the first time in 20 years, Dante Santoni isn't representing Berks County is the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Newly-elected Pa. Rep. Mark Rozzi is ready to get to work. He and other state lawmakers took their oath of office during a rare New Year's Day session in Harrisburg.

Rozzi said he wants to focus on helping the Reading School District and repairing infrastructure.

Rozzi was elected to serve the 126th District after Dante Santoni announced plans to step down. This marks the first time in 20 years that Santoni isn't representing Berks County.

Before he moved on, the veteran Democrat sat down with 69 News to reflect on his career in public service.

In his 20 years, Santoni said there have been thousands of votes in the Pennsylvania House.  During his time representing the people of Berks County, he chaired the Liquor Control Committee and the Gaming Oversight Committee.

"I think even the most ardent opponents of the gambling in Pennsylvania have to admit that's it's been a success. It's created thousands of jobs. It's provided economic development for communities," said Santoni. "It's brought money back to communities, to fire companies, to little leagues and all of that."

Santoni said working with the late Pa. Sen. Mike O'Pake and Rep. Tom Caltagirone, they were able secure funding for several Reading projects, including the IMAX theater, the future hotel outside the Sovereign Center and the recent upgrades to FirstEnergy Stadium.

"Those are just a few of the big projects that I was able to secure some funding for our local community," said Santoni.

But with success, there are also regrets.

"I think the biggest issue we just can't seem to get our hands around, and very frustrating, is the whole property tax reform issue," said Santoni. "I know everybody wants to get rid of property taxes. Whether that will ever happen I don't know, but I think the fact is that something more needs to be done."

Santoni said his new job is working in the private sector for Purple Strategies, a public affairs agency made up of Democrats and Republicans. He won't be a representative, but he said he thinks lawmakers have a full plate.

"We have a serious problem. Our roads and our bridges are in serious need of repair," said Santoni, adding that what happens with roads or property taxes is now for his successor.