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Three for governor

September 22, 1998

As Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening prepares for a rematch with 1994 opponent Ellen Sauerbrey, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge faces a contest with two opponents, Ivan Itkin and Peg Luksik, who are virtual unknowns outside the state capital. Voters need to school themselves quickly on the differences between the three.

To help, The Associated Press bureaus in Harrisburg and Central Pennsylvania polled 89 member newspapers across the state about the most important issues. In the governor's race, it was tax reform, education and health that led the list. AP subsequently developed a candidate questionnaire and gave hopefuls five weeks to reply.

Since 1995, Pennsylvania has been moving toward a system that would give localities more freedom to mix and match their tax options, in part to prevent homeowners on fixed incomes from bearing so much of the burden of school costs. Itkin, a 26-year veteran of the General Assembly, would solve that problem by putting more state cash into schools, while Luksik favors smaller government generally.

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In addition, Itkin would use future state surpluses for property tax relief while Luksik would cut the state's inheritance tax, which brings in $700 million a year.

On schools, Ridge won his fight to allow privately run charter schools and wants to approve tuition vouchers to help students who'd like to attend private schools. Luksik would also help private-school students, but with a local school tax credit instead of a voucher plan. As noted previously, Itkin's solution is more state money for public schools.

On health, Ridge feels a recently enacted "bill of rights" for managed-care plans is sufficient to protect patients. Itkin disagrees and wants tighter regulation, while Luksik wants tax-free medical savings accounts to reduce citizens' insurance needs.

As AP's Harrisburg correspondent Peter Jackson noted, this campaign is only now showing signs of life. But though there's not much time left between now and Nov. 3, citizens can still learn enough to make an intelligent decision on Election Day.

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