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Punt to face challenger in November

February 19, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, has a clear field for the April 27 Republican primary, but a Franklin County Democrat has filed to challenge him for the 33rd District seat in November.

Donald R. Richards of Greencastle, Pa., filed a petition to run for the Democratic nomination. The deadline to file petitions was Tuesday.

Richards, 52, is the chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Committee and ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 2003.

"This will be the first time in 16 years that Terry Punt has had any opposition," said Richards. "I'm going to concentrate on the environmental issues we raised last year."

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Richards said factory farms, the spreading of sewage sludge on farmland and the controversy over a proposed quarry near St. Thomas, Pa., are three such issues. He supports giving local governments more control over businesses and industries that could have an adverse environmental impact.

"Our friends and neighbors would have more information about the properties and these issues than some bureaucrat in Harrisburg," he said.

Richards said he would outline his campaign issues in greater detail in a few days.

Punt, 54, of Waynesboro, Pa., is seeking his fifth four-year term as senator. The chairman of the Senate Community and Economic Development Committee and vice chairman of the Transportation Committee, he served five terms in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1988.

That first Senate election was also the only one in which he faced opposition, having won both party nominations in three subsequent campaigns.

Punt said his goals for the next term include property tax reform, "shifting to an income tax with a dollar-for-dollar reduction in property taxes where everyone pays based on their ability to pay and not the property they own."

If the burden is shifted from property to income, Punt said the school districts and local governments should collect and control those revenues, rather than the money being controlled by the state.

He said the legislature has to achieve equalized and stable educational funding for public schools.

"That goes back along the lines of tax reform, rather than basing your appropriations on revenues from slot machines," he said, referring to a proposal by Gov. Ed Rendell to legalize slots.

What Punt termed a medical malpractice crisis in Pennsylvania still has to be resolved. The effects of legislation passed to deter frivolous lawsuits and jury shopping may take three or more years to become evident, he said.

Punt said caps on pain and suffering awards may not be the way toward further reform because "you don't want to take away the rights of a legitimate victim."

He put part of the blame for skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums on insurance companies and said the state needs to find a way to increase competition in the industry and lower rates.

The 33rd District includes Franklin and Adams counties and a portion of York County.

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