Three seek GOP nomination for House seat

April 23, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The majority of the voters in the 89th District to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are Republicans, but no GOP candidate could get the better of Democratic state Rep. Jeff Coy during his 11 terms in office.

On Tuesday, Republican voters will choose a nominee from a field of three candidates - an attorney, a township supervisor and a businessman - who hope to return the seat to the GOP for the first time in 22 years. Each says they will bring something different to the state capital.

The candidates

"There is a fight in Harrisburg as to which way the Republican Party will go," said Chris Sheffield, 37, of 303 W. King St., Shippensburg, Pa. He criticized the Republican majorities in the House and Senate for going along with a $1 billion tax increase and expansion of gambling in the state.


"We need a more conservative, lower tax-oriented majority," said Sheffield, an attorney who ran against Coy in 2002 and lost by 477 votes.

"There are Republicans in Harrisburg that feel I'm the best shot to take back this seat," said Rob Kauffman, 29, of 1349 Fourth Ave.

Kauffman, the Greene Township supervisor, said his experience as a legislative assistant to state Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin, and as a House district operations specialist working to fulfill constituent requests will help him hit the ground running if he is elected in November.

"I share the conservative values of this area," said Kauffman, whose campaign has received about $40,000 from the House Republican Campaign Committee.

"I looked at the candidates and saw two young people who are not just looking for jobs, but a career, and I've already had both," Fred Stenger, 55, of 99 Limekiln Drive, Chambersburg, said of his primary opponents.

"My intent is to serve the community to the best of my ability without owing any obligation to any special interest," said Stenger, the owner of Johnnie's Restaurant & Hotel Service Inc.

"The difference is my experience dealing with these things over 30 years," Stenger said. "That gives me the ability to understand the issues and help work on a solution in Harrisburg."

Their views

The candidates share the same broad views on several issues, but differ as to specifics.

Stenger said he is not in favor of Gov. Ed Rendell's plan to use gambling revenue to fund local property tax reform. Sheffield and Kauffman said Rendell's support of expanded gambling in Pennsylvania is more about currying favor with the gaming industry than tax reform, with Kauffman calling it "bad for families, bad for communities."

Each supports local school property tax reform.

"The end result will be some kind of income-based solution," Kauffman said.

He said he will work with other legislators to produce "the best plan that will actually see tax relief. A tax reform plan that will actually see the light of day."

Reforming Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law would provide relief to taxpayers because the law now inflates the cost of building new schools and other government buildings by artificially inflating labor costs, Kauffman said.

"It's going to have to be a state income tax or a sales tax," Stenger said. "Those are the only places I see where we can raise enough money to realize property tax reform or elimination."

Tax reform has to be linked with a more favorable business climate in the state "because the taxes can only be lowered if we have more businesses and jobs contributing taxes," Stenger said.

Sheffield has a proposal to dedicate 1 percent of the state sales tax to school funding, raise the state income tax three-quarters of a percent and dedicate the 1 percent realty transfer tax to schools each time property is sold.

"On the sales tax portion, everybody - and I mean everybody - should help pay for schools because we all have an earnest interest in that," Sheffield said. "On the income side, it's based on one's ability to pay ... and it's already indexed for inflation."

Sheffield said his tax reform plan has the advantage of not taxing food and clothing, provides that everyone pay for education and lowers the cost of owning a home.

Health-care costs

The candidates all have ideas for easing the surging costs of health care in Pennsylvania.

"Caps on pain and suffering (awards) aren't the only solution, but that's where we have to start to keep our doctors in Pennsylvania," said Stenger, who has served on the boards for both Chambersburg Hospital and Summit Health. Torte reform is a drawn-out process that requires amending the state constitution, but Stenger said it would help contain costs and keep physicians from leaving the state because of hefty malpractice premiums.

The state needs to take a tougher stand on lawsuit abuse and reform insurance regulations to make it easier for companies "to self-insure themselves across state lines without the regulatory nightmare that currently exists in Pennsylvania," Stenger said.

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