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Candidates in 90th District address issues in their own words

October 30, 2006

Todd A. Rock and Patrick E. Fleagle, candidates to serve the 90th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, were asked to answer questions about front-burner issues in the race. Each was instructed to limit answers to 150 words.

Q. What needs to be done to ease the burden on schools, roads and sewer and water systems if Franklin County continues rapid growth? How can this be balanced across the state, considering other counties are begging for growth?

Fleagle: To ease the burden on local school districts and municipalities facing unprecedented growth, I have co-sponsored House Bill 2564 - a Franklin County-led initiative to help these entities pay for and reasonably control the rate of growth. This legislation includes impact fees, modifications to the realty transfer tax and possible moratoriums. However, only those counties growing beyond a certain threshold would be eligible to enact these local controls. Therefore, those counties that are experiencing no growth at all are not negatively affected. These decisions would be made locally, with local input and by local officials who know best what our county needs. My opponent has done nothing, and proposed nothing, to deal with this issue.

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Rock: First, we must make sure that local governments aren't burdened with unfunded mandates from the state level. The unfunded mandates have a big impact on schools especially. Each time an unfunded mandate occurs, it further squeezes local budgets and, all too often, means that a local government is faced with either cutting programs or raising taxes. We can't continue this sort of dynamic. Moreover, we must enact legislation allowing our local municipalities more control over these issues. Many other states allow local municipalities to regulate growth. In Pennsylvania, local governments have little (if any) say in whether or not land can be developed, for example. By allowing local governments more control over this issue, growth could be better balanced across the state.

Q. Does Act 1, the Property Tax Rent and Rebate program, go far enough? Should more be done to reduce property taxes? If so, what needs to happen?

Fleagle: Act 1 does not go far enough to providing relief to all homeowners. However, I feel it is a start. Let's face it: We never really own our homes when faced with burdensome property taxes. We need to completely eliminate property taxes for all homeowners.

I was one of only 62 legislators to vote for an expanded sales tax plan that would have generated revenue sufficient enough to eliminate property taxes. I stood firm in the face of the big city special interests who nitpicked this plan to death. I also voted to greatly reduce property taxes through a combination sales and income tax. My opponent has done nothing to ease the burden on local homeowners and especially those most vulnerable to losing their homes. My opponent actually voted to increase property taxes back in 2005-2006; how can he call himself the reform candidate knowing he has provided nothing?

Rock: For years now, the legislature has discussed property tax reform, but no meaningful legislation has been passed. I support broadening the current sales tax to include items and services not currently taxed. This increased revenue could then be taken and applied directly toward property tax relief. However, I would continue to support an exemption for food and medicine because I feel these items are critical to the most vulnerable in our society. This formula could provide needed tax relief for property owners, while requiring everyone to contribute services based on their ability to pay. Also, I will continue to be open-minded and explore all plans that will bring meaningful tax relief to the district's residents. Our current legislature refuses to resolve this issue, which is critically important to voters. After the pay raise mess, the Pennsylvania Assembly promised action on property tax reform and nothing has been resolved.

Q. What changes need to be made to Pennsylvania's health care?

Fleagle:To change Pennsylvania's health-care system, we need to continue with our efforts regarding tort reform, including capping pain and suffering lawsuit awards and ending deep-pocket lawsuits. As more and more health-care providers leave our state, finding good care will become more difficult and more expensive. We need to redouble our efforts to keep these professionals here in Pennsylvania. As a member of the General Assembly, I have supported and will continue to support these reform efforts - efforts that my opponent labels as corporate welfare. Furthermore, I feel we need to rein in the large reserve accounts currently amassed by health insurance companies. As premiums continue to rise, tapping these reserves could help to alleviate massive rate increases on our employers and working families, making health care more affordable.

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