Peters Patch: 2012 Election Guide
What you need to know for Nov. 6.
As we look ahead to November’s elections, Peters Patch is devoted to bringing you the information you need about every race in town.
Here's our start on the candidates and issues we'll be covering as November draws near.
State Rep. John Maher Running for Auditor General, Also Unopposed for 40th District
Maher is also running unopposed for state representative of the 40th district—an office he has held since 1997. If he wins the auditor general position, the 40th district will have to choose a new representative.
Contested Race for Pippy's Seat in the 37th District
Many thought Raja would face an uncontested election for Pippy's vacated seat. But in July, state Rep. Matt Smith, who serves the state's 42nd legislative district, entered the race.
Now, political observers have dubbed the race as one of the most competitive in Pennsylvania this election cycle.
Raja and Smith will take part in a "meet the candidates night" Oct. 19 at the Cornerstone in Oakdale.
Among the key issues:
PA Property Tax Reform
Gov. Ed Rendell promised that revenue from slots parlors and gaming tables would greatly reduce or in some cases eliminate property taxes. Years later, that promise remains unfulfilled with the average savings per household at $186 in 2011, according to data from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations.
There is new legislation, albeit in limbo right now, which would eliminate a school district’s ability to levy a property tax, replacing that funding with an increase in sales and personal income taxes statewide.
The state house finance committee tabled the Property Tax Independence Act on Monday, but the issue is not likely going to go away.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Cox, R-Berks, the measure would hike the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent statewide and raise the personal income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 4 percent. In Allegheny County, the sales tax would rise to 8 percent.
In addition, many goods and services currently exempt from the sales tax would be taxable under the bill, which aims to raise $10 billion dollars to replace the revenue that would be lost by the elimination of school property taxes.
Liquor Store Privatization
Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to do what two of his Republican predecessors, over a span of 30 years, could not, privatize state stores so that private retailers can sell wine and liquor.
The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, could come up for a vote in the House by week’s end. If approved, it would go on to the Senate for consideration in the fall.
"House Bill 11 is about divestiture. House Bill 11 is about the consumer. It is about reasonable prices and better selection and more convenience. It is about upgrading law enforcement," said Turzai when he first introduced the measure last July. "It is about moving from a public sector dinosaur into the modern 21st century."
Only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control of all aspects of wine and spirits distribution, according to a report that the governor's budget office commissioned.
Not everyone agrees that House Bill 11 is the way to go.
"The House Liquor Control Committee passed a version of HB 11, which would leave the Liquor Control Board intact, a major turnaround from Turzai’s original proposal to completely privatize liquor sales," states a story from 90.5 FM Pittsburgh Essential Public Radio.
The union that represents state liquor store managers has lobbied against the bill; two Pennsylvania chapters of the United Food Commercial Workers, representing state store employees, also oppose the bill, the 90.5 radio story states.
"The Independent State Store Union says that the bill’s provision to allow beer distributors to begin selling wine will cause the state store system to slowly diminish," according to the story.
The ISSU also opposes the bill.
Maggi Takes on Five-Term Incumbent Murphy for 18th District
Republican incumbent Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, will seek his sixth term serving the 18th Congressional District, which includes all of Moon Township and parts of Robinson.
Murphy faces Democrat Larry Maggi, a Washington County commissioner, former state trooper and former Marine, who announced his bid in January.
Republican Smith Seeks to Unseat Casey In Senate Race
Incumbent Democrat Bob Casey of Scranton, Lackawanna County, faces a well-funded challenge from Republican Tom Smith of Shelocta, Armstrong County in the race for one of Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senate seats.
Casey, a son of the late Gov. Robert Casey, won the seat in 2006 after defeating former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Prior to entering the Senate, he served as state auditor general and treasurer.
Smith, a coal businessman and multimillionaire, is a founder of a Tea Party group in Indiana and Armstrong counties.
President Barack Obama vs. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
Pennsylvania has delivered its 20 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for President in the last five elections. If current polls hold steady, Obama will make it six in a row in November.
The president has not taken Pennsylvania’s support for granted and has made several trips to Western Pennsylvania in the past several years, even going as far as choosing Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit in 2009. In his most recent visit in October of 2011, the president lobbied for his $447 billion American Jobs Act, which continues to face an uphill battle with Republicans in Congress.
The president has also sent what many consider his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. First Lady Michelle Obama visited with service members of the 911th Airlift Wing and 171st Refueling Wing in April. Vice President Joe Biden also visited the Moon Township base in May.
Mitt Romney is no stranger to the region either, even though some experts suggest the GOP nominee seems to place little importance on winning votes in Pennsylvania.
Romney visited Pittsburgh for a fundraiser in October; the event was closed to the media.
He returned for an April campaign stop in Bethel Park, where he outlined his plans for the economy.
“I’d like to reduce the burden on middle-income taxpayers,” Romney said. “I’d like to see anyone making $200,000-$250,000 or less—which is 98 percent of Americans—save their money tax-free. No capital gains. It’ll make filing taxes a lot easier and people can save money for things they care about."
Romney was back in Pittsburgh a month later criticizing the president for the nation’s unemployment rate during a visit to a family-owned manufacturing plant in O’Hara.
The No. 1 issue for western Pennsylvania voters, as with many others across the country, is jobs and the sluggish economic recovery.
President Obama continues to campaign for the American Jobs Act, which the White House says will prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, allow for the hiring of tens of thousands of police officers and firefighters, encourage the hiring of returning veterans and invest billions into roads, rails, airports and waterways.
He blames Congress for not doing enough.
Congress “hasn’t acted fast enough,” the president told supporters at a recent rally. “Congress," he said, “can’t just sit on their hands.”
Governor Romney and other Republicans suggest the Obama plan is nothing more than a payoff to Democratic constituent groups, particularly organized labor, which would benefit from federal grants to states to keep government workers on the payroll, as well as construction projects to be completed by union job crews.
On his campaign’s web site, Romney blames the President’s policies for the lack of job growth.
“The vast expansion of costly and cumbersome regulation of sectors of the economy, ranging from energy to finance to health care. When the price of doing business in America rises, it does not come as a surprise that entrepreneurs and enterprises cut back, let employees go, and delay hiring,” Romney said.