Money talks, the saying goes,
and money was the main topic in a League of Women Voters debate between State
Sen. Dominic Pileggi and Roger Howard, Pileggi’s challenger for the Republican
The two squared off at Crosslnads Retirement Community in Pennsbury Township on
April 19, five days before the Republican Party primary.
Prior to the debate, Howard
explained why he was challenging the 10-year incumbent for the GOP nomination
for the 9th Senatorial District.
“In the years before 2010 we
worked to elect a Republican governor, a majority of Republicans in the
Pennsylvania House and a strong majority in the Senate and yet we have seen
none of the reformative legislation that other states have enacted when they
elected similar majorities,” Howard said. “So now we know that the problem is
the leadership in the Senate.”
Pileggi, from Chester, has been
the majority leader in the Senate since 2006, and Howard said Pileggi refused
to bring those reforms to the floor.
Among those things that have
not yet been reformed, he said, the state pension system, state debt and
Pensions are $42 billion
underfunded, Howard said, and the debt since 2002 — when Pileggi took office —
has increased from$23 billion to $45 billion. During that same time period,
spending has increased from $41 billion to $64 billion.
Pileggi said that his ability
to work with the Democrats — and specifically former Gov. Ed Rendell — helped keep
spending down and “prevented Pennsylvania from becoming another California.”
He further defended his record
saying that deciding on a proper budget is a matter of negotiation and that the
$27 billion budget the state has was the right level of spending.
“We didn’t want to increase or
add taxes last year and we reduced the stock and franchise tax…We want to
continue reducing taxes,” Pileggi said.
Both men agreed on a need to
keep taxes down.
“Pennsylvania is the most
expensive state in which to conduct business,” said Howard and that the state
could generate more revenue by decreasing taxes to bring in more businesses.
Pileggi said that all taxes couldn’t
be cut in just one year, that more time is needed. The goal, he said, is to
make the tax and regulatory structure more competitive.
Howard added that he wants to see
a reduction in the state corporate tax and end to compulsory union membership.
“Right to work states have
better economies,” he said.
Howard cited the Boeing
situation, saying that Boeing declined coming here where it would have cheaper
to build a plant, but that South Carolina was a better choice in the long run
because workers there don’t have to join a union.
PIleggi, speaking with a
gravelly voice because of an allergy, repeated his opinion that a more
competitive tax and regulatory structure would bring business and jobs to the
The candidates were asked their
opinion on how to best encourage reuse and revitalization of the existing
infrastructure and reduce sprawl. Their answers were similar.
Howard said reuse and
revitalization was the job of the private sector.
“If we make it attractive to
the private sector to use acreage, to use sites where some manufacturing has
stopped because it’s out of date, then the private sector will take care of
that,” he said.
He gave Maynard, Mass. as an
example. There, Digital Equipment Corp. originally operated out of an old shoe
factory before becoming so large it was bought.
“We can do the same thing here,
but we have to make it attractive to business to come here first.”
Howard added that reducing
sprawl was not the state’s job, but that of local government. It’s not up to
the state to decide how dense a development should be.
Pileggi said every community in
the country has been, and is, dealing with the issue.
“The fact is, it is cheaper to
develop on virgin soil along major highways than it is in urban cores…So the
question is, if you want to reuse that infrastructure, you need to provide some
incentive for that to happen. If you leave it purely to the free market, those
inner cores will be abandoned and the sprawl will continue.”
He said some cities have done
well in devising incentives, others not so well. Pittsburgh, he said, is one of
the cities that does it well.
When asked to describe their
political philosophies, Pileggi described himself as a pragmatist and problem
solver, one who likes to solve problems that others think are unsolvable.
“That requires an ability to
bring people together that first will not agree.”
He further described himself as
a limited government, pro liberty individual.
Howard agreed with the incumbent
that the greater freedom people have, and the more free markets there are, the
better off people are.
To that end, he said, there are
many policies that don’t need to be enacted. To decide what they are, there are
several questions to be asked.
“Is it Constitutional? Is it ethical? Is the proposal clear,
concise, achievable and measurable? And last, should it be done at the state
level or is something that should be done at the local level?”
Howard also said he wants to see an end to the prevailing wage law, while Pileggi said it would be better to raise the threshold for the prevailing wage requirement. It is currently set at $25,000. There is a measure in the General Assembly that would raise that to $185,000.
Both favor tort reform with regard to medical malpractice suits.
The primary election is
Tuesday, April 24.
About Rich Schwartzman
Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. In May 2011 he became a columnist for the Future of Freedom Foundation. He is also an award-winning photographer.