This is a series of six questions The York Dispatch asked the candidates for Pennsylvania House District 95 seats: incumbent Eugene DePasquale (D) and David Moser (L). DePasquale, 41, who is also running for state Auditor General, has held the office since 2007. Moser, 34, has said he's starting a new advertising agency in the city. Below are their answers, which we asked them to limit to 200 words.
1. Several bills in the state Legislature propose methods of property tax reform, with some calling for a shift from property taxes to earned or personal income tax. Is property tax reform necessary given restrictions that have already capped tax increases from school districts? Which, if any, of the proposed bills do you support and why?
DePasquale: I support and have voted yes on legislation that would eliminate school property taxes. Reforming how we fund our schools is necessary. The Pennsylvania Constitution states that the Legislature must provide for a thorough and efficient public school system. Our current system not only fails to meet this but also overly burdens our seniors.
Moser: I whole heartedly oppose property tax. As long as you owe any kind of indefinite recurring fee attached to your property you are forever an indentured servant. We are all suffering this modern day fealty; whether taxed directly as land owners or passed on to us as renters. No one can truly own their property nor adequately plan for their future as long as property is taxed.
I also cannot support shifting the burden to earned or personal income tax. It is both morally repugnant and fiscally dubious to place any burden on an individual's back as he or she labors. We are told that "vice taxes" such as the ever increasing tobacco taxes and corresponding lawsuits are meant to curb use. By this logic what then can we expect by putting additional tax burdens on Pennsylvanian's labors?
Yes reform is necessary. Those capped school rates accumulate yearly, are already cumbersome, and can still be worked around with state approval; which is often the case in my own district of York City. I currently favor House bill 1776 and its senate sister bill 1400. While not a final solution HB 1776 takes a major first step by lifting the school property tax off individuals and directs funding for education through the state.
2. State budget cuts to education and social services have drawn the ire of school boards and county commissioners. Do you support cuts made as part of the 2012-13 budget? Why or why not? If there's an opportunity to restore some of that funding in the next budget, what should be the top priorities and why?
DePasquale: I do not support and voted against the cuts. Education and the environment should be the top priority for funding restoration. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation without an extraction tax on natural gas drilling. A fair severance tax would lessen the cuts made to these two areas.
Moser: There are cuts I most definitely support in the 2012-13 budgets. In the greater picture we are simply spending well beyond our means in this commonwealth and belt tightening is a necessity. While cuts will burden some sectors of the population; fiscal irresponsibility burdens all of us. Pennsylvania doesn't have "The Fed." We cannot just produce more paper out of thin air.
That being said; The Pennsylvania Constitution states in Article III section 14 "The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth." While The Commonwealth is not required to directly provide anyone an education; the Commonwealth is very much responsible to provide for a thorough and efficient education for all Pennsylvanians.
The Commonwealth, through the general assembly, is required by its founding documents to see that education is provided for. Regardless of anyone's views or opinion; we are legally duty bound to provide. This is not to be considered an "open check" for any of Pennsylvania's educational options as our constitution also provides the condition of "thorough and efficient."
We must also maintain vigilance in oversight of these tax dollar allocations and focus on more efficient ways of educating the youth of Pennsylvania.
3. What role should the state have in job creation? Do you support large tax breaks to draw companies to your district or the state? What other methods should the state use to improve its economic climate?
DePasquale: I was the lead Democrat on legislation passed by the house of Representatives to eliminate the "Delaware Loophole" and slash our business taxes from the highest in the nation to the middle. This would ensure a fairer system and make our state more competitive.
Moser: The state "creating Jobs" is a bit of a misnomer. The only way the state creates a job is by expanding the bureaucracy in which the state is simply taking more money from everyone and giving it to someone. That is the thinking of statist socialist and not of the founding principles we have fought for generation after generation to uphold. The health of an economy is determined by the size and scope of the market; not the size and scope of city hall. I do not support tax breaks. This selective application is the stuff that special interest and government corruption are made of. I will not support it.
What I do support is "across the board" reductions in corporate tax and business regulation (aka red tape). Pennsylvania needs to become more competitive on the national and world stage for attracting/retaining business. We need to ask "Why does a company operating solely in Pennsylvania incorporate in Delaware?" If you had the option to rent two identical townhomes from two different people and one cost you $200/month more in rent and condo fees; which would you choose? You wouldn't rent the more expensive and condemn the less expensive for being less expensive. You would rent the less expensive one and if asked would tell the more expensive rentee he is not being competitive.
4. Do you support the privatization of the state liquor stores? Why or why not? Are there other changes that should be made to liquor laws in Pennsylvania?
DePasquale: I have not supported this effort. I do believe the current system must be modernized to improve consumer choice. I am concerned about the 5,000 good, middle class jobs that would be lost in this effort, especially in an economy where those types of jobs are so hard for many to come by.
Moser: Yes. The commonwealth monopoly on liquor sales is an antiquated throw back to prohibitionist intolerance. It was, in my opinion, a bad move then but could at least be argued as a compromise between significant factions of the population. Nowadays I cannot recall any temperance parades in my town. Can you? Beyond my philosophical stance against prohibition I believe the commonwealth divulging itself of its liquor monopoly at this time can in fact be a boon for the budget and the economy. The initial sell off amount can be applied to debt reduction to lessen that burden on all aspects of the budget. We would then see licensing fees and sales tax revenue continue as we also reap the benefits of eliminating operational expenses. I also support the deregulation of beer and wine sales through both brick and mortar locations as well as mail order/Internet sales. Pennsylvania's growing wine and microbrew industries are a boon to our economy and our culture. They both maintain our strong agricultural heritage as well as further anchor us in manufacturing and tourism. To stifle these industries and their growth is an affront to Pennsylvania ingenuity and a hindrance to economic recovery throughout the commonwealth. 5. Can you pinpoint a specific area, project or need - specific to your district - that you would like to address if you win the election in November? DePasquale: Public education and college affordability. Moser: In my own public school district of York City I've seen reports of dropout rates exceeding 60 percent. The test scores, despite ever lowering standards nationally, are abysmal. School taxes continue to rise 10-20 percent/year while nothing improves. Toys, gadgets, and junk purchased illegally with grants fill closets while textbooks are in short supply. All we have to show is our students now have belts.
I will not point fingers here. What I would like to address is school choice. As the laws and procedures surrounding charter schools now stands a school district has the authority to grant/renew school charters within their district. This folks is equivocal to giving a McDonald's the decision on whether a Chik-fil-A can open down the block. What do you think the decision will be?
With choice comes opportunity. Why do we have elections? We may not always make the best choices but what would our society be without them? I do not know what the best option for your child is and I don't believe the members of a school board do either. It is a parents right and I support that right. When elected I will fight to correct any situation that would limit parental choice.
6. What issue - other than the ones addressed in previous questions - would you like to tackle if elected? What would you like to accomplish in regard to that issue and why do you consider it so important?
DePasquale: We need to vastly improve on the current law relating to natural gas drilling to ensure environmental protection, a fair revenue stream and predictability for the industry moving forward.
Moser: I would like to touch on Marcellus shale fracking. This like so many topics facing the state house has become polarized along "major party" lines. This is one of many areas where I can act as moderator between entrenched camps; moving us forward on solutions that benefit all Pennsylvanians. Indeed on this topic I appreciate both "sides of the coin." Yes, it can bring jobs and tax dollars to Pennsylvania. No, we cannot endanger people's health nor leave a large scale cleanup bill to ourselves and future generations. Neither concern can be sacrificed in favor of the other.
I propose fracking companies be required to put "x" amount into escrowed accounts which can only be withdrawn by court order for the purpose of environmental remediation. This removes the variable of the government over taxing and spending (borrowing) that tax before it would be needed. It also offers the fracking companies incentive for clean operation as they can recuperate those escrowed funds in a determined amount of years after ceasing operations and proving their methods and operations safe. This proposal would require additional "checks and balance" in place for this to work but space constraints limit listing them here.