This is a series of six questions The York Dispatch asked the candidates for Pennsylvania House District 193 seats: incumbent Will Tallman (R) and Anthony McNevin (D). First-term incumbent Will Tallman took office in 2009. He lives in New Oxford, Adams County, and was most recently self-employed doing computer networking and telephone line improvements for small businesses. McNevin, 70, is a resident of Menallen Township in Adams County. He owns a consulting business and manages the American Board of Wound Medicine and Surgery, a physician group, and the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists.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?
Tallman: Act 1 and its exceptions have not, in fact, capped the large property tax increases to our local property owners. Those living on fixed incomes have not been able to afford these $200 to $400 or more per year increases under Act 1. Regardless, the idea that someone must rent their property from the government, which is what property tax amounts to, means that no one ever really owns their property.
Property tax reform is one of the top concerns of York and Adams counties and is most beneficial to South Central and North Eastern PA. The majority of counties are not as concerned about property tax reform.
HB 1776 and HB 2230 either eliminate or greatly reduce property tax and I cosponsor each. HB 1776 has not made it out of Committee although HB 2230 has. HB 2230 has overcome some of the political obstacles by allowing the voters in each local county and municipality to decide if and by how much they will reduce their property tax. HB 2230 also does not change the sales tax exemptions.
McNevin: The question of property taxes is inextricably tied to school funding. Consequently, care must be exercised when changes are contemplated. While I fully endorse the shift to a sales tax to provide property owners with partial relief, I believe with equal vigor that property owners must continue to contribute to the welfare of their local communities. For example, increased revenue from the sales tax could be used to offset the cost of teacher pension and health insurance. I do not support any given bill nor do I support the use of personal income taxes as a means of raising additional revenue for education.
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?
Tallman: Nearly 40% of our $27.7B budget goes to public welfare and more than a third goes to education. Everything else splits the approximately 26% of the remaining revenue the Commonwealth takes in.
The federal government dropped the more than a third of a billion dollars in education subsidy while our Social Services part of the budget was growing at an unsustainable rate and taxpayers could no longer afford the steep increases in this area of the budget. Everyone wants more. Harrisburg cannot continue to spend more than it takes in, any more than we can in our own family budgets. As our economy picks up, more revenue will flow in. When money is available, the school districts should be allowed to set their own priorities rather than having Harrisburg dictate how the money should be spent. In the meantime, I was one of the biggest advocates for the restoration of the Accountability Block Grant (ABG) money and level-funding of the Basic Education Subsidy.
McNevin: The current administration has adopted a policy of "starve the beast," to use a popular phrase. That is, reduce revenue as a means to reduce social services and education. These funds must be restored and the principal means of doing so is to create an extraction tax, like all other states where natural gas is being withdrawn from the earth. This would produce sufficient revenue to restore all social service and educational budget cuts.
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?
Tallman: By several measures of business friendliness, Pennsylvania has ranked 40th or lower out of the 50 states. The Commonwealth has a large part to play in job creation, particularly the General Assembly. Our House Republicans' EmployPA has identified specific and comprehensive initiatives in revitalizing PA's economy and bolstering job growth.
We need to work our way from what should be totally eliminated and what we keep but fix toward what we don't have but need to develop.
Five initiatives in EmployPA that I particularly support are to:
(1) eliminate frivolous and expensive lawsuits;
(2) cut red tape by streamlining the permitting process and promoting flexible regulations;
(3) improve our complex and uneven business tax system, providing competitive tax rates;
(4) promote responsible reform to unemployment compensation, curtailing abuse of the system; and
(5) develop a qualified and capable workforce by providing training to the unemployed and under-employed.
Additionally, we need to improve incentives for new product development. Basic research-and-development tax benefit is helpful but to bring a new product online requires a lot of capital resources.
McNevin: I do support time-limited tax incentives to lure employers into the district. Unfortunately, we have lost sight of the need to create a willing and educationally prepared workforce to assume new employment opportunities. Continued cuts in our educational budgets will only serve to lower the educational preparedness of our citizens.
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?
Tallman: I favor the privatization of our liquor stores for a number of reasons. As a general principle, I believe in private enterprise rather than government-run business. Although our federal government is moving rapidly toward controlling more and more of our services (for example, health care), PA has been moving toward free enterprise.
The need to show a profit drives individuals to find faster, smarter, more efficient ways of providing goods and services; government-run business is not concerned with competition and the efficiency it demands for success.
Government's job is to govern. The Commonwealth should not be in the business of selling alcoholic beverages at all. Under HB 11 there will in actuality be stronger enforcement activities.
Additionally, I believe that aggressively selling alcoholic beverages while advocating for responsible consumption and the reduction in underage drinking tend to be competing interests. When you play both sides of the field, sometimes you end up not doing either job very well.
McNevin: I believe that state liquor stores should compete with the private sector in the generation of state revenue. Let's see how well the tastes of the citizens of the state can be met, as in all other states where private section sales thrive.
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?
Tallman: The York/Adams district desperately needs property tax reform and jobs. On the issue of property tax reform, I will be working with our northern tier counties to see what type of compromise can be worked out with them to allow for a vote on changing property tax. Those counties do not particularly see the same benefits of changing property tax that we do here in South Central PA. It's fairer if everyone has the choice to determine what works in their own best interest rather than being bound by regulations that are good for others but disastrous for them.
As for job creation, reiterating what I said earlier, it is important to bring new products into production. The advantage of a new product is that you are not competing with what other states also are selling, but individuals and companies are coming to you because you are the pioneer of the product. I have worked on several new product lines and know the huge risks and capital investments required to do this. Helping our local companies to stay competitive and create new jobs eventually brings more revenue into the stream for supporting those services for which government is truly responsible.
McNevin: My priorities include:
1.) property tax relief,
2.) adequate funding to meet educational needs, and,
3.) ensure that all citizens in PA, the wealthy and the poor, have equal access to health care under the Affordable Care Act.
In the first quarter of 2013, I plan to hold a series of workshops on various aspects of the Affordable Care Act for small business owners, single moms, children, the indigent, etc. to make certain everyone will benefit from the provisions of the new law.
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?
Tallman: I am intent on blocking the implementation of ObamaCare. No one wants to see people needing medical care to fall through the cracks, but ObamaCare is not the prescription. The very best way to provide medical care is for people to get good jobs where insurance is provided. If we allow ObamaCare to take effect it will be job-inhibiting at just the time when the Commonwealth is struggling to break free of our economic woes and create new jobs. The rules and regulations under ObamaCare, along with the taxes, will kill our small businesses - the very people who are the most effective job creators. When small businesses are successful, everyone thrives. And with ObamaCare, when you include the loss of religious freedom, personal choice and the largest tax increase in U.S. history, the answer is self-explanatory.
McNevin: I would like to research the equity exercised by local jurisdictions in their assessments of property values for possible changes. I want to do what is possible to create a climate in our societies where all citizens are equally treated and welcomed.