A two-term Republican state representative has a familiar challenger in the 196th House District.
Seth Grove is seeking re-election for a third term. He'll face challenger Dan Bradley, 48, of West Manchester Township in the Republican primary.
Grove was elected to the office in 2008 and re-elected in 2010, and recently introduced a property tax reform bill.
Bradley is a middle school math teacher with Agora Cyber Charter School. He previously ran an unsuccessful campaign against Grove in 2010.
1. What measures should the state Legislature take to improve Pennsylvania's economy and help create more jobs in the Commonwealth?
Bradley: As long as we continue to elect career politicians who are indebted to special interests, powerful labor unions and party leaders, we will never have leaders who will make the tough decisions needed to fix our economy. Career politicians vote based on the next election. The best way to get re-elected is to do what the special interests and party leaders demand, not what society needs. A citizen with a career outside of politics will not be influenced by special interests when voting on issues like making Pennsylvania a right-to-work state or repealing prevailing wage laws.
Eliminating property taxes, selling the state stores, reducing corporate tax rates, repealing prevailing wage legislation, reducing the size and pay of the Legislature as well as joining 46 other states in the union by creating a part-time legislature, consolidating school districts and police and fire services are all difficult votes ... if you are a career politician.
However, to begin restoring our economy all this must be done and all can be accomplished with true citizen representation.
Grove: The major problem Pennsylvania is facing is its business climate and getting people back to work. With the economy still sagging, we need to continue to focus on fiscal policies to keep the doors of businesses open, while encouraging employers to create jobs.
Pennsylvania has the highest corporate net income (CNI) tax in the United States, so coupled with the federal business tax Pennsylvania is the highest taxing political entity for corporations. We need to phase down the 9.99 percent CNI to 6.99 percent and close some exemptions to the CNI to ensure tax fairness so all corporations can benefit from lower taxes. This will allow Pennsylvania to be competitive in a market in which every state is vying for precious jobs as well as provide $1 billion in tax cuts and a fairer corporate tax structure.
We need to continue the phase down of the capital stock and franchise tax (CSFT). We are the only state taxing both business property and income. This will allow businesses to grow and hire new employees, while attracting new businesses.
Then we need to phase down the personal income tax (PIT) from 3.07 percent to 2.57 percent, to the benefit of individuals, families and small businesses.
2. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation can point to a large backlog of road and bridge projects across the state. How dire are Pa.'s transportation needs? And how should it fund those backlogged projects?
Bradley: Plainly put, the problems with the Department of Transportation have nothing to do with funding and everything to do with prevailing wage legislation. Prevailing wage is nothing more than a redistribution of wealth that was won by labor unions. It benefits a small number of people at the expense of society as a whole. As long as we continue to pay three and four times the going rate for public works construction projects, we will never be able to completely repair Pennsylvania's roads and bridges.
Prevailing wage is a perfect example of the problem of career politicians. It was a benefit won by labor unions with promises of long political careers to those who supported it. Now that we have it, the sad truth is, career politicians will not do what needs to be done in order to end this travesty. Why would they? In order to end prevailing wage politicians would have to stand up to powerful labor unions. Ending prevailing wage legislation would cost them an election. Politicians are more concerned about their re-election than they are about doing what is right. We can only fix this problem by electing citizens, not politicians, to represent us.
Grove: Transportation infrastructure funding is critical to rebuilding and growing our economy. Since Pennsylvania's founding, it has been known as the Keystone State because it is the key to moving goods to markets.
Pennsylvania has more state roads than all the New England states, New York, New Jersey and Maryland combined. We have major congestion in York County due to our half-century of consistent population growth. Our major traffic arteries need to be expanded, we need to add more rail lines, and we need to increase safety projects throughout York County. A vibrant, multifaceted transportation system will draw businesses to Pennsylvania and put people back to work in family-sustaining jobs.
We need to enact a public-private partnership plan to invest private funding in major infrastructure improvements, like tolled express lanes on all of our interstates. One solution is to use the current 6 percent sales tax on motor vehicles, redirecting it to transportation funding. This equates to a true user fee and provides an additional $1 billion in transportation funding. We also need to stop the Turnpike Commission from increasing fees to fund mass transit and road projects, because it is unsustainable.
3. With a focus on highway safety, state government has adopted new rules for teen drivers and a texting ban for everyone in the past year. Are more measures along those lines needed? Would you support a ban on handheld cell phones? A helmet requirement for motorcyclists? Why or why not?
Bradley: Whatever happened to common sense, common courtesy and personal responsibility? Politicians are trying to legislate all of these. Give me a break! Do we really need politicians telling us how far we must be from a bicyclist when passing? Do we need politicians telling us we should park a certain distance from the road when we pull off? Do we really need the "wisdom" of politicians to tell us we should use our seat belts? Are we so stupid that we don't know it is rude, inconsiderate and downright dangerous to text while driving?
On the surface, these pieces of legislation look good and they make good press for politicians. However, if politicians were consistent they would also ban eating while driving, changing radio stations while driving and conversations while driving. I don't espouse that, but those ideas are no less ridiculous than the aforementioned legislation.
No one should be texting while driving. It's just plain stupid. However, we cannot legislate common sense. Education is the key, not legislation.
If someone causes an accident while texting, then that accident should be treated just as we treat DUI accidents. It's a serious problem that deserves a serious response, not a $50 fine.
Grove: I supported the texting ban and would like to see a handheld cell phone ban.
I believe our current helmet law is the best compromise to protect the least experienced and youngest drivers who statistically are involved in the most accidents. I have authored legislation to require those under 18 who have a junior driver's license and want to get a motorcycle license take the motorcycle safety course. Education and hands-on training will help stem motorcycle accidents.
4. Residents have long complained about property taxes, though in recent years, Act 1 has succeeded in stemming the rapid increase in school property taxes. Does the state need property tax reform? Why or why not? And, if so, how would you approach the issue? Should property tax relief be restricted to homesteads (a homeowner's primary place of residence) or provided for all property owners? Why?
Bradley: I disagree with the premise of this question. Act 1 has done little to improve the school property tax problem. Stating that it has is akin to claiming that stimulus spending "saved" or created jobs.
The answer is school property tax elimination. Not reduction, as HB2230 proposes, but complete elimination as will be provided by HB1776. I have been endorsed by the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition because of my support of HB1776. This bill will, over a two-year period, totally eliminate school property taxes, with the exception of a small percentage used in districts that have a debt. For those districts, property taxes will be eliminated when that debt is paid. It will also eliminate other school nuisance taxes while removing taxing authority from school boards.
Schools will be funded by an increase in and expansion of the state sales tax, the tax that was instituted in 1953 to fund education. Also included will be an increase in the state personal income tax that is offset by the elimination of local nuisance taxes. This bill will fully fund education and distribute that expense to all citizens, and state visitors, rather than placing that expense on the backs of property owners.
Grove: The state absolutely needs property tax reform and enacting such reform is one of my top priorities. I have developed House Bill 2230 to diversify the entire local government tax structure.
My plan will allow voters of every county to approve a 1 percent sales tax to reduce their school district property tax millage rates. It also would allow every local government to swap out their property taxes, dollar for dollar, for either an earned income tax (EIT) or a personal income tax (PIT). If a local government does not eliminate its property taxes but opts for a partial reduction, it will not be allowed to raise millage rates.
Any new tax increases would be on the income tax, which could only be raised by the rate of inflation. This would allow the natural growth of the economy to provide inflationary increases, which stagnant property taxes cannot deliver. This legislation will allow local governments to make decisions about the best tax structure for the citizens of the community.
5. State funding for education, and especially higher education, has declined under the Corbett administration. Do you agree or disagree with the approach the administration has taken toward education funding? Explain your answer. What changes would you recommend in terms of funding education?
Bradley: Did the Corbett administration, with a 4-plus percent increase in education funding last year, truly reduce school funding? Last year's reductions were actually the result of the end of stimulus money from the federal government, not a reduction in state funding.
However, how much state money is enough for education? College tuition consistently outpaces inflation. Why is that? Should we just accept that fact and throw more money at what appear to be mismanaged schools? Or are the reductions in state funding a step toward creating a reasonable level of funding, forcing schools to make fiscally conservative decisions with our money?
I have three children in college. Two attend state schools. The other attended a third state school before transferring. Interestingly, my experiences in dealing with administration at all three schools were very different. Why would there be such inconsistency in schools run by the same system? I believe oversight of our money is needed.
We consistently and rightly complain about the cost of our K-12 schools. That problem is being addressed by HB1776, which will, along with eliminating school property taxes, hold increased spending to the inflation rate. We need the same type of control over our state colleges.
Grove: State funding for basic education was not decreased under last year's budget. State government allocated more funding for K-12 education in the last budget than in any previous budget. The federal stimulus allocation ran out. Under eight years of Gov. Rendell we had unsustainable spending and borrowing. As the economic crash of 2008 has shown, the taxpayers cannot afford the level spending state government had amassed. We must right-size government and ensure we fund the core functions of government, including education.
The most important change we can make to education funding is creating a state funding formula based on student population. We must also diversify the school district tax portfolio to alleviate the burden on property taxpayers. We must also provide mandate relief to reduce the cost of education.
Regarding higher education, tuition increases over the past decade have been unsustainably high. Universities and colleges are pricing themselves out, especially since many college graduates are struggling to find jobs in our tough economic times. Higher education must tighten its belt and reduce costs to make college affordable for everyone. We have a responsibility to fund community colleges and state system of high institutions, since state government created them; however, we must ensure that taxpayer dollars are funding programs that will have a real and lasting benefit for the students.
6. Why should voters cast a vote for you on Election Day? What qualities make you best suited for the position?
Bradley: The problems we have in government are the result of career politicians voting for what is best for their careers. By "giving" things to specific, powerful organizations, career politicians put themselves in a position to stay in office. Also, by doing as party leaders direct rather than as was promised to the voters, career politicians win the favor of the party machine. As a result, career politicians get re-elected at rates well over 90 percent. This indebtedness results in unprincipled men and woman making unprincipled decisions.
I am indebted to no one. I am a private citizen who, along with my wife of 23 years, raised three children in Dover and West Manchester townships. Together we have spent years serving our community. For over 10 years I coached youth sports teams. I have been president of and/or on the board of several youth organizations. I continue to volunteer my time at my church as a religious education instructor and a member of the Knights of Columbus. I volunteer monthly at the Catholic Harvest Food Pantry and assist with pro-life fundraising. These are the qualities of a true representative of the people. I am a servant who seeks to serve.
Grove: It has been an honor to serve the residents of the 196th District for the past three years. I have worked tirelessly on their behalf to bring a conservative, common-sense approach to state government. Pennsylvania is facing many serious challenges, and we need elected officials who understand those issues and who develop fiscally responsible and effective plans to solve them.
I am a proven leader who knows how to build bipartisan coalitions to achieve progress for fiscally and socially conservative legislation. I am always responsive to the citizens I serve, addressing their concerns and remaining accessible to the people. I offer every opportunity for an open dialogue with residents of the 196th District to keep them updated and hear their concerns. My relentless dedication, combined with my constant attention to those I serve, has led to a successful partnership. Experience matters, and I have the proven knowledge to get the job done.
I am running again to serve the people and preserve the integrity of our district, and I am asking for your vote.