As we look ahead to November’s elections, Sewickley Patch is devoted to bring 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. Bookmark this page for updates.
President Barack Obama versus former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney
Pennsylvania has delivered its 20 electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for President in the last five elections, and if hold steady, Mr. Obama will make it six in a row in November.
The President has not taken Pennsylvania’s support for granted, and has made towesternPennsylvania area in the past several years, even going as far as choosing Pittsburgh to host the G-20 summit in the fall of 2009. In his most presidentlobbied for his $447 billion dollar American Jobs Act, which continues to face an uphill battle in theRepublican-controlled Congress.
The president has also sent what many consider his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. visited with service members of the 911th Airlift Wing and 171st Refueling Wing in April. Vice President also visited the Moon Township base in May.
Mitt Romney is no stranger to the region either, even though suggest the GOP nominee seems to place little importance on winning votes in Pennsylvania.
Romney in October; the event was closed to the media.
He returned for an April , 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 number one issue for Western Pennsylvania voters, as with many voters 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 280,00 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. And he blames Congress for not doing enough. Congress “hasn’t acted fast enough,” the president told his 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.
Seats in the Pennsylvania House and Senate are also up for grabs, with several key issues for the candidates to consider. Among them:
12th Congressional District: Critz or Rothfus
The new 12th Congressional District saw its first battle in April, when that pitted him against incumbent Rep. Jason Altmire.
Part of the new territory is the former 4th District, which includes Sewickley, where Critz, 50, of Johnstown, Cambria County, will have to face off with local Republican challenger, lawyer Keith Rothfus of , for the chance to represent much of Western Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Population losses in Pennsylvania resulted in a of 18 new districts territories that merged those once represented by Altmire and Critz into one sprawling district in 2013. The district stretches from the Ohio line through Lawrence and Beaver counties, northern Allegheny and Westmoreland counties into Cambria and Somerset counties.
The Critz and Rothfus camps have already begun to trade criticisms, with Critz’s campaign spokesman Mike Mikus recently stating in a press release that, “By rallying with the Tea Party Express, Keith Rothfus confirms that he supports ending Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, costing seniors an additional $6,000 a year in out of pocket-expenses while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires like himself.”
“Obamacare is what ends Medicare as we know it; it guts the program of $500 Billion in funding at the same time the Medicare population is set to increase by 42 percent,” Raso said.
“Keith Rothfus is dedicated to protecting and strengthening Medicare for this and future generations. We must repeal Obamacare to protect Medicare, not protect President Obama as Congressman Critz is doing.”
The Tea Party Express, which supports Rothfus, also fired back calling the statements erroneous attacks by the Critz camp.
Critz won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Rep. John Murtha after working as a top aide to the longtime congressman from Johnstown. According to his campaign website, his priorities have included strengthening the economy by cutting taxes for small businesses and the middle class, standing up for veterans and the military and cutting wasteful government spending.
According to Rothfus's campaign website, Rothfus graduated from Notre Dame Law School 20 years ago and has worked most of his professional life as an attorney in the private sector, with large and small businesses. He serves on the zoning board in Edgeworth, where he resides.
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 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.
" 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.