Plum-Oakmont Patch: 2012 Election Guide
The candidates and issues most important to Plum-Oakmont voters in 2012.
As we look ahead to November’s elections, Plum-Oakmont Patch is devoted to bringing 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 current polls 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 several trips to Western Pennsylvania 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 recent visit in October of 2011, the president lobbied for his $447 billion dollar American Jobs Act, which continues to face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Congress.
The president has also sent what many consider his most potent weapon, his wife, to shore up support in the Pittsburgh area. First Lady Michelle Obama visited with service member of the 911th Airlift Wing and 171st Refuelding Wing in April. Vice President Joe Biden also visited the Moon Township base in May.
Romney visited Pittsburgh for a fundraiser in October; the event was closed to the media.
He returned for an April campaign stop in Bethel Park, 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:
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 Property Tax Independence Act 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. "House Bill 11 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.
Plum, Oakmont & Verona
Economic development, transportation and education funding are hot topics for the candidates of Plum, Oakmont and Verona.
In the fall, our area has several contested races—some of them even rematches from two years ago. Here's a look at two of them.
25th Legislative District—Plum Councilman Mike Doyle, a Republican, will face off with Democratic state Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville once more during the general election in November. This will be Doyle's second time running against Markosek, a 30-year incumbent. In 2010, he lost the general election by 1,600 votes. The district covers Plum Borough.
33rd Legislative District—Incumbent Frank Dermody, a Democrat from Oakmont, and Republican Gerry Vaerewyck of West Deer will go head to head once more in November. Both ran for the position two years ago. The district covers Oakmont and Plum boroughs.
PA 12th Congressional District—After a bruising and expensive primary battle against fellow Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire, incumbent Rep. Mark Critz faces Republican Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth to represent Plum in the new 12th congressional district. The redrawn map of Pennsylvania's 18 new congressional districts forced the primary battle by merging Altmire’s 4th district into one legislative district, the new 12th district, currently represented by Critz. Altmire has since endorsed his former opponent.