Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gubernatorial Debate, 10/04/06, Rendell / Swan

I was able to watch PCN's reply of the debate between incumbent Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell (ER) and Republican challenger Lynn Swann (LS). Here are my notes, and I extend my apologies in advance for any errors or misinterpretations. It is difficult to interpret the remarks the candidates made about themselves and each other in their answers so, as awkward as it looks and sounds, it was clearer to refer to each by his initials, whether he was speaking of himself or his opponent.

Gubernatorial Debate, Point Park University, Pittsburgh

Sponsors: KDKA and The Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Moderator: Ken Rice of KDKA

Opening Statements

ER: Take a moment to remember families in Lancaster County who lost children this week. PA #1 business location in the nation for new jobs. One of only 7 states in the nation to be making good progress in reading and math. National leader in creating cleaner more efficient renewable energy. #1 senior drug plan in the nation. All this while cutting $1 billion in waste from the state government.

LS: Pennsylvanians sense things not right, working long hours, less money, less time with family. Property tax reform, equitable education across the board, safety, believes in reform and results. In sports, game plan and competing, need to see results. Need to change governor to change PA. Rendell believes in rhetoric and Rendell. Have you received a 30% reduction in property taxes?

Q1: Profoundly sad week, with horror at Amish schoolhouse. Was it the act of an unstoppable madman, or is there anything we can do to prevent these things?

LS: This appears to be the random act of someone who was unstoppable. How do you stop random acts of violence?

ER: Agree but we have to do more to stop gun violence in PA. More police on the streets. Secondly, stronger law enforcement. Send gun felons to federal court. Mandatory sentences for any drug dealer who uses a gun. Straw buyers – need laws that won’t affect hunters or lawful gun owners.

LS: Incident in Lancaster different from crime package ER has presented. If crime has been such an issue then why is it only now brought up.

ER: Lists achievements in this area (most in his prior answer).

Q2: What is the best way to deal with pay raises and legislative, executive, and judicial pay.

ER: Mistake to sign pay raise. In Philly when council wanted a raise there was a citizens commission to research issue.

LS: ER on all sides of pay raise. Only against it when people upset. ER blamed the legislature. Now judicial branch determining their own pay raise. Where was ER’s experience in law enforcement on this issue?

ER: Before ER signed raise he said he wouldn’t take the raise. LS supported legislators who supported the pay raise.

LS: ER supported legislatures who supported pay raise also. ER negotiated it and signed it. [follow up – what is your plan] Several plans.

Q3: Pittsburgh light rail plans to expand under the Allegheny River. Promised subisidies from DC. Is there a roll for the state in stabilizing mass transit.

LS: Should be a form of dedicated funding for mass transit. Current administration has not sat down at the table to resolve this issue. Not sure tunnel under river a good idea.

ER: Tunnel may not be a good idea but can’t be changed at this time. In Philly ER found some short-time solutions until longer term solution can be found. There used to be federal subsidy.

LS: ER talked about flexing funds, but took monies from highways to mass transit. Our highways and bridges rated a D. Took money for mass transit, not a solution.

ER: Gives statistics funds and projects for highways and bridges. Republicans in legislature blocked dedicated funding for mass transit.

Q4: Both spoken on taxes. ER promised a 30% reduction in property taxes. How can you deliver?

ER: No governor in last 50 years reduced property taxes. This year legislation passed to lower taxes. Couldn’t get legislature to do more. Maybe tax shifting next year.

LS: Dollars being thrown at senior citizens but not reforming property tax. Not real reform. Only reduction for 1 out of 6 citizens. ER complains it is always legislature at fault.

ER: People don’t elect you as king, must work with legislature. LS’s plan would take a constitutional amendment, so at least 4 years away. Based on surpluses. If no surplus, taxes go up. Based on California plan.

LS: ER wrong. LS’s plan reforms entire system. Throws out assessment system.

[follow up to ER, was promise a mistake?]
ER: No, plan ER initially proposed would have met promised reduction.

LS: In LS's plan there is a reduction, and capping it. ER made a mistake, made a promise and didn’t deliver.

Q5: Swann plan calls for disposal of conflict of interest, yet have disclosed only one year of tax returns. Would you pledge to disclose any relevant conflict of interest?

LS: Yes, there should be transparency in conflicts of interest when passing legislation. Refers to ER’s work as Eagles commentator for Comcast while state monies going to Comcast. Says LS disclosed tax return.

ER: Donated whole Comcast salary to charity. IRS says can’t, so donated all after tax earnings to charity. Money to Comcast will go to create new jobs.

LS: ER got tax write off for charitable donation. Appearance of conflict.

ER: We didn’t try to hide anything. Anyone could see ER on tv, ER acknowledged money and donations.

Q6: Banning smoking in public places in Allegheny County. Is this good?

ER: Sympathy for smokers but health benefits outweigh it. Supports a statewide law against smoking in public places.

LS: Ban in workplaces other than restaurants and bars.

[follow up] Can we raise enough money from gambling if people can’t smoke in casinos?

ER: Health issues more important.

LS: If people want to smoke in bars and restaurants and rules posted allowing it that is okay. People can chose to go in or not.

Q7: Young people need a quality education. PA public colleges and university charge more than other states.

LS: Correct, PA tuition higher. Need greater fiscal responsibility. Save money in other areas and spend more on education. Investigate how to reduce college costs.

ER: Intervened personally to lower tuition increases at public schools. Increased grant money for students. Average grant over $3000.

LS: Taking all colleges in PA into account, costs still too high. Need to ensure quality and affordable education.

ER: Increased community college funding. Community colleges very important.

Q8: Forbes says PA one of the 10 worst states for business.

ER: Forbes study based on Greener Report based on 2002 and 2003 statistics. Ignores recent developments. Tax Foundation found PA 15th. Site Selection Magazine found PA 16th. Our CNI (corporate net income tax) is 9.9%, high, but 73% of corporations paid not one dollar of corporate taxes. Could lower Corporate Net Income Tax if all companies paid it.

LS: Plan to roll back corporate net income tax. PA currently not competitive. ER talks about job growth but we don’t see it. One of our greatest exports is college students. ER raised income tax.

ER: LS plan will cost $2.5 billion. LS's plan doesn’t add up.

LS: ER wrong. Commonwealth Foundation looked at plan and said addition 6.6% increase in job growth (?).

Q9: Government experience. What in LS’s background should give confidence that you can run a state?

LS: Citizen politicians are not new to US. Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney, Bill Bradley, all started as governor or senator. Career politicians have heavy baggage.

ER: A celebrity has every right to run for office. Judge on plans. LS’s property tax plan and other plans are disasters.

LS: LS's plans are in his book. Plans are sound.

ER: Bottom line is none of LS's plans make any sense. [LS interrupts. ER chides him. Gets a chuckle from audience.]

Q10: What would you do to curb youth crime?

ER: Short answers – more police. Long answer – get to root causes. As a DA read case files. No honor student or kid with a job committed a crime.

LS: Talked with groups in Philly about crime. Jobs, education and dignity important in reducing crime. Students not thriving in school. Only 50% of 9th graders in Philly graduate. ER has rhetoric not results.

ER: If you haven’t seen the results you haven’t been reading them. PSSA’s doing well. PA only one of 7 states with good increases in reading and math. Achievement gap between minority and majority students decreased 9%. [follow up why increase in youth crime in Allegheny Co] Can’t explain it, go back to root causes.

LS: PA improved compared to where PA was or against other states. Quotes statistics on differences in African American students passing AP exams as opposed to other students.

Q11: Gambling. Should we match neighboring states by approving table games?

LS: Should have limited gambling to existing race tracks. Gaming commission (should be called gambling commission) should be shut down until problems fixed. [Refers to bill, I missed the details.]

ER: Against any expansion of gaming. Vetoed bill because it would allow legislators and their families to own casinos.

LS: ER did not sign reform package. [ER makes sound; LS gives him look, audience laughs]

ER: That reform bill allowed legislator’s family to own stake in casino.

Q12: State pensions and health plans going up. Is it a big fiscal time bomb?

ER: Yes, a future time bomb. Legislature sent Ridge a bill to increase pensions for teachers and legislators. Need to increase time of payment. School districts at risk.

LS: Agree 100%. Something should have already been done. Incumbent upon leadership to make some hard decisions. Governor should attack the issue today.

[follow up: problems for school districts]
ER: Will have to look at refinancing over a longer period of years. If we do it directly can avoid tax increase.

LS: Schools may have to increase taxes to cover costs. System is broken.

Q13: College Board said in 2002 PA finished lower in SAT scores than neighboring states. How to fix?

LS: Approach schools that are underperforming. Bring in educational programs proven to work.

ER: Statistic skewed. Over 70% of our high school students take the test, in most states it is 40% -- only college bound. Spend money to put laptops on desks in schools. Need best tools to do great job.

LS: What good is a laptop if you can’t read.

ER: PA one of 7 states doing well in reading.

Closing Statements:

ER: Over 20 years experience in public service. Experience with making people’s lives better. We’ve moved this state forward but more to be done. Find innovative ways to cut health care costs. Increase educational opportunities. Make higher education affordable. Reduce costs for doing business in PA. Make state a leader in biomedical and alternative energy research. It has been an honor to serve as your governor. Excited about future possibilities.

LS: Is it another 3 or 4 years of rhetoric. Numbers sound nice but there are kids not getting an education. Need to keep doctors in the state. Ten critical care hospitals shut down in PA [did not catch time frame for this]. Need tort reform. Average family paying $27 more in taxes. Need fiscally responsible leadership. Government shouldn’t be this complicated. With all this government’s experience there are still problems.


phillydem said...

I guess PCN felt covering the capitol building centennial gala, or whatever it was, live was more important than covering the governor's debate. Not even WHYY or WLVT or CN8 bothered to interrupt their regular shows to carry it live. Doesn't that speak volumes about this race?

AboveAvgJane said...

I thought PCN was scheduled to carry it live! They repeated it at 9 and 10 p.m. I caught one of those. The notes are so rough because I was typing as they were talking. Rendell is right about one thing -- having a laptop is great!

phillydem said...

Nope, they were at the capitol when I tuned in at 8 and still going strong.

AboveAvgJane said...

Ooooh, not good. They did replay it at 9 and again at 10. Then the capitol thing came on again. Still, I am glad they did have it on. Its the only way many of us get to see these things.

phillydem said...

Well, maybe KDKA had some kind of exclusive broadcast arrangement because I just can't believe PCN would not have covered the debate live otherwise.

But whatever, Swann apparently proved you can't beat something with nothing.

BTW, isn't Ken Rice kind of a dead ringer for Al Morganti?