Monday, January 21, 2008

Rick Taylor and Bob Godshall on Comment Please

This is a running transcript of a program broadcast on Friday 1/18. It is currently available online as a sound file and probably will be until 1/25. To listen go to, select "Comment Please" and then Friday.

As always, while I have made an effort to be accurate, I apologize in advance or any errors or misconceptions.

Comment Please by Univest with host Darryl Berger Friday 1/18
[blogger's note: Once again I am impressed with Mr. Berger's talents as an interviewer / moderator]

State Related Issues

Guests: Rep. Bob Godshall (R-53) and Rep. Rich Taylor (D-151)

DB: The time of year to decide if you are running or not. Rick, you unseated Gene McGill 2 years ago.

RT: Plan to seek reelection. I tell you what. This is a great institution. It still has a black eye in the people’s perception. When you have a chance to change people’s lives, help someone with property tax rebate, enroll a child in CHIP. That’s when you know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

DB: It is hard to get bills passed, but you’ve found some satisfaction

RT: It is a deliberative body, intended to be slow. I came from business world, want to have a plan and go. With four diff caucuses, it can take awhile to get things done.

BG: I put out an announcement just the other day that I want to continue my service to the district. Its something, as Rick said, asked why doing it again. It’s 7 days a week and it’s basically around the clock. But is just the fact that there’s people that have no place else to go, it’s the last resort.

DB: Satisfaction is helping people not frustration of legislative process

BG: Woman came in and said if it weren’t for you guys it would be all over for her and her husband. It’s what makes those 7 days a week jobs worthwhile. Pay is about the same as our schoolteachers make. My daughter is a schoolteacher, not degrading them. It is rewarding work.

DB: Reached an age when some people retire.

BG: Thought about it. Health is really good. More than anything else thinking about going hunting and playing golf but really enjoy helping people.

DB: What term will this be?

BG: I’m seeking my 14th term

DB: What is Harrisburg today vs 25 years ago?

BG: It has totally changed. Can’t change what’s ingrained in the system. Much more partisanship. Didn’t have it in the past, one reason for thinking about retiting. But work in district is what made decision for him. About at the end, but hopefully enjoy another 2 years.

DB: Partisanship due to issues or evenly split parties in house?

BG: When I started, Ds in majority and we just didn’t have, it was a pretty tight difference between the numbers of D and R. I used to work with D area leader on school boards. Now more throat cutting than anything else.

RT: That’s a funny thing. BG and I talking about that just yesterday. It is always the atmosphere of “gotcha” politics. I look at and I can see why people get cynical about this. From my perspective I can say I get along with both sides of the aisle. I believe almost everyone there for the right reasons. Most people get past personalities of individuals. You want to win so badly that you want to trip someone up to get in majority. That is part of gridlock and partisanship. It is supposed to be a deliberative body but not partisanship. Very organized and gotcha stuff.

BG: in the 90s I had a fairly tough race and was chair of tourism committee. Four D legislators from the committee came and worked on his polls. That was the kind of camaraderie that was out there.

DB: resolution that passed unanimously, pulling back our dependence on property taxes based on a constitutional amendment. Majority in both chambers want less dependence on property tax

RT: The amendment that came out yesterday was to abolish property tax on homesteads, not businesses, etc. Voted upon, needs to be approved by senate. Must pass again next year then out to people for a vote. My citizens, from a well to do district, a lot of people getting killed on it, but some aren’t. I have a group that has a bigger magnitude. The state provides only 10-15% of school costs per year. Those on social security getting creamed. Met a widow in Ardsley said she couldn’t afford to pay property taxes. My district contains part of 5 school districts. All considered affluent districts. Has a zip code with median income is $125K. A lot of other folks living close to the edge getting killed by taxes. Great schools that don’t scrimp on amenities. Needless to say, it’s a hard thing to do, especially find a solution for the whole state.

BG: With this amendment, what is really does is it allows for 100% property tax rebate on homes and farmsteads. Not a repeal. Now state constitution says all taxes must be equal, so can’t give some rebates. If the senate passes and we do the same next year, then to voters. Different from a plan like Act 1.

DB: Act 1 passed but rejected by individual school districts. Statewide referendum rejected.

BG: Real problem comes in. We have such a diverse state. Our part of the state gets very little coming in from formula, based on wealth, value of homes, and so forth. When we send our money to Harrisburg we only get about 30% back.

DB: agree that doing away with prop tax a good idea?

RT: don’t expand sales tax, creating a 13B whole in budget. Property taxes a dependable source of revenue. Sales tax more dependent on economy. If economy goes down, can you pay for schools?

BG: Up in Michigan they tried that and 2 years later threw legislature out that put it in. $15B item, just under 15B, sales tax now brings in 8-9B at most. If leave sales tax as is on items, we’d have to double it. Can’t handle it, would destroy the state. Would have to tax textbooks, drugstore items. We know already it won’t bring it in.

DB: What can we do?

RT: Rep. Levdansky, HB 1600, to raise the sales tax .5% (6 to 6.5%), upping personal income tax from 3.07 to 3.29%. That would take us, including gaming revenue, up to 50% allowed in constitution. How will that affect our districts. Skeptical that money going to Harrisburg will come back.

BG: Okay with Levdansky’s plan, but based on school funding formula only get 20 to 30% of monies back. It is bad for this part of the state but works for everyone else. The only way to get equity is like Act 1, pay income tax but money stays in district. Act 1 misunderstood. Only thing we can do equitably in our district is a one on one deal.

RT: We’re on the same page, working for our constituents.

DB: health care. Governor’s plan.

RT: I support governor’s plan. He wants to insure everyone but not a universal single payer health plan. Plan to get everyone insured but not everyone will get insured. Universal access to affordable health care. Drive down cost of health care, get those in underserved areas, let nurses practice to full extent of training. Monitor and reduce risk of hospital acquired infections. Managing chronic care. Plan basically calls for health care to be paid for in a number of different ways. First, increase tobacco tax, recently increased it for MCARE abatement. Start taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco. We are the only state in the union that doesn’t tax cigars or smokeless. This is a way to say smokeless tobacco is a cost on society and use tax for health care, the right thing to do. Health care provider retention program. Right now about half a billion surplus, in MCARE, successful in reducing medmal suits. Gov proposes taking half of surplus to invest in this plan.

BG: Last I heard he was taxing businesses at the rate of 3%, all businesses in PA paying 3% to PA. If you offered health insurance you would get the money back at some point. The rest of the money would be used to provide a government run program to provide health insurance. Sin tax stuff for tobacco is only a small amount money coming in there. Can’t begin to run this thing on that money.

DB: Business that offer health care would get 3% back, others pay

RT: Actually opposed that, didn’t want to kill our small businesses. Sending that money in and waiting for it to come back could be the difference in staying in business or going out of business. Governor heard that this was a nonstarter, and that’s where the surplus thing came in.

BG: I have no idea. I only know the sin tax on tobacco is not going to cover what is estimated a 1.4B to cover costs of health care. Monies just aren’t there. Taking money out of MCARE fund is important. Haven’t solved medmal problem. Still can’t get specialists here, endocrinologists or neurosurgeons – fewer than we used to have. Not in the cards.

RT: Orthopedic association has gotten behind Gov. Rendell’s plan. Medmal suits declined every year. Common sense reform.

BG: That was courtesy of my legislation, stopping venue shopping

RT: From 2000 to 2006 median wage only gone up 6%, inflation 17%, premiums over 70%. Someone’s going to go to the ER we as taxpayers pay over $400. Go to doctor’s office for about $50. We are paying for it one way or another. If we can get these people on insurance we will save money. Hospital acquired infections also cost money, longer hospital stays.

DB: Universal health care something D party in general thinks it is the direction we should move.

RT: On board for universal access to health care. Single payer not affordable for a state right now, must be federal. Not just poor. 70% of people with no health care are working. Employers who don’t offer health care are shifting that cost onto the state.

BG: A lot of those people are transitional, moving from one job to another, maybe no insurance for 6 months. We don’t need or want a system where it takes 4 or 5 months to get chemo. If you need a hip replacement you can’t get an appointment with a specialist for months. We need affordable health care. Working with businesses to get basic insurance policy, costs about $300 a month. You can’t make people buy something if they don’t want to do it. Massachusetts doing that right now. When we had the CHIP problem we paid people to sign up and still couldn’t get them to do it.

DB: some people don’t want to sign up, think they are in good health.

RT: That’s true. A lot 20 year old men think they are indestructible. Those are the people you really want to expand the pool of risk. We need to do a better job of getting them involved.

DB: Update on situation on Willow Grove Naval Air Station and BRAC.

RT: This is a huge issue in the district, quality of life and property values. I don’t think there’s very many people who can’t point to a family member or friend who has worked there. In 2011 give to Navy to create Joint Naval Installation. Just had some guys back from Iraq that flew into there. Have an 8000 ft runway. To close that down in time of crisis would be a shame, a crime. Let me quickly add. People concerned about commercial flights coming in. Governmental flights to protect us are one thing UPS landing jets all hours of the night is something else. That is not what we were anticipating. Right now we have to figure out how that piece of property can be most effectively used. PA Air National Guard not going anywhere. Looking at other governmental agencies, national defense, homeland security, emergency preparedness. Maybe some nongovernmental agencies in those areas. I think it will be very vibrant in the coming years. 2011 is the key date.

DB: didn’t solve energy problem.

BG: would love to come back and talk about that.

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