MERCER Rainy-day fund was good move, GOP nominee says

This fall's gubernatorial race has two female candidates for lieutenant governor for the first time.
MERCER, Pa. -- Sen. Jane Earll said there was nothing wrong with the state's Republican administration's tapping Pennsylvania's $1.2 billion rainy-day fund to balance the 2002-03 budget.
After all, that's what the fund was created for, said Earll, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in the fall's general election.
Earll, from Erie, is in her second term as a senator in the 49th District and made a campaign stop Friday at the Mercer County Courthouse.
She's not a stranger here. She served one year as a law clerk for Mercer County President Judge Francis J. Fornelli in 1985.
The Republican administration of former Gov. Tom Ridge created the surplus in the fund and was criticized at the time for bankrolling money rather than giving it back to taxpayers, she said.
Today, the wisdom of that move is evident as Pennsylvania, like every other state, experiences an economic downturn. The state faced a $1.2 billion deficit in forming the new budget but, rather than raising taxes, Pennsylvania had the rainy-day fund to fall back on, she said.
"It worked exactly the way it's supposed to," she said, adding that the fund hasn't been drained but retains about $300 million.
Here's a first
This year's gubernatorial election is creating some state history. Both the lieutenant governor candidates are women -- the first time that's happened since the office was created in 1875.
Catherine Baker Knoll is the Democratic candidate for that post, running with Ed Rendell of Philadelphia.
Earll is teamed with Mike Fisher, the state's attorney general, on the Republican ticket.
It's time for women to take advantage of an opportunity to get a seat at the table of power in Pennsylvania, Earll said, noting that's one reason she chose to join Fisher in the race.
She's not in it for her own political future, she said, adding that she was comfortable in the state Legislature.
Both she and Fisher are familiar with state government operations and there is a need to continue building on things the Republican administration has accomplished since 1994, she said.
Major concerns
Earll said property tax reform and education are major concerns of people she's meeting on the campaign trail. She predicted there will be a special legislative session before the election to deal with the tax issue.
Earll said the state needs to channel more money into infrastructure improvements in Keystone Opportunity Zones created by the Ridge administration to help draw new industry to Pennsylvania.
Some of the zones, which offer abatement of all state and local taxes for 11 years, have had good success, but others sit empty because there is no money to put into sewer and road improvements that developers require, she said.

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