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Education, creation of jobs, reform are top issues in races



Published: Sat, October 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



A longtime legislator is up against a newcomer in the 50th Senate seat race.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU

When Rod Wilt unexpectedly pulled out of the race for the 17th legislative district last June, that left the field wide open for a newcomer.

Frank Weaver of Volant already had secured the Democratic Party's nomination in the spring, but Republicans launched a search and eventually chose Mercer County Commissioner Michele Brooks.

Now Brooks and Weaver are vying for one of the few seats in the state House of Representatives without an incumbent running.

Both candidates count economic development and property tax reform as major issues in the race.

Weaver said he would do away with local school taxes and advocates funding education at the state level.

He believes that an ongoing study will tell state officials how much it costs to educate pupils.

"Once we get a baseline, then we can look at where we could get the money. I think we need to change what we need to fund first [at the state level]. I think education needs to be one of our priorities," Weaver said.

Taxes and jobs

Brooks said gambling revenue is not the answer to real tax reform in the state.

"Meaningful tax reform will only take place when the Legislature restructures the entire system and quits overspending," she said.

Both candidates want to encourage more job creation.

Weaver said he believes the state should make sure all Keystone Opportunity Zones are shovel-ready sites before giving out the designation. KOZs offer businesses tax-free property for several years.

Brooks wants to work with local economic development agencies and businesses to create more jobs.

50th District

In the race for the state Senate seat in the 50th District, longtime incumbent Republican Robert Robbins is up against newcomer Art Allen. Robbins is seeking his fifth term in office.

Job creation is a priority for Robbins.

He cites his work to retain funding for economic development in the region such as the Northwest Job Incubators, the establishment of the new Stateline Industrial Park in the Shenango Valley and the new neuroscience program at Thiel College.

Allen also wants a renewed focus on bringing new and high-paying jobs to the region.

But Allen says restoring honesty and integrity to the Legislature is his No. 1 campaign issue.

"Make no mistake; we cannot improve the way things operate in Harrisburg if we keep electing the same individuals to office. We need reform, and one way to accomplish that is by changing state senators," he said.

Robbins says he too wants reform and has supported lobbyist reform, which was struck down by the courts. He wants more open government that includes posting legislative votes on the Internet in a timely fashion.

Allen believes his experience as a business owner would help as a legislator.

"I started my own business. I understand what is takes to create good-paying jobs, meet a payroll and meet a deadline," he added.

cioffi@vindy.com




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