Keystone Politics asked all of the major Democratic candidates for Governor to respond to 10 issue questions from us. We will be posting two completed questionnaires each week in the order that we received them back. Here are John Hanger’s responses in bold.
1. Under Tom Corbett, the state’s share of education funding has dropped from 44 percent to 32 percent – well below the national average of 48 percent. What do you think is the right ratio of state-to-local funding? Could you support HB-76/SB-76 – the bipartisan bills that would make state government responsible for 100% of education funding?
The ratio should be at least 50% from the state, and 50% from local funding. I could support tax reform that would make education 100% by the state, including HB 76/SB76.
2. Tom Corbett and the Republicans immediately abandoned Ed Rendell’s hard-won education funding formula, which increased state money for districts who serve larger populations of economically-disadvantaged students. The effect was to take much more money from poorer school districts than from wealthier ones. What is your view of the Rendell formula, and would you pledge to use it again?
I support Gov. Rendell’s education funding formula and would use it again.
3. Congress opted not to create a federal public insurance option in the Affordable Care Act, but they gave state governments lots of flexibility to do basically anything that will reduce costs more than the ACA envisions. Which state-level cost control ideas do you support? Should PA follow Vermont’s lead and adopt a single-payer insurance system? Should we copy Maryland’s successful all-payer rate setting policy? Do you support HB 1526, Bob Freeman’s public insurance option bill that allows individuals and businesses to buy into the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF)?
I support single-payer insurance and Vermont’s plan. I do support Maryland’s all-payer rate setting policy, as well as HB 1526.
4. About 78% of Pennsylvania’s GDP comes from the top 5 largest metro areas (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg and Scranton), and more than half comes from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh alone. How can state government help our large metro economies grow and create even more jobs?
I have proposed a jobs plan that would create 382,750 jobs. The plan creates jobs in trasportation, healthcare, energy, education and the environment. Green jobs in solar and energy efficiency are huge opportunities.
5. PA has one of the top 10 most regressive state tax codes in the nation. Will you support an amendment to the state Constitution to allow a progressive rate structure for the income tax?
I would support such an amendment. Between the sales tax and the property tax, Pennsylvanians earning less than $50,000 per year are paying a higher percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes than those in the top 1% of income.
6. SEPTA, PAT, and other transit agencies are seeing record high ridership, but they still face large funding shortfalls, because such a large share of their funding comes from federal and state transfers. The geography of politicalpower in Harrisburg and Washington does not inspire much hope that our transit networks will ever be generously funded, let alone expanded. If these actors won’t step up, do you think it’s time to give county governments more autonomy to fund transit? Which of the following local revenue options would you be willing to consider: value capture? road fares? regional sales taxes? regional income taxes?
I do support local revenue-raising options, including road fares, sales taxes and income taxes.
7. Ed Rendell established a Fix-It-First policy for infrastructure spending that was recently embraced by President Obama in this year’s State of the Union address. Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission reversed course and brought back to life a lot of undead capacity expansion ideas, even though vehicle miles traveled have been declining. Where do you stand on the Fix-It-First policy?
I have for years advocated for a Fix-It-First policy. I strongly support it.
8. The Detroit bankruptcy has prompted some soul-searching about PA’s own municipal finance problems. With about 41% of PA residents living in a distressed municipality, it seems clear that the state municipal finance policies aren’t working. Organizations like the Team PA Foundation and the PA Economy League have argued that one key reason for the widespread distress is too much fragmentation in local government. PA’s 4,562 municipal tax bases and 501 school district tax bases are too small, and leave local governments too vulnerable to small changes in migration. What would you do to help reduce fragmentation?
I support providing incentives for functional consolidation and community consolidation. Consolidtion must be encouraged by state policies on grants, incentives, and permits.
9. PA’s Municipal Planning Code makes Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recommendations advisory-only, and does not require our 4,562 municipalities to develop their land use plans in accordance with the broader region. Critics say rendering MPOs toothless encourages municipalities to discount the negative economic and environmental impacts of their land use and development choices on their neighbors. Do you support changing the Municipal Planning Code to give MPOs’ regional plans the force of law? What else can state government do to lean against environmentally destructive land use and development patterns?
I do support providing incentives – positive and negative – to allow MPO recommendations. Access to state funds can be conditioned on following MPO recommendations. These funds can include transportation, water and sewer, and economic development.
10. The PA Democratic Party platform officially supports a severance tax on natural gas drilling. If PA had a severance tax rate as high as West Virginia’s, we could raise between $800M-1B for the general fund – over four times as much as the Republicans’ “local impact fee” generates. Will you support a statewide severance tax?
I do support the West Virginia severance tax. This is vital and must be a top priority!