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Five questions with Senator Jubelirer and challenger Stacey Brumbaugh

In our continuing series to bring Daily Herald readers closer to the candidates who want to represent them, ‘Five Questions’ returns. This week, we posed the same five questions to the candidates for the 30th State Senatorial Seat, Robert Jubelirer (R) and Stacey Brumbaugh (D).
What can the people of the 30th District expect from you?
Senator Robert Jubelirer: “A continuation and hopefully taking it to another level of what they have been accustomed to for the last nearly 28 years,” said Jubelirer. “I guess I have said to various groups, if my mother and father, who are both deceased, if they could come back and see their hometown and their home county and this whole region, they would not know where they were. Working together as a team and I certainly don’t mean to claim all the credit by any means, because I have had a lot of cooperation working with some wonderful partners particularly over the years with Bud Shuster and now with Bill Shuster and with a lot of good House members and so forth, we have really changed a lot of things.
“One of the very first things that I had the priveledge of participating in as a very new State Senator in the 1970’s was the ribbon cutting of the Tyrone By-pass. That truly was a road to nowhere at the time. It was the only four-lane highway in the county and we had dreams that someday we might be able to have a four-lane highway the all the way through. Obviously those dreams have come true. We have a highway network that is the envy of many of my collegues across the State. It didn’t come easy, but working as a team, particularly with Bud Shuster, I was able to garner the state share as he produced the federal requirement time after time. That cooperation has led to a revived economy. I recognize that things are down right now, but highways bring jobs. We have seen a lot of wonderful things occur because of the highways. From Bedford to Bald Eagle and hopefully soon to the Mount Nittany Expressway, lives have been saved and that has been key to changing the world around here.
“It was a great honor for me to have the business park in Northern Blair County named after me. That was a great shock but a great honor by the ABCD (Altoona-Blair County Development) Corporation.
“Certainly, my committment is as passionate and as intense as it has always been and it comes with a seasoning of experience that very few people can call upon. In the next session, I will have number one in seniority in my caucus and number three in the Senate. Obviously I occupy a very high position as president pro-tempore of the Senate, my term as lieutenant governor which occured because of 9/11 and the resignation of Tom Ridge will end in January. The office that I run for is the one is the one that I have always embraced and that is State Senator and my collegues have honored me with the additional responsibilities as president pro tempore of the Senate.
“I think that people can expect a continued unrelenting advocacy for them. When I got to Harrisburg, there were an awful lot of people who didn’t know where Blair County or the 30th Senatorial District was. They thought there was a hole in the ground I guess between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. They all know where it is now. With our efforts with the Blair County Ballpark, the Altoona Curve, the Convention Center, the Sheetz Distribution Center and we continue to work with the ABCD Corporation on major projects including the Westvaco project in Northern Blair County and Tyrone. We just got finished with the bridge and highway improvements in Bellwood. I think I have been pretty active. As president pro tempore, I sit at the Budget table, I look out for this area and people know where we are. When I sit down with the folks from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, they know that I am a strong advocate for this region. There is not a day that goes by that I am not fighting for something that makes this area better.”
Stacey Brumbaugh: “They can expect leadership, hard work and tenacity,” said the Democratic challenger. “They can expect me to be a Senator for our future. Someone who is here in the District everyday that I don’t have to be in Harrisburg, which is only three days a week maximum. Listening to the folks of the 30th District and bringing back from Harrisburg what we need.”
Property taxes are the hot topic of debate in Harrisburg. What is your plan to keep residents from being taxed out of their homes without affecting the quality of education?
Stacey Brumbaugh: “I think it is very important for the plan to be on the table,” said Brumbaugh. “There are ways for people to be taxed without affecting education and without necessarily going to the earned income tax. For instance, I have plans to create jobs here to increase revenue, which is an important way to lower property taxes. I also believe that a teacher should be able to retire after 25 years. If not 25, then certainly the 30 and out plan. Which would mean that two teachers could be hired for one teacher and I think that will also lower property taxes.
“I do not believe in ACT 50. ACT 50 has been a dismal failure. My opponent calls himself the ‘architect of ACT 50,’ but ACT 50 is a tax shifting, not a tax reducing plan. I know my opponent says every school district should be required to use ACT 50, but given the option, only three of 501 school districts even attempted to adopt it because it is not workable. It doesn’t do anything to reduce taxes. What I will do is work with the other members of the Senate and the House to come up with a viable plan to really reduce or even eliminate property taxes. For far too long, lifelong residents have had to sell their homes and they lived and worked here and they don’t deserve that.”
Senator Robert Jubelirer: The quality of the education system is very important and property taxes are truly a hot issue,” said the Senator. “It has been an issue that I have heard and been involved with from the day that I entered the State Senate. Three governors have tried to make a difference. Governor Thornburg, Governor Casey and his failed plan of 1989 where the voters turned downa referendum on the Casey plan by a 3-1 margin and Governor Ridge. Now in the Schweiker Administration, in a lame duck session, it is on the table again.
“I must tell you, that I don’t believe that it was wise to try to do this in a special session prior to an election. You don’t get good legislation. You get a lot of political posturing. You get a lot of promises that can’t be kept when you have this kind of a session prior to an election. People are more interested in getting elected or re-elected than they are coming up with a solution. Any solution that we come up with has the potential for not just alieviating property taxes but increasing other taxes. Obviously school districts need to be funded. The property taxes for school districts amount to almost $7.5 billion. That is a lot of money. Rendell wants to replace it with gambling. Then they talk about cutting five percent across the board of the State budget. If you are cutting five percent, you are cutting corrections, education, vocational and special education, MHMR workers and the list goes on. That is no solution of any kind.
“What our plan is and the one that I have always believed in and I was one of the authors of ACT 50, and critics will say that ACT 50 didn’t work. The reason ACT 50 didn’t work as well as it should have because we didn’t mandate it. If school boards were required to place on the ballot the referendum on how to shift taxes, I believe that ACT 50 would have worked. School Boards didn’t want to do that because there was a back end referendum which controled spending. The reason the Casey tax plan failed was because taxpayers knew after four years of the Casey tax plan and the exchange dollar for dollar, school boards could raise property taxes again. You have an increased income tax and an increased property tax and that is why they were smart enough to reject it. What our plan does and there are some twists to ACT 50 but I am not going to support any plan that doesn’t control spending. I think taxpayers need to be full partners with the school boards in the sense of let the taxpayers decide. What happens in Blair County or in the Tyrone School District or the Allentown School District or in the Pittsburgh School Districts. They are all different. We could allow those districts to decide how they want to be taxed. We have suggested if the taxpayers want to increase the Earned Income Tax, that they should have the opportunity to increase that, in return for which property taxes will be lowered dollar for dollar. If school districts wanted to increase taxes, they couldn’t do it any more than the average weekly wage, other than that they had to get taxpayer approval. That way you control spending. I still believe that is the only thing that is ever going to pass the general assembly. There are those who want to raise your income tax through the roof. There are those who want gambling from slots at the race tracks to video poker to casino gambling. None of which brings in enough money. There are those posturing saying that we’re going to change things as soon as the new governor comes in. If it could have been changed, it would have been changed. It is very controversial and very complex. I still believe that the only way that we are going to deal with the high rising property taxes is to control spending. There is one school district in Blair County that hasn’t raised taxes in 17 years. They must be doing something to control spending. The taxpayer could opt into it or if they didn’t choose to, they wouldn’t have to. I trust the taxpayers. I believe that the taxpayers should have a say in how they are taxed. If they want to trade property taxes for an earned income tax, we would do it.
What is the most important issue facing the voters of the 30th District? What will you do to improve the situation?
Senator Robert Jubelirer: Jobs is clearly our number one priority. It always has been and always will be,” said the senator. “I’m talking about good family sustaining jobs. That is something that again my staff and I work on on a daily basis. We are constantly working with people like Marty Morasco here in Blair County with the ABCD Corporation. I used to say that we were going to get Marty his own office here at my office because he is in here all the time. I would say the same about Betty Slaton in Bedford County and some of the other economic development groups. We are always working with them and the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Governor’s Action Team and the Governor’s office to either retain or bring jobs in.
“Probably the best example of how things got done is the Sheetz Distribution Center in Claysburg. There are 275 really good paying jobs. They were headed to West Virginia. It literally blew my mind that a Sheetz Distribution Center would not be in Blair County. That it would be in West Virginia. We literally dropped everything. I worked with Governor Ridge personally and with DCED to put together a package that would be attractive enough, working with Marty Morasco and the piece of ground that he was able to acquire in Southern Blair County to keep Sheetz, a homegrown institution in Blair County and it wasn’t easy. We got it done, and certainly acknowledged that without my efforts they probably would have been in Martinsburg, West Virginia. So I don’t need to tout myself, they do it for me. When I am introduced at any groundbreaking, Jay Strawmyer always introduces me as Mr. Economic Development, they guy without whom we wouldn’t be here today. It’s not just me. We have a good team in place. I have the experience and knowledge and staff, and let me tell you that the staff is key. They understand how to get things done. I don’t have to be directing them all the time. They are self starters and they understand my district. I know the people of this district. I know what it takes to get things done in this district. As long as I have been in Harrisburg, jobs has and will continue to be our number one priority. Obviously as I indicated before, highways are the lynch pin of making that happen. I-99 is the best effort to attract business and industry to the area.
“We are trying very hard to turn that whole Westvaco situation around,” the Senator added. “Westvaco was an anchor for Blair County. It was a devestating blow to lose them. Sometimes, you get an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons and that is what we are all about.”
Stacey Brumbaugh: Job creation is the most important,” said Brumbaugh. “Our young people are leaving in droves. I’ve said goodbye to too many friends because they can’t find gainful employment in their fields here. Some of the ways I would help to create jobs here in district with employers. We can help by not only including tax incentives, but also incentives to businesses on main streets to rejuvinate our main streets and I would work with them on that. Work with bringing in more tourism. If we don’t bring in tourism and we don’t build up what we have in our natural resources, and we have great resources here both natural and human. We will die. We have had some of the highest unemployment in the State for years under my opponents watch. Huntingdon is still 64 out of 67 counties, Hollidaysburg lost Norfolk Southern, the car shops, Butterick, Ames, it looks like we might lose Boyer Candies and Huntingdon lost Ames, Burg is cutting back from my understanding and also H.E.Y is cutting back. In the Spring, they (Huntingdon County) were at 14.2 percent unemployment, I thing they are at 9.2 percent now but it looks like it is going to go back up. Even in Blair County, which has lower unemployment than most of the counties in the state jumped up to 7.2 this summer with the loss of the car shop. This is a big problem.
“To attract outside business, one thing I think we can work on… one example of a tourist attraction is Bedford Springs. I know people in Bedford are divided about what to do with the Springs, but I think everyone wants it to become lucrative. As far as I know, my opponent is currently involved in a lawsuit because the suit alleges that my opponent told the redevelopment board as well as the county commissioners that if they did business with this local developer (Tate DeWease) that he would get them no state money. My opponent said in one newspaper article that he knew how to cut through red tape quickly, he said in another paper that it took him 18 years to work on Bedford Springs. Why is that? I would submit that he doesn’t want to play ball with this developer. After that happened, he gave a friend of his, from Texas, I believe has a $2 million lien on Bedford Springs, all but the golf course and nothing has been developed. Whether you want the original building or to tear it down, he has stymied any type of progress fiscally in that area and we could be making millions. We would increase by building up an attraction like that, similar to like Nemacolin in Farmington, except we have a better situation, because we have natural springs. What we could do is build it up, and it would create not only jobs, it could be a four seasons resort, bring in revenue for the town, lower that tax base. Unfortunately since 9/11, people are afraid to fly. The attraction to making it like Nemacolin is that people can get here from the northeast. We have the I-270 corridor plus other ways to get here and if they want to fly, just like Nemacolin, we have the Martinsburg Airport. That is just an example of the type of thing I would be promoting as opposed to obstructing and I believe that is very very important. I think it is important to build up our historic districts, our tourist attractions and although some people don’t want to see outsiders coming in, or other businesses, I think it is an economic reality that we build up these natural assets that we have if we want have economic growth and provide jobs.”
With the Baby Boomer generation growing older, how do you see Pennsylvania helping this generation with issues like Prescription Drug Relief without it costing the next generation dearly?
Stacey Brumbaugh: “I believe in a plan and I would hit the ground running in the Senate with this plan,” said Brumbaugh. “It is called the Fair Act plan. I didn’t create it, but I think it is an excellent plan and an excellent way to start my first year. Under the PACE program for seniors right now, if you are a senior and you are single if you make over $14,000 a year, you are not eligible. If you are married, I think it is $17,500, if you make any more than that you are not eligible. In addition, if you make $17,500 if you are married or $14,000 if you are single, if you get a Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) there is a moratorium in existance now that is only lasting until December 31, 2002. After that if you make more with the COLA, basically you worked hard your whole life and you get a Social Security COLA, you are out of it. PACENET expanded PACE to married seniors at $19,500. In adddition to that, PACENET added a $500 deductable that many people can’t reach. That is the situation today.
“What I propose is that we pull everyone who is in the existing plan today. We use that pulling just like Wal-Mart of K-Mart does to have increased purchasing power. The more people you have, the more purchasing power you have. We would negotiate rebates and discounts with the pharmacutical companies who have already indicated that they are willing to give those discounts and rebates because they want the business, especially the generic drug companies. It is estimated what we can do i get aproximately $130 million. What we can do with that $130 million is funnel it back into PACE and in effect raise the income floor so we can cover 80,000 additional people and get rid of that Social Security COLA prohibition that will kick back into effect after Dec. 31, 2002 and also abolish the $500 deductable. My opponent has voted against this plan. It doesn’t take any additional state money or lottery money. And that is just a start.”
Senator Robert Jubelirer: “First of all, Pensylvania had the first prescription drug program in the nation, the PACE program,” the Senator said. “That is a program that other states have copied. We have been acknowledged by many groups and by many states as the leader in prescription drugs for seniors. Every dollar is paid from the lottery fund.
“We obviously need to do better. With the issue being so prominent , the Federal government of course is looking to tie into Medicare and the President has made some proposals in conflict with the Democratic Senate, but I truly believe that there will be a Federal program at some point.
“In the new administration, both candidates for governor have proposed funding through extension of gambling. Mike Fisher is the only one who said he supports slots at the race tracks and it would be dedicated to the lottery fund. If slots at the race track was to pass, it should go absolutely to the lottery fund to provide additional coverage for senior citizens that would be a must. I believe that it is the only way we would do it. At least we have a program in place that deals with and takes care of many of our senior citizens. I truly believe that much of the problem is going to remain on a federal level. We at the States have taken the lead up to this point but there is only so much the States can do with the revenue we have. I think we have done a pretty good job. Again, 100 percent of our lottery fund goes to senior citizen programs. I would suggest that we have about the best we can have for our senior citizens. Can we do better? Of course. And we are going to continue to try that.”
What makes you a better choice than your opponent?
Senator Robert Jubelirer: My opponent has only lived here a short time and that is not necessarily something that says that she isn’t able to serve,” said Jubelirer. “When you put that side by side with the experience I’ve had, living here all my life, being educated in this school system, being raised in a community that has gone some of the most difficult times and I have been a part of that. I have been here for the rough times and the good times. I know the people of this District. Her only government experience is was working for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Clinton White House writing letters for the First Lady. That is the only experience she has had. You don’t walk into a job like this and automatically get things done. It takes a long time and a lot of experience to put together a staff and the ability to be able to bring the necessary resources of the State government to bear on your district. I have done that. She might say differently, but nobody else will that I haven’t been involved in almost every project in modern years that have occurred here. We are a region that many across this State envy and respect and want to be like. I have had some of my collegues who have just run for office and been successful say I want to sit down with you and see how you changed the region. I remember the Altoona area when it was almost a joke. Everybody said, why can’t we be Johnstown? Before I ran for office, people envied Johnstown. Well now, I don’t think anyone would say that. It is not a reflection on Johnstown, it is a reflection on what we’ve been able to do here. The quality of life. Not is only a job important, but we have to keep our young people here. If we are going to keep our young people here, not only do they have to have a job, but they have to have a quality of life.
“I’ve been to that ballpark, I worked hard to get that ballpark done and get Governor Ridge to commit to nearly $12 million of state money to build that ballpark. I have yet to see anyone who isn’t smiling. Everyone there has a smile on their face. I get goose bumps everytime I walk in and they say Senator, thank you for what you helped give us. People will say I can’t believe that I am here in Blair County. I’ve been to that Convention Center that Bud Shuster and I helped get and they named a room after me. I didn’t ask them to do that. Obviously I must have been involved in some way. I am very proud of that.
“I am very proud of the Robert C. Jubelirer Business Park in Northern Blair County. A recognition of my efforts working with the ABCD Corporation. We kept Barry Smith (Smith Trucking) here. He needed that facility very badly. I am not perfect by any means but I am sure that there are people who disagree with me on some things, but I have been there, I have voted for this district on legislation. I sit at that budget table. There is about eight to ten people in this entire State who sit at the budget table and negotiate a $21.5 Billion budget with the Governor’s office. I am one of them. You don’t replace that with a freshman Senator who has had no experience and the only experience she has had is writing letters for Hillary Clinton. That just doesn’t cut it.”
“She has made two comments that kind of stunned me. She said about the Rainy Day Fund being for farmers. The Rainy Day Fund is not for droughts. The Rainy Day Fund is a savings account the State has to guard against taxes and we did that. We used the Rainy Day Fund this year. The other thing was she praised Ed Rendell for his handling of the Philadelphia School System. The Philadelphia School System is being run by the State of Pennsylvania. We do it. We had to put $83 million of our tax money into that school system because it was run into the ground. If we hadn’t, the federal courts were going to step in and it was going to cost a whole lot more.
“Her knowledge of the issues, her inability to articulate positions that has been her campaign. I have cast tens of thousands of votes over 28 years. People know who I am, they know where I stand and they know that I represent them. I have no private agendas. I work hard for this district. I work hard everyday to make this area a better place to work and live. There is no greater joy than I get when somebody says, my son got a job and his family is going to be here. That to me is everything. That is who I am. What you see is what you get. I have had a wonderful relationship with my constituents. It has been a labor of love.”
Stacey Brumbaugh: “I am a person who has experience coupled with enthusiasm, I am tenacious, I have worked tirelessly over the years in the community, volunteering my time and my expertise to help people,” said Brumbaugh. “I am not a politician (and this is not a compairison to my opponent) who wants to cram my ideas down anyones throat. I am in this race because I want to facilitate positive change and I want to help the people of the area.
“In addition, I am 39 years old, I plan on being here for a long long time, I plan on being a player for a long time. I listen. I will listen to the people of the 30th District and represent them. I do not have a large ego. I think ego should be the smallest thing about you. I think it gets in the way of getting things done. I think my life experience along with my experience in the community coupled with my work ethic, you can ask anyone, I probably work harder than most people, and my willingness and my enthusiasm to help the people of this area combined with the fact that I am not a novice in life. I have learned a lot in 39 years. I have that maturity as well and it would make me the best choice.
“I believe in term limits. I don’t believe in getting complacent. So I would go and serve as many years as the people would let me (since there are no term limits) as long as I was effective. If I felt I wasn’t being effective anymore to the folks in my district, then I would take myself out of the position and let somebody come in to take my place in the arena of public service. That is what it is all about… public service. I don’t ever think this was intended to be a career where you chalking up how many years you have and how much power you have and how many political favors you can hand out or WAM money. It should be about service to the people. I think the most important reason to elect me is that I realize who my bosses are… they are the people of the 30th District. Not the senators from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, not the special interests in Harrisburg, but the people of the 30th District.
“Folks will say to me, How do I know you are going to do what you say you will do? I say, you don’t, but every place that I have been I’ve made an impact and that can be readily checked and it is the truth. So there is no reason to think that I won’t make a strong impact here. I am also a person of my word and I have intergrity. If I say I’ll do something, it will get done.”
Editor’s Note: Tate DeWease’s lawsuit against Jubelirer was dismissed on October 11 from the United States Western District Court of Pennsylvania.. The Daily Herald thanks both Senator Jubelirer and Mrs. Brumbaugh for taking the time to answer our five questions. We have given you the reader a forum to find out about the candidates and your chance to decide is November 5.