Q. What is the most overriding issue in this election and how do you propose to solve it?
Mackenzie: Without a doubt, the overriding issue in this election is the state of our economy. While policies coming out of the federal government in Washington, D.C. have a large impact on the economy, there are a number of things we can do here in Pennsylvania to make our state more attractive to job creators and spark economic growth. To help get our economy moving again in Pennsylvania and create jobs, we need to reform our corporate tax structure, reduce excessive regulations, limit egregious litigation, and promote education and job training programs that work. For example, Pennsylvania continues to have the highest in the nation business taxes, as well as some of the most onerous regulatory and tort systems in the country. In order to make Pennsylvania a place where employers want to settle and expand, we need to change that.
I have already begun this process by voting for a balanced budget that continues a phase-out of the notorious Capital Stock and Franchise Tax. I also support initiatives to help reduce frivolous lawsuits and make sure that regulations are applied fairly and evenly to all Pennsylvania businesses. Of course, fixing our tax, tort and regulatory systems alone is not enough. We must also have strong communities where employers want to move to, filled with people who hold the skills needed for today's jobs. Education is key to this, which is why I voted to invest more state tax dollars in basic education than ever before. Helping schools makes for better communities and a better educated workforce. To help those who are out of work now and looking for new skills, I helped revamp job re-training programs while I was policy director at the Department of Labor & Industry to make them results-based instead of just another way for the government to pad statistics about how many people they've served. Improvements in and focus on these areas will help improve our economy and create jobs.
Reynard: The most important issue in this election is making sure we manage to get a genuinely balanced budget in Pennsylvannia without saddling the middle class with tax increases or cutting services to our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and our children.
In the last two years, we have cut education funding nearly 40 percent and have also at the same time begun to use state lottery funds to cover Medicaid for seniors in Pennsylvania. At the same time, we have refused to impose a severence tax on the oil and gas companies extracting resources in the Marcellus shale deposits and have even given a $1.6 billion tax break to an oil company on top of not taxing their extractions. I'd like to see a severence tax imposed on shale extraction while at the same time we required the oil and gas companies to pay the same rate as other corporations in Pennsylvania (they currently pay the personal income tax rate of 3.07 percent while most small businesses pay the 9.9 percent CNI rate).
If we tax all corporations fairly and evenly rather than picking winners and losers as the Corbett administration has done, we should be able to reduce the draconian cuts to education and senior services imposed over the last two years while at the same time lowering our too-high corporate tax rate, mostly paid by small businesses, to a more manageable 5 to 6 percent. This would provide great service to our middle-class citizens who bear too much of the burden of current taxation while at the same time making Pennsylvania more attractive to small business entrepreneurship and job creation.