Friday, April 11, 2008

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 2008 Voter's Guide: Todd Elliott Koger For State Rep.

The following information is now listed on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's 2008 Voter's Guide.

Biographical Information

Home Municipality: Wilkinsburg
Current occupation: Science Teacher
Education/Degrees: Duquesne University School of Law 87-90; B.A. Cal U; A.S. CCAC
Experience/qualifications: Law Clerk; Allegheny County Planner; Wilkinsburg Civil Service Commission
Community Involvement: WTAE Gold Medal Award (Community Service)
Web Site:

Do you favor property tax reform, and if so, by what methods?

Todd Elliott Koger: HB 1275, The School Property Elmination Act, is still in the Appropriations Committee. On March 25, 2008, Joe Preston told the Post-Gazette Editorial Borad that he "wasn't aware of 1275 . . . ? " In the end, the taxpayers have again paid the price for the ridiculous political gamesmanship of this dysfunctional legislature. They promised tax relief in 2006, but only just offered tax rebates for the senior citizen voting block (for the primary election). We have a Democratic governor and House, if the Democratic leadership (Preston) would be willing to support HB 1275 it certainly could solve the problem.

Please state your views on privatizing the state liquor stores; expanding casino gambling beyond slot machines; and regulation of smoking in public places like restaurants and bars.

Todd Elliott Koger: Key lawmakers insist they are nearing a deal to snuff out more public smoking in Pennsylvania, but delayed voting on new indoor smoking limits. They want to attract enough votes to clear the Legislature while protecting children and workers from secondhand smoke. But the surgeon general's reports have stated there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke.

The political gamesmanship here is similar to Mr. Preston's vote in favor of Act 201 in 2004, a utility-friendly bill that made it easier to cut off customers with delinquent bills -- even in the dead of winter. Just before each primary, Preston suggests that he wants to amend the utility bill.

We have been played by politicians year after year, and the rate of homicides among black males is alarming. The leadership (Preston) hasn't been there on property tax reform, the smoking ban, nor gun violence issue, I pledge change if elected. I want to inspire young black males to see "honest" change.

Do you support the state's current plan to raise money for highways and transit through higher turnpike tolls and tolling Interstate 80? If not, what alternative do you support?

Todd Elliott Koger: On October 13, 2006, Mr. Preston suggested the following to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board -- "Other transit systems have found a way to operate without Saturday service" -- as a response to $32.5 million deficit facing the Port Authority. Mr. Preston prefers Port Authority raising the base fare, cutting service and/or laying off employees, although he says he supports dedicated funding.

Likewise, most state regulators have taken a more active stance in blocking takeovers they view as potentially damaging to customers, i.e., the purchase of Duquesne Light, as well as the Pa. Turnpike and Interstate 80 (leasing) -- Macquarie's sweet spot as far as infrastructure investing.

And, although Dominion Gas made more than $5 billion in profits last year, Preston is sponsoring legislation to impose customer charges to help gas utilities bear the cost of replacing deteriorated lines.

Should the size of the Legislature be reduced? By how much?

Todd Elliott Koger: Rep. Matt Smith, a Democrat from Mt. Lebanon, and Randy Vulakovich, a Shaler Republican, have introduced a bill they say could save $66 million. That would make tax relief easier but, like most money-saving ideas in Harrisburg, it has slim chance of success.

We have the second-most-expensive statehouse in America. And as a percentage of the total state budget, no state spends more money on its lawmaking body than Pennsylvania. First among states in legislative spending as a percentage of general government spending (0.53 percent). Second in total legislative spending. Third in legislative spending per citizen, $23.01. Second in size of permanent legislative staff, 2,947. And, the walking-around money that leaders dole out, that account grows each year ($215 million a year ago.)

In the past 14 months, lawmakers introduced more than 3,500 bills, but only 118 laws were enacted and 39 of those were budget bills. I support the Smith and Vulakovich bill that will cut 20 percent of the total state budget.