Agreement rules at Democratic gubernatorial candidates' forum

From left, John Hanger, Jo Ellen Litz, Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Tom Wolf in a Democratic candidates' forum at WHYY.
From left, John Hanger, Jo Ellen Litz, Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, and Tom Wolf in a Democratic candidates' forum at WHYY. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 06, 2014

PHILADELPHIA Five of the Democrats running for governor said they all want to impose a tax on natural-gas production. They promised to raise the state minimum wage, increase spending on education, and slam shut the "Delaware loophole," a quirk of tax law that allows corporations to avoid paying taxes in Pennsylvania.

There was broad agreement on most policy issues when U.S. Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, Tom Wolf, Katie McGinty, John Hanger, and Jo Ellen Litz met Tuesday at WHYY in a forum sponsored by the public media organization and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Two other candidates did not attend.

Closing the "Delaware loophole," which allows Pennsylvania corporations to avoid paying state taxes by attributing income to a Delaware subsidiary, would bring in $500 million a year, Schwartz said.

"I have a number that will surprise and dismay Pennsylvanians: 70 percent of corporations do not pay corporate income tax in Pennsylvania," she said.

"If they're not growing our economy, we should get rid of those loopholes," Schwartz said. "I think there are tax incentives that make sense, but we should make sure that corporations pay their fair share."

Hanger, Wolf, and Schwartz favored raising the minimum wage immediately to $10.10 an hour. McGinty said she would like to set it at $9, with automatic increases to keep pace with inflation.

McGinty responded to a question about large campaign checks she has received from energy company executives by noting her enforcement record as Pennsylvania's DEP secretary. "No special interest tells Katie McGinty what to do," she said.

Wolf, a York businessman and former state revenue secretary, said he would release to reporters his income taxes as well as documents from his family building-supply business, showing that he shares 20 percent to 30 percent of profits annually with employees.

Hanger, another former DEP secretary, pushed his proposal to legalize and tax marijuana, estimating that this would bring in revenue of about $500 million a year and create good-paying jobs in a new industry.

"We're wasting $350 million a year chasing down people and ruining their lives," Hanger said, referring to drug enforcement that incarcerates racial minorities at a higher rate than whites.

Litz, a Lebanon County commissioner who has raised less than $5,000, was asked by moderator Dave Davies whether her campaign was viable.

"This is a grassroots campaign," she said. It's up to the people to decide this election. It's not up to a select few."

Of the candidates who were not there, state Treasurer Rob McCord had to be in Harrisburg for Gov. Corbett's budget address, which was happening at the same time as the forum. Max Myers, a Cumberland County minister, declined to attend.

"Our Democratic opponents are no less predictable than the sun rising in the morning," Corbett campaign manager Mike Barley said in a statement.

"They continue to lob the same old tired rhetoric and lies, criticizing the governor for standing with taxpayers instead of implementing their ideas for a failed agenda that raises taxes, increases wasteful government spending, kills the energy industry, [and] reduces accountability."

WHYY has no plans to broadcast the forum in its entirety.

215-854-2718 @tomfitzgerald

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