A week and a half before the May 17 primary election, the two Republicans and two Democrats who want to succeed Dan Onorato as Allegheny County Executive square off Friday in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters and VisitPittsburgh.
The candidates discussed everything from the drink tax....to property taxes...to Marcellus Shale drilling.
The drink tax was implemented to help the county cover the local match required to receive state funding for the Port Authority of Allegheny County. It was originally set at 10% on poured alcoholic drinks in the county and was then reduced to 7%.
Mark Patrick Flaherty, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for county executive, said he would lower the tax as much as possible but not eliminate it and then look for a statewide solution to transportation funding....
"It failed to solve our problem which is transportation. We've faced massive transportation cuts and the drink tax hasn't cured that."
Flaherty's opponent in the Democratic Primary, Rich Fitzgerald, says the drink tax is needed if the county wants to receive state funding for the Port Authority without raising property taxes....
"We took $28 million which is our local share that we have to provide to the Port Authority to get the (state) money. Mr. Flaherty was controller in 2007. He never said a word about it (the drink tax) being a mistake."
Republican Chuck McCullough says he's dead set against the drink tax...
"I've gone all the way to the (Pennsylvania) Supreme Court to stop the county executive from tying a reduction in the drink tax to an increase in the property tax. It (drink tax) will be gone as I get into office."
McCullough's opponent D. Raja says he would reduce the drink tax as much as possible..
"We have a budget shortfall that this would cause if it was completely eliminated. I would need to understand the impact of that before determining if that's a feasible solution."
The candidates meet in another forum hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce Monday afternoon.