At Steelworker headquarters this morning, union head Leo Gerard reiterated support for Rich Fitzgerald as the Democratic nominee for Allegheny County Executive, saying he would continue the work Dan Onorato has done to keep taxes down and support for working families high.
Fitzgerald’s opponent Mark Patrick Flaherty has proposed a public-private partnership between the county and companies drilling for natural gas on county land, which would use $4 billion of county assets to secure a higher yield than typical fees and royalties.
Fitzgerald calls the idea a “Republican” subsidy that could be lost if wells come up empty or the price of gas makes drilling unprofitable. As a drilling partner, Fitzgerald says the county would be liable in case of accident or death, and all of these risks would jeopardize the county’s bond rating.
He also questions whether the county could fulfill its role in protecting public health and the environment if it were a drilling partner.
The proper role of government vis-a-vis the natural gas resource, according to Fitzgerald, is to maximize the public benefit through an extraction tax and making sure the industry compensates for the cost of their operations. He says most companies know that would be fair. If done right, he says there will be many jobs created and no need to risk taxpayer funds.
Fitzgerald says the county added 24,000 private sector jobs last year, and the unemployment rate is 2-1/2% below the national average and has been for 38 straight months--the longest stretch since the 1930s.
Leo Gerard says Rich Fitzgerald was an easy choice for the Steelworkers’ endorsement because as president of County Council, he was current County Executive Dan Onorato’s right hand man. Gerard says he wishes Dan Onorato were governor. What's needed at the end of this worst recession since the Depression, according to Gerard, are jobs--not subsidies to an industry already rolling in money