Fitzgerald backs senior tax breaks, blasts assessments

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Democrat Rich Fitzgerald zeroed in on his support of tax breaks for seniors and his promise to block property reassessments today, at his first policy event of the Allegheny County executive campaign.

The event was largely a review of initiatives he supported while president of Allegheny County Council, and covered mostly non-controversial ground, such as his support of senior community centers, or the county's $15,000 homestead exemption break on property taxes.

"It's a record of reform, it's a record of fiscal responsibility, that's really helped seniors and I hope we continue that," he said at a press conference in the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard.

On transit, Mr. Fitzgerald said he favored consolidating transit agencies around southwestern Pennsylvania to make public transportation more efficient, and would welcome appointments to the Port Authority board by the governor and General Assembly. Those moves would take state legislative approval, as would statewide reassessment reform, which is his preferred way of addressing the county's property valuation system.

New property tax bills are due to be issued early next year and Mr. Fitzgerald has said if elected he would refuse to mail them, even at risk of going to jail. His Republican opponent D. Raja has also called for statewide assessment solution.

Mr. Raja's campaign has released daily new criticisms of his Democratic opponent over the past week, largely questioning Mr. Fitzgerald's stances on taxes. Today's attack was on Mr. Fitzgerald's vote in favor of a $2-per-day car rental tax, which council approved along with a drink tax in 2007 to help fund the Port Authority.

Mr. Fitzgerald has said without the new taxes the county would have been forced to increase property taxes to fill a $28 million budget hole.

"This is another example of the way Rich thinks about government. We have an underutilized airport, an underutilized convention center and these types of taxes are counterproductive," said Raja campaign manager James Genovese. "When you are a tax-and-spend liberal who has never created jobs in real life you can't see the cause and effect of these convention taxes."

Timothy McNulty: or 412-263-1581. First Published September 13, 2011 3:30 PM


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