Campaign 2012/West: Jobs, education are major issues for both candidates

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Republican Michael See's vision, above all else, is to promote business in the 10th House District.

"I've seen generations move away chasing jobs my whole life," said Mr. See of North Sewickley, who is challenging incumbent Jaret Gibbons.

Mr. See said that as a state representative, he would aim to provide better tax and legal environments for businesses.

"We [have] the second-worst corporate tax rate in the country," he said. "We tax businesses to death."

The 31-year-old, who works in human resources with Ellwood Group, a steel manufacturer, said he would push to lower corporate tax rates.

House Bill 1131, passed last session, is also deterring business growth, he said, by allowing plaintiffs to seek damages in cases with multiple defendants from "whoever has the deepest pockets, not whoever was most at fault."

"You have to create an environment where if you, as a business, are held liable for something, you're going to pay a fair share of what you're liable for, not more than that," he said.

He believes the law discourages businesses from moving to the state and stifles employment.

"My basic premise is that government doesn't create jobs, it creates an environment where jobs flourish," he said.

Like his opponent, Mr. Gibbons, a Democrat, believes bringing jobs back to the community and reviving local economies is a crucial issue.

As state representative, he has tried to "really get Main Street growing again," he said, with revitalization projects in Slippery Rock and Ellwood City.

Mr. Gibbons, of Franklin, said he also has crossed the aisle to help develop the natural gas industry.

"We've worked to bring the Shell cracker plant and the 20,000 jobs that go with it into the region," he said.

At the same time, he believes legislators need to continue to push for environmentally friendly and cautious practices.

"We have a good start, but we need to continue working on regulating the industry and providing adequate protection through oversight and the number of regulators and inspectors on the ground," he said.

The 32-year-old father of two said legislators need to push for more funding for K-12 and higher education, instead of allowing the state to pass cuts onto local property taxpayers, some of whom are seniors on fixed incomes.

Mr. Gibbons, who did his undergraduate work at Duquesne University and graduated from University of Pittsburgh School of Law, believes charter schools belong in the education system, but funding needs to be addressed, especially in the case of cyber schools.

"Are the funds they are receiving matching the costs it is to adequately educate the student?" he said. "We have to make sure that we don't allow that to take away from the strong public school systems in the area."

Mr. See believes the state needs to invest in education. But he intends to have a greater focus on promoting college among youth.

"I'm a first-generation college student myself and I know how much my parents pushed me to go to college, let alone go beyond that," said Mr. See, who received a bachelor's degree from Liberty University in Virginia and a master's of business administration from American Intercontinental. "It fundamentally changed who I was and I want to see more of our kids get a better opportunity to do that and be more prepared to go to college."

Another issue close to Mr. See's heart is welfare reform to provide a program for people to reach self-dependence.

He's pledged not to take a public pension, if elected, on the belief that it only provides an incentive for people to become career politicians.

"That system has corrupted so many people that were good people when they went into it," he said. "I should represent the region that I'm from with as much vigor as I can and audacity as I can without relying on a paycheck for the rest of my life for a short period of service."

Mr. Gibbons said he's pushed for government reform since taking office, including transparency, open records and online databases for spending. He posts his expenses to his website every month.

A non-practicing licensed attorney, he said being a legislator is his full-time job and he's collecting a salary and pension to be able to dedicate all of his time back to the people.

"That's what they are paying me for," he said. "Some legislators do have outside jobs, and when they do that, certainly they can give up more things. I work hard for the salary I get, and I'm not asking for anything more than is reasonable."

Mr. Gibbons said he's forgone annual salary increases. He said he pushed legislation to limit terms to 12 consecutive years in either chamber.

"I like to think of myself and what I do as being a public servant, not a politician," he said.

About the candidates:

10th House District

Michael See, Republican

Age: 31

Education: Master's of business administration, American Intercontinental University; bachelor's in pre-law, Liberty University

Occupation: Human resources, Ellwood Group

Family: Parents, Ralph and Sadie See; brother, Ryan; sister, Susan Lowry

Statement: "Personal decisions reflect a leader's character. I will not take a taxpayer-paid pension, I will refuse taxpayer-paid per diems and I will never drive a taxpayer-paid car. My opponent has done all three. My opponent is a typical career politician. I will be your representative."

Jaret Gibbons, Democrat

Age: 32

Education: Bachelor's in political science and business, Duquesne University; Juris Doctor, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Occupation: Attorney/legislator (I am a licensed attorney but do not practice at the moment as I am a full-time legislator.)

Family: Wife, Jennifer; children, Annabella and Preston

Statement: "Jaret Gibbons has a proven record of cutting wasteful spending and reforming state government. He refuses perks and pay raises and voted to cut the size of the Legislature. Jaret will continue fighting to create jobs, lower property taxes, support education and reduce taxes on small businesses and middle-class families."

neigh_west - electionsmunicipal

Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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