New Castle News

November 5, 2012

Decision 2012: Rothfus, Critz face off in congressional race

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Two years ago, Keith Rothfus ran for Congress because of what he called a failed multi-billion stimulus program.

A candidate again this year, Rothfus recalled that, saying, “I ran before about failed economic policies. Things haven’t improved.”

The one difference this year is that he has a different opponent in Tuesday’s election.

Rothfus, a Republican, lost to U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire in 2010. But as a result of the 2010 census, the districts of Altmire and U.S. Rep. Mark Critz were merged by a Republican-controlled Legislature.

The merger created a battle between the two Democrats in the April primary, which resulted in a victory for Critz.

Redistricting split the county, placing the southern portion in the 12th District, which is represented by Critz. The other part of the county was placed in the 3rd District.

Critz’s district takes in the boroughs of Ellport, Ellwood City, Enon Valley, New Beaver and Wampum and the townships of Little Beaver, Perry and Wayne in Lawrence County.

The rest of the district winds its way through Beaver, Allegheny, Armstrong, Westmoreland, Somerset and Cambria counties.

Critz, 50, of Johnstown and a former aide to the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha, is seeking his second full two-year term.

Rothfus, 50, of Sewickley said he is running on three Rs, which are reforming tax and spend policies “to get a handle on spending; rolling back regulation, “which is resulting in stagnation; and repealing Obamacare.

“It’s bad economic policy from a job standpoint and bad health care policy,” he said of Obamacare.

The Supreme Court, he said, “made it clear it’s a tax on the middle class.”

Medicare Advantage is taking a hit under Obamacare, which should be replaced with “common sense” reform, he said, adding that Obamacare needs to be repealed to save Medicare.

Based on an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, $700 billion will be taken from Medicare over the next 10 years because of Obamacare, Rothfus said.

He supports a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan giving people under 55 the option to enroll in a private plan rather than traditional Medicare.

Reforms he suggests include making it easier for insurance companies to sell insurance across state lines and to have malpractice reforms.

On the economy, Rothfus, an attorney, said companies are concerned about regulations and the tax environment. The cure for the federal deficit is to have economic growth.

The way to grow revenues is to have pro-growth tax reform and eliminate loopholes.

“That’s why I signed the pledge.”

He was referring to signing the Grover Norquist pledge not to increase taxes.

“Grow the economy with appropriate tax and spending policies and keep the cost of energy low,” Rothfus said.

He said Critz voted against a House bill this year to cut $61 billion in spending. In reference to the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year, he said Critz is ready to raise taxes on small companies in Pennsylvania.

Rothfus said although he has a conservative philosophy he is willing to work with both sides of the aisle.

‘I’m a solutions person. I don’t care who gets the credit. I want the problem solved.”

In response to Rothfus’ charge on spending, Critz said he voted last year to cut $2 trillion out of the budget.

“I think I’ve done my job by cutting $2 trillion.”

Critz also said Obamacare cuts expenses for Medicare and pointed out that Rothfus supports the Ryan budget that proposes the same thing.

The health care act, Critz said, gives Medicare eight more years of solvency.

“You have guys like him (Rothfus) that muddy the water. It’s really disingenuous of him.”

He said of Ryan’s proposed Medicare voucher program for those under 55, “That’s not a guaranteed benefit. If it’s so good, why not give it to everybody?”

Critz said he has the endorsement of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“I would never support any cuts to benefits.”

“We have real issues,” Critz continued. “I will work with anyone if means moving the country forward.”

Regarding taxes, Critz said he supports allowing tax breaks to expire on individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000. The tax increase would only be on income above those levels, he said.

“I think that’s a balanced approach. Right now, the middle class is bearing the brunt of this sluggish economy.”

People in those high-income categories “have the wherewithal to pitch in.”

He said he also wants to make sure traditional small businesses do not receive tax increases.

Critz added, “We can’t cut our way out of a hole.”

Congress, he said, needs to look at revenue enhancements and spending at the same time.

Critz said every decision he makes is what he believes is best for people “back home.” He adds that he fights hard for the coal industry, a major energy source in the district.

“It means so much to us for energy independence and from an economic standpoint.”

(Email: jmanna