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November 1, 2012

Decision 2012: Gibbons, See facing off again

NEW CASTLE — Two years ago, state Rep. Jaret Gibbons won re-election to a third term by defeating Michael See.

In Tuesday’s general election, Gibbons, a Democrat, goes for a fourth term, facing See again.

In the 2010 race, Gibbons won by carrying 52 percent of the vote in the 10th District, which contains the boroughs of Ellwood City, Ellport and Wampum and the townships of Perry, Plain Grove, Scott, Shenango, Slippery Rock, Taylor and Wayne in Lawrence County and parts of Beaver and Butler counties.

See, 31, a Republican of North Sewickley Township, is essentially running on the same theme he did two years ago: Improving the economic climate of western Pennsylvania.

“My whole life this area has struggled,” See said. “My siblings have moved out of state. We haven’t done anything to incentivize businesses to locate here.”

High taxes and overregulation are obstacles to attracting businesses, he said.

“It’s the same challenges we hear every election.”

Pennsylvania, he said, is at a disadvantage with other states when it comes to having an environment to attract businesses.

He supports reducing the corporate net income tax faster as one way to improve that environment.

“I think there are allies (legislators) out there to be had. I don’t think it’s a lost cause.”

“Businesses are going to go where opportunity is the best.”

On education, See said he believes the state needs to change the way it funds cyberschools. Under the current funding level, public schools lose a certain amount per student.

“It’s not a level playing field.”

He advocates having future public employees convert to a 401(k) plan to reduce costs and help solve the state’s longterm pension problems.

“Everyone keeps kicking that can down the road.”

See said he believes Gibbons’ voting record does not reflect needs of the area. See said he would ask constituents’ views in his newsletter, to get their perspective on issues.

“Your job is to take the viewpoint of the people. It’s your job to get to know how people feel,” he said.

“Jaret, in my opinion, is a career politician. He doesn’t bring a private sector background.”

See, who has bachelor’s degree in pre-law and a master’s degree in business administration, worked for the Ellwood Group before resigning to run for the House seat and also to become a certified public accountant.

See said he will not take per diems, but instead will take reimbursements. He also pledges not to accept a state pension and to drive his own car on state business.

Gibbons accepts per diems, to which See commented, “You shouldn’t be given a blank check for each day you show up for work.”

Regarding compensation, Gibbons said he has refused to take cost of living pay increases the last four years. House members’ salaries are $82,026.

Gibbons, 32, of Franklin Township said his priorities over the next two years are to bring jobs to the area, push for government reform, tax relief and education funding.

As for the current term, Gibbons said he was instrumental in obtaining about $4 million in state money for a new library, downtown revitalization and a farmers’ market for Ellwood City.

One of his goals, he said, is to revitalize downtowns, adding he is working with the county commissioners and a group in Wampum.

“I think it’s important to invest in downtowns and get people in the downtowns.”

He said he also supported expansion of the Keystone Opportunity Zone and a tax credit for a petrochemical plant proposed by Shell for Beaver County.

“We need to nurture the shale industry, allowing it to grow while ensuring our communities are protected environmentally.”

He said he has voted to cut the corporate net income tax even though 70 percent of businesses in the state don’t pay it because they take advantage of the Delaware loophole. The loophole allows corporations to establish a holding company in Delaware to avoid or pay reduced taxes in Pennsylvania.

Gibbons said he wants to continue his efforts on government reform, including increasing transparency and pushing his bill to create a unicameral legislature.

His bill would have just one chamber and cut the number of legislators from 253 to 201.

“Until you eliminate the duplication, you don’t really save money,” he said.

The state also needs to look at ways to shift from the property tax to fund education, he said. Currently, the state funds approximately 35 percent for public schools and “local taxpayers pick up the rest. It should be closer to 50/50.”

He noted he is a co-sponsor of a measure to have a countywide consolidation of administration for school districts.

“It comes back to duplication,” he said.

Student population has dropped, but schools have the same infrastructure and more administrators, he said.

Gibbons said he can work with both sides of the aisle.

“I’m solution oriented.”


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