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November 2, 2012

Decision 2012: Vogel, Villella vie for state Senate seat

NEW CASTLE — State Sen. Elder Vogel believes he has been successful in luring industries to his district over the last four years.

One of the biggest accomplishments the first-term Republican senator points to is his effort to provide a tax credit for Shell, which plans a petrochemical plant in Beaver County.

He said his office also has worked with a large developer in Aliquippa to build a dock facility on a site formerly occupied by Jones and Laughlin Steel. That facility, he said, is a result of luring Shell.

Shell expects to produce 500 to 600 jobs, he said, plus 10 times that figure are expected to be created by firms locating in the area as a result of Shell.

“I think we’ve done a fair amount of things like that,” Vogel said.

While she supports the possibility of new jobs, Kimberly Villella, Vogel’s Democratic opponent in Tuesday’s election, said the tax incentive provided for the Shell plant offers no guarantees.

“There’s no guarantee on the number of jobs, types of jobs and how long the jobs will last,” she said. “I always try to look at the big picture.

“There has to be accountability.”

The two candidates are running in the 47th District, which covers parts of Allegheny and Beaver counties and New Castle, the townships of Little Beaver, Mahoning, North Beaver, Pulaski, Shenango, Taylor, Union and Wayne and the boroughs of Bessemer, Ellport, Ellwood City, Enon Valley, New Beaver, SNPJ, South New Castle and Wampum in Lawrence County.

Now in her second term on Baden borough council, Villella accused Vogel of being a partisan Republican.

“I’m for the people, not a party,” she said. “When we have a senator who’s teamed with our governor 98 percent of the time, I feel he represents a small portion of our people and special interest groups.”

Vogel’s aide, Joe Weidner, said the senator is not a party puppet and stood up to the party in voting against a school voucher bill.

When asked how she would vote, Villella said, “I believe more in the principles of the Democrats.” However, she said she wouldn’t vote with the party 98 percent of the time.

“I will always listen to what my people say.”

Vogel, 54, of New Sewickley Township is chairman of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. He is the only dairy farmer in the Legislature and the only farmer in the Senate.

“That gives me a whole new perspective,” he said.

Vogel said he helped usher legislation through the Senate to place the label “Pennsylvania Preferred” on meats and produce to encourage people to buy locally produced foods.

His priorities for the next session include seeing that the petrochemical industry has the opportunity to expand in the state, improving transportation in western Pennsylvania and reducing the size of the Legislature.

He introduced a bill in the current session to reduce the number of legislators, something he said will save hundreds of millions of dollars.

On transportation, he said, “I think we have to look at public/private partnerships. I want to wait to see what the governor is going to do.”

According to Vogel, Gov. Tom Corbett plans to conduct a review of the state’s transportation needs next year.

Vogel favors lowering the corporate net income and stock franchise taxes to “give us a better chance of being on an even playing field with other states.”

However, he said he would prefer closing the Delaware loophole along with cutting the two taxes to make it revenue neutral. The loophole allows corporations to establish a holding company in Delaware to avoid or pay reduced taxes in Pennsylvania.

This is one issue on which the two candidates agree.

Villella, who owns some small businesses, is critical of budget cuts made by the Corbett administration.

“He’s (Corbett) forcing everyone down the line to raise taxes,” she said.

There is revenue to be created in the state, she said.

“But they won’t do it. It’s so easy to take the easy way out and be a slasher.”

Villella, though, said she would “look at every nook and cranny to cut out wasteful spending.”

She used Baden as an example, saying council saved $45,000 on health insurance and was able to hire a full-time police officer.

Regarding the petrochemical plant, Villella questions whether the roads leading to it are sufficient. She said both Lawrence and Beaver counties have bridges that are structurally deficient.

Villella wants to invest in infrastructure, contending that if the state waits until 2020, the cost will double. Plus, investing in infrastructure in the state, she claims, “would create 50,000 jobs alone.”

She opposes privatizing education and vouchers, but supports increasing state funding for kindergarten to college.

She said Vogel’s proposal to reduce the size of the Legislature is just “lip service,” However, she said costs could be cut through the use of technology, such as Skype, and by reducing the number of sessions and committee meetings.

“Do we have to be there every week?”

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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