Sounding off: Legalizing video gaming terminals will fill Pennsylvania's revenue void
Amid trying to fill a $32 billion void in revenue for the 2017-18 state budget, our governor and some in the General Assembly have blatantly overlooked arguably the most commonsense option available, to the tune of an estimated $300 million to $400 million annually for Pennsylvania. I'm talking about the legalization of video gaming terminals (VGTs) in liquor-licensed locations.
Let me make this clear. We are not, as the big casinos claim, talking about placing “mini casinos” on every corner. Our proposal gives our local businesses and fraternal organizations the chance to place five or fewer VGTs in their locations to attract patrons and gain a new stream of revenue at a time when it is desperately needed.
Keep in mind that thousands of illegal VGTs are currently operating in Pennsylvania without regulation, oversight or putting money back into local governments. It's morally and fiscally irresponsible to not, at the very least, regulate this existing industry.
Every Pennsylvania liquor-licensed location and every taxpayer must speak up today. Call your legislators and the governor and tell them to stop choosing casinos over local businesses. Tell them to regain common sense and prioritize the needs of Pennsylvania — not Las Vegas.
Mark Mustio, Moon
The writer, a Republican, represents the 44th District in the state House of Representatives.
Tuesday, Aug. 8
Jerry Oleksiak is a good Labor & Industry pick
I would like to comment on the editorial “Pa. Labor & Industry nominee: Wolf's big sop to Big Labor.”
I am a professor of English at Westmoreland County Community College, starting my second year on the Pennsylvania State Education Association's board as higher education president.
PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak, Gov. Tom Wolf's nominee as the next secretary of the Department of Labor & Industry, is excellent at listening to and hearing varied viewpoints. He is skilled at accepting the input and then seeing where the issue is headed.
He is also thorough, insightful and fair. Being the leader of PSEA means you have to understand that there is give and take, then eventually a decision has to be made.
Oleksiak calmly and skillfully guides resolution of issues at all levels. He also understands that at times compromise is something that is needed.
The Trib should contact 10 members of the state Legislature on both sides of the aisle and see what they say. To say that someone who has led a union can't be fair and objective is not correct.
The citizens of this commonwealth will be fortunate to have him serve as secretary of Labor & Industry. We actually need more people in public office like Oleksiak.
Michael Hricik, Mt. Pleasant
Sunday, Aug. 6
Capitalism and health care
Democrats claim the only way to bring down the cost of health care is with the heavy hand of government ensuring that the poor get their fair share. Their long-range plan is for ObamaCare to collapse and then move to a single-payer, government-operated system because they claim capitalism has failed.
But let's think about this before we rush over the cliff.
Capitalism is about turning scarcity into abundance. Capitalism delivers that which was formerly expensive at low prices. Everything from automobiles to cellphones to airline flights to ocean cruises to computers has been made affordable to the average American through capitalism. It can do the same for health care.
In the face of overwhelming evidence that capitalism reduces the prices of goods and services, contrasted with the skyrocketing cost of health insurance under ObamaCare, many Americans incredibly still want a big-government solution for health care.
Supporters of ObamaCare admire nationalized health-care systems in Canada, the U.K. and Europe. But many from those countries who can afford it come here for operations they can't get at home. Few from the U.S. go to those countries for treatment.
With all the blessings capitalism has given us, why can't our conservative leaders make a more compelling case to repeal ObamaCare?
Dave Majernik, Plum
The writer is vice chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee.
Monday, Aug. 7
Good for Clarion University and the education system
The faculty union's immediate response to Clarion University of Pennsylvania President Karen Whitney's selection to serve as interim chancellor of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education is somewhat disappointing.
Whitney has been a strong leader for Clarion, guiding it through some turbulent times while always putting the needs of students first.
Like many universities across Pennsylvania, Clarion has faced both lagging financial support from the state and falling enrollment — primarily the result of a significant decline in the number of high school graduates in the region.
Whitney has made many difficult decisions as president — the kinds of decisions that aren't always popular.
In doing so, she has pointed Clarion in the right direction, focusing on its historic strengths in professional programs, particularly in education, business, and health and human services.
I have no doubt that as interim chancellor, she will tackle tough issues in the same honest, straightforward manner, with the same confidence, she has demonstrated during her seven-year tenure at Clarion.
In the meantime, I choose to focus on the second, positive part of the faculty union's statement, which emphasizes members' interest in developing “a new, healthy, and cooperative working relationship” so that all of us can come together to ensure a student-centered, high-quality and affordable higher education to the citizens of the commonwealth.
That is our shared goal.
Cynthia D. Shapira, Fox Chapel
The writer is chairwoman of the board of governors of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education.
Wednesday, Aug. 9
Capitalism's inept defenders
In his letter “Capitalism & health care,” Dave Majernik, vice chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee, states: “Capitalism is about turning scarcity into abundance. Capitalism delivers that which was formerly expensive at low prices.”
While progressives are passionate advocates of various forms of socialism, the Republicans are most inept as defenders of “capitalism.”
Economics is about scarcity. Scarcity means there is not enough of everything for everyone who wants some of it. And there is no government policy that can change that.
The free market is about the efficient allocation of scarce resources. The market is imperfect and does NOT promise utopia. And if permitted to intervene in the market, politicians do.
Dan Sotler, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Thursday, Aug. 10
Why ACA repeal failed
“Time is the essence of good food,” the saying goes in the restaurant industry.
The GOP's attempt to repeal or fix the Affordable Care Act just six months into the Trump administration was heralded as a devastating failure. Lost in the conversation was the fact that it took the Democrats two years to pass ObamaCare.
So why did the effort fail?
The Republicans have been telling us they would fix this mess once they had control of both houses of Congress and the executive branch. What were they putting on the desk of President Obama, knowing full well that he would veto it? Were they just blowing smoke in our hats to get our votes?
Conflicts of interest have run rampant in Congress for years. Members of Congress in both parties “have substantial holdings in firms their legislative actions affect,” some in excess of $100,000, according to a report by Harvard Business Review.
Did those who voted “no” on importing prescription medication from Canada earlier this year receive more in contributions from Big Pharma than those who voted “yes”?
Ed Liberatore, Turtle Creek
Friday, Aug. 11
Don't hike taxes for obsolete library
Recent headlines in the Tribune-Review:
• “Notice of Sale Properties for Delinquent Taxes” (Aug. 2). There were 24 pages of properties listed for sale. I would guess 50 percent or more are homes of senior citizens, many living only on Social Security.
• “Library wins backing for ballot items.” That referendum is to increase property taxes by 1 mill to raise funds for the Greensburg Hempfield Area Library. You cannot even find parking at the library. The 1-mill increase will raise an estimated $716,000. What will the library do with that money? The Hempfield Area School Board just increased our property taxes by $60. We know this extra money will be spent on someone's pet project, salary or pensions.
• “Patty Weir's Paperbacks to close in Greensburg.” The bookstore owner notes that many people have switched to e-reader devices and are buying books on their Kindles.
People, wake up. We are in an electronic age; libraries are obsolete. There are 25 libraries in Westmoreland County. It is time to consolidate. Increasing taxes on property owners is wrong. All residents should pay for obsolete libraries, not just property owners.
How much can our property taxes increase before we say, “No, it is our money, not yours”?
Take back our government before we have a 100-percent taxation rate.
Marion L. Sedlacko, Hempfield
Saturday, Aug. 12