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Allegheny County executive candidate Fitzgerald reaches out to seniors

| Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Allegheny County executive candidate Rich Fitzgerald appealed this morning to senior citizens who are worried that their property taxes could increase and mass transit options could disappear.

"What a reassessment will do is it will raise taxes, particularly school taxes, on our seniors disproportionately," Fitzgerald said in his first news conference of the campaign, which he held in the courtyard of the Allegheny Courthouse, Downtown.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat, reiterated promises to continue County Executive Dan Onorato's fight against court-ordered reassessments. He said he would refuse to mail tax bills that include reassessed values "until there is an equitable statewide solution to the problem."

As for mass transit, Fitzgerald wants to create a multi-county transportation provider akin to the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority that serves the Philadelphia area. As he envisions it, a southwestern Pennsylvania equivalent would replace the cash-strapped Port Authority of Allegheny County and give the transit system more political clout in the state Legislature, which provides most of the county's transit funding.

Fitzgerald, a former county councilman, responded to criticism from the campaign of his Republican opponent D. Raja, a former Mt. Lebanon commissioner, that he voted in favor of countywide taxes on car rentals, poured drinks and hotel stays.

"Why on Earth would you impose a car tax, a hotel tax and a drink tax when the goals for the airport and the convention center are to get conventions to come here?" said James Genovese, Raja's campaign manager, as part of a series of e-mail attacks aimed at questioning Fitzgerald's record.

Fitzgerald cited statistics from tourism bureau VisitPittsburgh that, he said, show Allegheny County leads the state in tourism and convention dollars.

"Every major city has a car rental tax — it's part of the deal, and it allows us not to raise property taxes," Fitzgerald said.

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