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Politics

Candidates for 39th differ on help for city

| Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004

Both candidates for the 39th District state House seat think it's time to increase the occupational privilege tax paid by suburbanites working in Pittsburgh.

Republican and Elizabeth resident Brad Grantz, 23, who was 2002 editor of The Tartan, the Carnegie Mellon University student paper, is taking on David Levdansky, 49, a Democrat from Forward who is in his 10th term in the House.

Both agree the tax, set at $10 a year in 1965, should be raised to the $50 range, but both also agree that Pittsburgh must cut costs and can't look to the suburbs as a safety valve every time it runs into financial trouble.

They differ on other measures that should be taken to help the city.

"A commuter tax is taxation without representation, plain and simple," said Grantz in rejecting that option for helping to bolster Pittsburgh's finances.

Levdansky said the large percentage of nonprofits that own real estate in the city have to bear their share of the tax burden.

"That has to be addressed," he said.

Grantz said regionalization, not taxation, is the remedy.

"These are stopgap measures," Grantz said of talk of commuter income or occupational privilege taxes to help save Pittsburgh's budget.

Grantz said mergers of safety services in the city, county and surrounding 130 municipalities would cut costs for taxpayers overall and make for more efficient government. He favors regional police and fire departments and would like to see elected boards in smaller communities replaced with nonprofit economic development groups.

"We are the poster child of fragmented government and poor economic development. We don't speak with one voice," Grantz said.

Grantz is a devotee of a plan by State Sen. Sean Logan, D-Monroeville, that would eliminate property taxes on homesteads and farms and instead increase sales, income and real estate transfer taxes.

He said the state's plan to send slot machine revenue to school districts to help reduce property taxes will amount to a drop in the bucket.

"We're not addressing the structural deficiency in property taxes," Grantz said.

Levdansky said the legislation that legalized slot machines and gives school districts the option of taking slot revenue in return for providing property tax relief has more of a capacity to shift the tax burden onto a local income tax than voters might realize. Districts have until May to decide.

Levdansky said once school districts agree to accept slots revenue by increasing their wage tax can increase the amount of the income tax and lessen property taxes by voter referendum in 2007 and beyond.

"They could achieve another 30 percent (property tax reduction) under the state constitution," Levdansky said. Additional Information:

Details

David Levdansky

Age: 49
Family: Married, three children
Residence: Forward
Profession: State legislator
Party: Democrat
Political experience: In 10th term as state representative.

Brad Grantz

Age : 23
Family : Single
Residence : Elizabeth
Profession : An August 2003, graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Grantz is unemployed working full-time on his campaign. He most recently worked as a salesman for Penn Equipment in Dravosburg.
Party : Republican
Political experience : None

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