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Hafer key cog in Rendell takeover

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2002

PHILADELPHIA — Republican State Treasurer Barbara Hafer will play a key role in Democratic Ed Rendell's transition team, focusing on ways to cut $1 billion or more in state spending.

Hafer, 59, of Elizabeth and a former Allegheny County commissioner, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review she will work with the transition team to make fiscal recommendations to Rendell.

Rendell, 58, the former Philadelphia mayor, won the governor's race Tuesday, defeating Republican Mike Fisher, the state attorney general from Upper St. Clair. Hafer's endorsement of Rendell in September was a turning point in the governor's race, some analysts believe.

Hafer, who initially challenged Fisher for the GOP nomination, said that she is not interested in a position with the Rendell administration. She campaigned for him during the weeks leading up to the election because of his ideas and leadership.

"She definitely will be a huge help to us in the transition process," said Dan Fee, Rendell's spokesman. "She brings a lot of expertise, and we are very happy she'll be helping."

In acknowledging his key supporters Tuesday night, Rendell referred to Hafer as having "the heart of a lion." Hafer had been criticized by some Republicans for helping Rendell.

The rest of Rendell's transition team has not been announced. The team will be financed by about $175,000 in state money, set aside in this year's budget.

Hafer said she will look for ways to cut spending and raise new revenue without raising taxes.

"If the numbers are right, we may be facing a $2 billion deficit next year," Hafer said. "Everyone's going to have to buckle up."

Hafer said she believes $1 billion in state spending can be cut. She also said lawmakers will need to pass legislation legalizing slot machines at race tracks, a proposal with bipartisan support. Rendell estimated that slots at tracks can bring in $500 million a year.

During the campaign, Rendell called for $1 billion in spending cuts to pay for reductions in property taxes.

Hafer grudgingly dropped out of the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination after key party leaders lined up behind Fisher. Polls had shown Hafer leading Fisher and state Auditor General Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, in statewide name recognition. Casey was the favorite over Rendell in the Democratic primary in May.

Hafer is serving her second term as treasurer. She previously served two terms as state auditor general.

Hafer was the Republican nominee for governor in 1990. With little financial backing from her party, Hafer was defeated by Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey, the father of the auditor general. Hafer is frequently credited with finding a $1 billion budget deficit in 1990 that resulted in the largest tax increase in state history in 1991.

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