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GOP foes also aim at pay hike

| Friday, May 12, 2006

Both Republican candidates in the 50th Legislative District criticize the salary hike for legislators approved by the man they hope to replace.

Logistics specialist Richard Yeager and Arena Football League star Greg Hopkins will face off Tuesday for the Republican nomination in a district that includes all of Greene County and parts of Fayette and Washington counties.

State Rep. H. William DeWeese, a 30-year veteran of the state Legislature, is opposed by Robert Danko for the Democratic nomination.

Yeager said he would never accept a pay raise and would limit his service to three terms, if elected.

Hopkins said he does not support a pay raise and would "never support doing it the way our Legislature did."

"I believe that all public servants - elected or otherwise - should have pay and benefits, and that they, just like everyone else, have the right to a living wage," Hopkins said. "However, our state representatives are already very well paid, and I share everyone's outrage at the fact that they gave themselves an unnecessary pay raise in 2005, and that they did it in the middle of the night, behind closed doors."

Hopkins said he would only accept "public transportation funding" when he is conducting his official duties as a legislator.

"It is important to be in the district as much as possible in order to hear and respond to voters' concerns," Hopkins said. "It is also critical to be in Harrisburg, on the floor of the House, working on behalf of the voters. That's what voters elect us to do for them. It becomes a sore issue when it is abused, and I will not do that."

Yeager said he would not accept a state-funded vehicle, preferring to use his pick-up truck.

Yeager said he would accept state-paid health care "because employees of the state are provided with health care" and a state pension because "I will be cutting my present finances for retirement short."

Hopkins believes retirement benefits should be tied to years served and cost-of-living adjustments should be limited to a true cost-of-living index.

Yeager said he would accept a cost-of-living increase for his retirement benefits.

"Cost-of-living adjustments are not as threatening as they sound if they are properly limited to a true cost-of-living index, and not to some arbitrary number," Hopkins said.

"If COLAs are kept at the true index level, they do not create a pay increase, but do maintain pay rates at the level intended by the voters."

Tax relief, economic development and the environment dot Hopkins' platform.

Hopkins said he favors funding schools through "consumption taxes," that is, spreading school funding responsibility across the whole community.

"It is unfair and unreasonable to expect those who own real estate to shoulder this burden alone," Hopkins said. "It is especially bad when elderly land owners who have inherited and cared for family farms and properties for generations now find themselves in foreclosure because of taxes they cannot afford to pay."

Hopkins said the state needs to "develop an entrepreneurial spirit that lets our best and brightest stay here and raise their families, assured of a sound economy and decent public services."

"One of my biggest priorities is to foster this development," Hopkins said. "I will do whatever it takes in Harrisburg to sponsor economic growth initiatives for our district."

Hopkins said he is concerned about the impacts of long-wall coal mining and wants to fight for land preservation.

"I share everyone's concern that the protection of both the environment and people's rights needs much greater emphasis," Hopkins said. "I will continue to work this issue hard to ensure we have a strengthened voice with the coal companies. Additionally, I am convinced that we need a public advocacy office to provide advice and support to help people when they are notified of impending mining operations on their properties."

Yeager said property tax reform, expansion of sewage and water service and health care are among the top issues of his platform.

"I will work to abolish property taxes, because they are nothing more than a mortgage and, if they are not abolished, the citizens of the commonwealth will be in the same over-taxed situation in a couple of years as we are in now," Yeager said. "I would increase the sales tax to finance the operation of our public schools, extending the taxable items to include food and clothing.

Yeager said he believes the cost of school construction, renovation, retirement of bonds, employee retirement and the expansion of the charter and cyber schools should be financed by slots gambling revenues.

He also would support expansion of sewage and water service throughout the 50th district.

"Until this is accomplished, businesses will not be attracted, and people will not move into the district," Yeager said. "Bill DeWeese has let the citizens of the 50th district down by not seeing to the funding of these basic services."

Yeager said he favors "development that provides jobs and additional revenues for the district."

"When elected, I would cut through the red tape to develop the Mon River area for recreational and residential purposes, thereby using the resources that presently lie idle," Yeager said. "This would provide a favorable environment for small businessmen and provide for increased employment. I would also work to establish a 1,000 yard rifle range, and pistol and archery ranges in western Greene county to provide sportsmen with a first class facility. This range would also attract sportsmen from the entire tri-state area providing additional revenues."

Yeager said he favors capping legal fees obtained on medical malpractice.

"That would reduce the number of cases by making attorneys consider the validity of each case before investing their time and case preparation costs," Yeager said. "This would make Pennsylvania a more doctor-friendly state to practice in and lower the cost of health care."

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