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Use of slots revenue concerns 60th District candidates

| Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2004

In July, the state's General Assembly embraced the idea of allowing slot parlors to help pay for a projected $1 billion in property tax cuts in Pennsylvania.

But both candidates running for the state House 60th District seat in Armstrong County said legislators are ready to break that promise.

Democrat Barry Crytzer, publisher of the Horse Trader magazine, and Republican Jeff Pyle, mayor of Ford City, said money generated from slots needs to go solely to school property tax reduction, not public projects.

Crytzer and Pyle are running for the House seat being vacated by state Rep. Jeff Coleman, R-Apollo. Coleman chose not to run for a third term.

Both candidates are concerned that legislators have earmarked the slots revenue for public projects -- millions to pay off debts for the new convention centers and stadiums in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, they said. Some legislators, they said, have recently suggested that revenue go to flood victims.

The state is financing those big-ticket projects by borrowing $2 billion against future slots revenue. That money probably will be distributed next year.

Property tax relief, however, will have to wait about three years, until the industry gets up and running.

"I would go back to the original promise we made when we passed the slots," Crytzer said. "The only way the public gave it support was we were told our property taxes were going to be lowered. It's no wonder people don't trust politicians."

Pyle, who doesn't think gambling is a good fit for Pennsylvania, agreed. He said it's similar to taxpayers ordering a hamburger but getting toasted cheese.

Paying for public projects with slots revenue will only reduce the amount of relief taxpayers get, Pyle said.

Both said that if elected, they will fight to restore that money solely to property tax relief.

Pyle said it's also crucial to eliminate the potential for any legislator to own a portion of any gambling venture.

Despite a flurry of activity in the House and Senate last week, senators and public officials from county commissioners to local party officials still are allowed by law to own up to 1 percent of a slots parlor and up to 100 percent of a distributorship.

Asked how they would make up lost revenue from reduced property taxes, Crytzer said he supports broadening the 6 percent sales tax to include food and clothing.

"If we use that in conjunction from what the gaming revenue was intended for, it would more than make up the lost revenue," Crytzer said. "It may not even have to be 6 percent. Six percent would give us a surplus, I'm positive."

Pyle supports eliminating property taxes and replacing them with a flat sales tax of between 4.5 and 5 percent -- expanding the tax to include food and clothing.

"This has a positive effect in that it will dissipate the bite we feel for the big lump sum payment at the end of June," Pyle said, referring to school property tax bills.

Health care costs -- such as hospitalization, prescription drugs, and doctor visits -- would be free from sales tax under Pyle's plan. Additional Information:

State representative, 60th District

A Democrat and a Republican are squaring off for the 60th state House District seat.

This is a two-year term. State representatives are paid $66,203 annually.

The district covers much of Armstrong County, including the boroughs of Apollo, Applewold, Ford City, Ford Cliff, Freeport, Kittanning, Manorville, North Apollo, West Kittanning and Worthington. The district also includes the townships of Burrell, East Franklin, Kiski, Kittanning, Manor, North Buffalo, Rayburn, South Bend, South Buffalo, Valley, West Franklin. The district also includes several boroughs and townships in Indiana County.

Jeff Pyle

Party: Republican.

Age: 40.

Residence: Fourth Avenue, Ford City.

Education: Bachelor's degree in political science from West Virginia University, 1986; bachelor's degree in secondary education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1991.

Occupation: Social studies teacher at Ford City High School.

Political experience: Ford City mayor since 2001.

Barry W. Crytzer

Party: Democrat.

Age: 46.

Residence: Route 28/66, Rayburn Township.

Education: Kittanning High School, 1975.

Occupation: Printer/publisher of the Horse Trader for 27 years.

Political experience: Rayburn Township supervisor, 1975 to 1980.

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