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Pennsylvania Governor’s Race: Where The Candidates Stand

(credit: Phran Novelli)

(credit: Phran Novelli)

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – A look at where the four Democratic gubernatorial candidates — state Treasurer Rob McCord, former Clinton White House environmental adviser Katie McGinty, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and businessman Tom Wolf — stand on some key issues:

ABORTION RIGHTS

All four candidates support abortion rights. McGinty says she would oppose any effort to further restrict abortion rights.

HEALTH CARE

All four candidates would scrap Gov. Tom Corbett’s “Healthy PA” plan that subsidizes private insurance coverage and instead expand Medicaid coverage under the 2010 federal health care law. They would also set up a Pennsylvania-run insurance exchange rather than the federally run insurance exchange Corbett chose.

EDUCATION

All four candidates would seek to restore money that Corbett cut from higher education and public schools to balance the budget. They also all oppose vouchers for private schools.

McCord: Would seek to expand funding for prekindergarten programs by $220 million to approximately $300 million a year. Would seek to reduce payments to charter and cyber-charter schools. Would seek to provide incentives to state-subsidized universities to slow the rate of tuition increases. Would seek to target higher education tuition assistance and loan forgiveness programs to graduates of degree programs that teach skills that are in high demand.

McGinty: Would propose rewarding state-subsidized universities with additional state aid for keeping an annual tuition increase to below the inflation rate. Would seek to reduce payments to charter schools and fund them based on “auditable costs.” Would refuse aid to any charter school that is operated by a for-profit company. Would seek to create a grant program to help 35,000 middle-income families of college-bound children and create the “Pennsylvania Dream Scholarship Program” to provide merit-based grants of up to $4,000 for 10,000 high-achieving, low-income students.

Schwartz: Would offer universal access to prekindergarten for 4-year-olds and provide funding for districts to offer full-day kindergarten. Would seek to reduce payments to charter schools and end state support for cyber charters. Would seek a two-year tuition freeze at state-subsidized universities in return for more state aid to the institutions. Would seek to create a new $40 million higher-education grant program with a family income eligibility ceiling of $110,000 and maximum grants of $5,000.

Wolf: Would seek to increase the state’s share of public school spending to 50 percent of the overall cost. Would convene a commission to develop funding formulas for charter schools and cyber charters. Would develop a five-year funding plan for state-subsidized universities.

MINIMUM WAGE

McCord: Supports increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.70 per hour and provide annual increases of 10 cents per year through 2024 before indexing it to inflation.

McGinty: Supports increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016, including tipped workers like waiters and waitresses, and indexing it to inflation.

Schwartz: Supports increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to inflation.

Wolf: Supports increasing Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 over a two-year period and indexing it to inflation.

PUBLIC PENSIONS

All four candidates would maintain a defined benefit pension program for public employees and would oppose switching the system to a 401(k)-style plan and further delaying the state’s annual pension obligation payments. McCord, McGinty and Schwartz oppose further reductions in the pension benefits of public employees, while Wolf would not say whether he would support or oppose such reductions. None put forward a specific plan to fully fund the state’s pension funds. McCord also would support a taxpayer-backed bond to borrow money at a lower rate to pay down the pension systems’ unfunded liability.

NATURAL GAS POLICY

All four candidates would oppose a broad moratorium on natural gas drilling, support a moratorium on drilling in state parks and state forests and in the Delaware River Basin, and oppose reducing local governments’ zoning authority over drilling activity. They would also seek to require exploration companies to publicly disclose chemicals used in fracking.

In addition, McCord would seek a ban on the use of open wastewater pits and the waterway discharge of drilling wastewater that is not treated to federal safety standards. He would also seek to rescind the power of eminent domain by a company developing a natural gas storage facility. Schwartz would seek to repeal a state law that allows forced pooling.

GAY RIGHTS

All four candidates would sign legislation to recognize same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of housing, employment and public accommodation.

GUN RIGHTS

All four candidates would sign legislation to enact universal background checks, ban sales of assault weapons, require that gun owners report lost or stolen guns and grant municipalities the ability to enact gun control ordinances.

McCord and Schwartz would sign legislation to limit the number of handguns that one person could buy in an effort to deter straw purchases. McGinty would not sign legislation to limit handgun purchases. Wolf wouldn’t say whether he would sign that legislation.

TAXES

All four candidates would seek to impose a severance tax on natural gas extraction — though the amounts they would choose differ — and expand the reach of the corporate net income tax by requiring combined reporting.

McCord: Would seek to repeal the 2-year-old impact fee on natural gas drilling and impose a 10 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction, with deductions for certain production-related expenses. Would impose an excise tax on the sale of cigars and smokeless tobacco and end the practice of allowing retailers to keep 1 percent of the sales tax they collect.

McGinty: Would seek to impose a “reasonable” severance tax on natural gas extraction. Would seek to increase Pennsylvania’s income-tax exemption to allow as many as 200,000 additional households to qualify for refunds or reductions, which are based on income and family size. Would seek to impose an excise tax on the sale of cigars and smokeless tobacco.

Schwartz: Would seek to impose a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction.

Wolf: Would seek to impose a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extraction. Would seek to change Pennsylvania’s personal income tax law by excluding taxation on income below a certain amount and increasing the rate to shift the burden to higher earners. Would seek to lower the corporate net income tax rate.

MARIJUANA

All four candidates would sign legislation to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. They also broadly agree there should be changes in arrests for marijuana possession. Specifically, McGinty says she supports decriminalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Schwartz would support legislation “to reduce the criminalization” of simple marijuana possession. Wolf supports decriminalizing possession of under an ounce of marijuana.

McGinty and Schwartz say they oppose the legalization of marijuana sales. McCord and Wolf say before deciding whether to support legalizing marijuana sales, they want to study the experience of states where it’s legal.

DEATH PENALTY

All four candidates support either a moratorium on or an end to the death penalty. McCord, McGinty and Wolf agree a moratorium on the death penalty is in order while studying its value. Schwartz would sign legislation to end the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)