Where Pennsylvania’s GOP governor candidates stand on issues
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three candidates are seeking the Republican nomination in Tuesday’s primary election to run for Pennsylvania governor.
Commercial litigation attorney Laura Ellsworth, former health care systems consultant Paul Mango and state Sen. Scott Wagner want to contest the re-election campaign of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Here’s a look at where they stand on some key issues:
All three said they oppose abortion rights and support legislation vetoed by Wolf last year. The bill banned elective abortions after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, compared with 24 weeks in current law. It kept in place exceptions under current law for when a mother’s life or well-being is at risk, but it did not add exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.
Opponents said the bill effectively outlawed the most common method of second-trimester abortion. The bill’s sponsor disputed that.
Wagner supports a “heartbeat bill” pending in the state Legislature that would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy. Mango’s campaign says he hasn’t reviewed the final legislation, but believes life begins at conception and would support legislation “advancing life.”
Ellsworth says the bill is unconstitutional — a federal appeals court has blocked similar laws in Arkansas and North Dakota — but she believes life begins at conception and would work to support anti-abortion legislation that would hold up better in courts.
Wagner would institute a private-sector concept called “zero-based budgeting” in state government that he said he expects will reduce costs by $1.5 billion to $4 billion.
Mango would work to reduce the state workforce to 50,000 or 55,000 employees. The number of employees under the governor’s jurisdiction is currently about 72,800, according to the governor’s office. Mango also said he would end the diversion of hundreds of millions of dollars in highway construction funds to underwrite state police costs.
Ellsworth would eliminate a system in which state agencies support themselves through regulatory fines and task every agency with reducing expenses 3 percent every year.
Mango opposes limits on campaign finance. Ellsworth supports limits on campaign donations and Wagner is open to the idea.
All three support the death penalty and would sign death warrants. Ellsworth’s campaign said she supports the death penalty in situations in which it has a deterrent effect. Mango’s campaign said he would sign a death warrant for those who commit the most heinous crimes.
Wagner said he would pursue a mandatory death penalty for any school shooter who kills someone, although legal analysts said laws like that have been unconstitutional for decades.
All three said they would seek to address the need for skilled labor through Pennsylvania’s schools and colleges and to reduce taxes and government regulation.
Ellsworth said she would create a 10-year business plan, with input from the private sector, to guide budgeting and economic development. She also would ask the state’s big pension systems to invest in Pennsylvania’s economic development programs.
Mango said he would travel aggressively beyond Pennsylvania’s borders to attract business to the state.
Wagner supports banning former lawmakers from lobbying and prohibiting lobbyists from doing campaign work for politicians.
Mango supports “pay-to-play” legislation limiting political contributions from government contractors. Mango also would prohibit lobbyists from doing campaign work for politicians, prohibit elected officials or their businesses from winning government contracts and double a “revolving door” lobbying ban to two years and expand it to cover all state government entities.
Ellsworth would impose a “no nepotism” rule for lobbyists.
None of the three supports more restrictions on gun ownership or gun sales or an expansion of background checks. Mango and Wagner oppose an expansion of background checks on gun purchases, although Ellsworth said she supports “more universal background checks” to adequately capture adjudicated instances of mental illness and dangerous conduct. Mango said the state needs to add resources to screen, diagnose and treat mental illness to ensure people who sufferers don’t have access to guns.
All three support legislation that passed unanimously in the state Senate last month to force people with a domestic violence conviction or restraining order against them to more quickly forfeit their firearms.
Wagner and Ellsworth support “right to work” legislation, a measure that would prohibit labor unions from collecting dues from employees who refuse to join the union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Mango said he would not support a blanket “right to work” law and would exempt unions representing private-sector trades, firefighters and police.
Wagner and Ellsworth support current legislation in Pennsylvania that’s designed to bar discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing because of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Mango said that he opposes discrimination but that the legislation would compromise religious freedom of conscience and the privacy and security of children in public bathrooms and school locker rooms, claims the bill’s backers say are baseless.
None of the three supports the full legalization of marijuana. All three support Pennsylvania’s 2016 legalization of medical marijuana.
None of the three would end Pennsylvania’s 3-year-old expansion of Medicaid’s income guidelines under former President Barack Obama’s federal health care law.
All three said that the program must become more efficient and that they would seek a federal waiver to institute a work requirement for able-bodied adults on Medicaid and possibly other changes. Mango also would seek a federal waiver to establish a high-risk pool for the sickest enrollees and health savings-style accounts for others.
Mango and Ellsworth oppose raising it from the current federal minimum of $7.25. Wagner said he would support raising it to around $9.50 an hour.
Wagner would seek to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers, limit the number of pills in opioid prescriptions and increase state funding to lengthen in-patient addiction treatment stays.
Ellsworth supports training more narcotics agents in the Pennsylvania State Police and taking a “two-strikes” approach that would require someone revived with naloxone twice to enter an in-patient treatment program.
Mango would seek to reinstate mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers and organize communities into task forces, but said the state should focus resources on prevention, not treatment.
Mango and Wagner said they support a move to a full 401(k)-style benefit for new state government and public school employees, rather than the traditional pension benefit or a hybrid.
Wagner would push to fire pension system investment managers over lackluster returns. Ellsworth would privatize the state-controlled wine and liquor store system and use the proceeds to help pay down the pension debt. Mango would lower obligations by reducing employee ranks through early buyouts and attrition and by fighting the abuse of voluntary overtime.
Mango and Wagner each support the elimination of school property taxes under the design of current legislation that would raise rates on Pennsylvania’s personal income tax and sales tax to make up for disappearing property tax revenue.
Ellsworth opposes eliminating property taxes, saying it would destroy local control over school funding and destabilize school finances. Ellsworth says property taxes should be frozen for people who have paid them for 35 years.
All three support expanding taxpayer-funded options for public school alternatives, including legislation to create taxpayer-funded “education savings accounts” that divert state aid for public schools into accounts that parents can use for tuition at private or parochial schools.
Mango and Wagner said they are not inclined to devote more money to public schools. Mango said he would invest more in education if there’s proof it would improve student achievement or it would drive more students into skilled labor professions.
Ellsworth said that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is not fair or adequate, and that making public schools compete for money with public school alternatives is holding back achievement.
Ellsworth supports the creation of an independent redistricting panel. Mango and Wagner support the current system in which state lawmakers draw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years.
None of the three gave an explicit pledge not to raise taxes or fees, but all three say they intend to avoid it. All three want to cut Pennsylvania’s 9.99 percent corporate net income tax rate.
Ellsworth supports providing local governments more taxing options so that property taxes don’t have to be the primary funding source.
All three declined to release a copy of their tax return.
Wagner and Mango said they support President Donald Trump and would campaign with him. Ellsworth said she supports Trump’s tax-cutting legislation and appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Wagner and Mango said they voted for Trump; Ellsworth said she voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.