CAMPAIGN 2014: Candidate for lieutenant governor outlines his platform
Revenue is the key to Pennsylvania’s future, according to Brad Koplinski, a candidate for lieutenant governor.
Koplinski, a Democrat and former attorney for the Department of Justice and Department of Treasury, currently sits on the Harrisburg city council. He took time out of his campaign schedule Monday to speak with members of the Gazette’s editorial board.
“I think we need to make some significant changes on being able to get people to come to Pennsylvania,” he said.
Koplinski outlined several strategies for bringing business to the commonwealth as well as retaining existing workers.
The biggest issue facing the state, he said, is handling the education cuts made during Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration. He expressed a desire to bolster the 14 schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education system, which includes Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as well as larger schools like Penn State.
He would also like to see community colleges strengthened, citing Harrisburg Area Community College as an example. With several satellite campuses offering different curriculums, community colleges can produce more skilled workers.
“Education feeds directly into jobs,” he said.
Koplinski expressed his worries regarding pension plans, which often are a drain on a municipality’s coffers. He wants to target police pensions, bringing them collectively under state management so municipalities don’t have to pay for administration.
Pensions need to be streamlined, he said. Some police forces want to merge, but differing pension plans can be an impediment.
He also said he wants more money from the recently passed transportation bill to be applied to upkeep of smaller, local roads and not just large state roads. This will help improve the infrastructure of smaller communities, he said.
Recently, Koplinski signed a no-fracking pledge to put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing within the commonwealth pending further assessment of environmental safety issues. He said he was not against continuing to allow existing wells to keep drilling.
“It’s here,” he said. “But if it’s going to be here, let’s do things smartly.”
Severance and impact fees on drilling aren’t nearly high enough, he said. A better system of fees would bring in an estimated $400 to $500 million, he said. According to Koplinski, property owners are getting “nickeled and dimed” by corporations, and he would rather see owners treated more fairly.
In addition to fees, he said stronger regulations and more inspectors are needed. Drilling companies also need to disclose what is going into fracking fluids so property owners can know what is going into their land and water.
Koplinski explained his stance against the privatization of the liquor industry, saying the state is making $400 million off liquor products and 5,000 union jobs depend on the industry as it stands.
“I don’t want a kid at Sheetz carding people,” he said. “I feel safer with that state store employee carding our young people to make sure there’s less underage drinking. I feel that would be a concern with privatization.”
He also feared the selection of premium wines, which brings in numerous out-of-state shoppers, would diminish.
Koplinski said he is in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing it altogether.
Legalization could bring in as much as $200 million to the state from medical marijuana alone, he said. This does not include additional revenue from hemp-made products such as clothing or rope.He said the illicit trade of marijuana isn’t as big a concern as the growing problem of heroin and cocaine. Revenue generated from marijuana sale, he said, could immediately go into treatment and education programs for more addictive substances.
“We can’t make an investment in marijuana and say, ‘OK, everything is super,’ and not pay much harder attention to the more difficult drugs we deal with,” he said.
In discussing his campaign plans, Koplinski said he had already visited all 67 counties in the state by August, something former senator and Koplinski’s former boss Arlen Specter used to advocate. He said some candidates won’t travel to all the counties, thinking that if they hit the major cities and a few hot spots, they’ll earn the votes they need.
“Everybody’s vote counts,” Koplinski said, “as much in Indiana as it does in Philadelphia, Erie, Scranton or Pittsburgh.”
Candidates running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor race are Koplinski, Mark S. Critz, Brandon P. Neuman, Mark W. Smith and Michael J. Stack III. Lt. Gov. James Cawley is the Republican incumbent.
Democrats running for governor are Thomas W. Wolf, Allyson Schwartz, Robert M. McCord and Kathleen A. McGinty. Tom Corbett is the Republican incumbent.
Candidates for lieutenant governor and governor run separately in the primary, but party nominees run together in the general election.
“I see all of them at least once a week,” Koplinski said about the governor candidates. ‘They’re all great. They’re all good progressives. I think they’re all much better than Tom Corbett. We would be a great partner with any one of them.”