Three Republicans Vying To Replace State Sen. Pippy
D. Raja, Sue Means and state Rep. Mark Mustio are vying to replace outgoing state Sen. John Pippy.
Former Mt. Lebanon Commissioner D. Raja, Sue Means of Bethel Park and state Rep. Mark Mustio, of Moon Township, answered questions—both broad and specific—concerning their role if they took office and their stance on issues concerning area residents. The three candidates will face-off in the primary election on April 24.
Means, who has a background in nursing, said she’s running because she’s concerned about the direction of our country and the “out-of-control spending” in Harrisburg.
“Our state is sick,” she said. “Our government is infected with parasites. It’s an over-eating glutton. It needs put on a strict diet called a balanced budget.
“I’m running for the people who need and deserve someone to champion their liberties." Means also touted her 27 years as a grassroots activist.
When asked, “What will you do to make Pennsylvania a desirable place to run a business?” state Rep. Mark Mustio said it’s already being implemented.
“Corporate net income tax needs to be reduced,” he said.
Mustio said he’s for a moratorium on property reassessments. He said we must improve the environment of Pennsylvania and have a private sector come in to invest—as they’ve done at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Mustio touted the fact he’s part of a legislative district that grew by 15 percent in the last few years.
Means replied, “We cannot be free until we are economically free. Our government is too big.
She said she feels Americans have less discretionary income today. “We must look at our programs and only fund those that’ll work. Two thousand laws are introduced yearly in Harrisburg. There are too many taxes, too many regulations,” she said.
“We have the second highest business tax in the whole country—it’s 9.99 percent,” he said. “We are fundamentally flawed. Our regulation is archaic. We need a great platform that’s organic, that’ll work. Reform needs to happen."
Earlier in the debate, Raja said he came to Pittsburgh for a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. He then received a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. He left for a job in Silicon Valley, but returned to Pittsburgh because it was home.
He said he grew his company, Computer Enterprises, Inc, without bank loans—to millions in a short time. He said he cut real estate taxes twice in Mt. Lebanon, and is pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.
Mustio represents more than 60,000 residents of western Allegheny County in the 44th Legislative District and has served since 2003.
Achieving a Balanced Budget
Means said the government must to take a serious look at welfare fraud.
“Thirty percent goes to welfare,” she said. “Hard times call for hard decisions. We must cut out spending by at least 25 percent. We have to pay off our debt. We need to sell the liquor stores. The state needs to get out of the business of selling liquor.”
“Growth in revenue doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “There are people that bought a Lexus on a welfare budget. We need to help those people in need because the system is fundamentally not working. We need to find the root cause of the problem and fix it so it works. We need to prioritize in public safety infrastructure. No liquor stores. We need to make sure the best service is going to the taxpayer."
Mustio said he’s in support of Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget plan.
“It’s not spending more money than we’re taking in,” he said. “I have voted to reduce welfare spending by $400 million. Now, we’re drug testing those on welfare. I voted to downsize the legislature, which hasn’t happened since 1967. It passed to reduce the House to 153 and the Senate to 38. We need to take a look at ourselves first."
“Downsizing is a bad idea,” she said. “It puts more power into fewer people’s hands.”
Mustio said he believes the taxing body must roll its millage rate back to the average increase.
“If the average went up 25 percent, then the district would have to roll back rates to 25 percent—zero windfall,” he said.
Mustio said he voted for the moratorium bill, which is now heading to the Senate.
“The state Legislature has let us all down,” Means said. “It’s unconstitutional to have Washington and Allegheny counties faced with reassessment. We have the right to own property.”
She said she voted for House Bill 1776—instead of revenues stemming from property tax, it’d come from sales tax.
Means said she visited a family in Mt. Lebanon while campaigning.
“I was broken-hearted,” she said. “They had raised their family, paid off their house and had to move because they couldn’t afford to pay property taxes anymore.”
Raja said he was also in favor or the moratorium.
“Forty-eight states do a statewide assessment,” he said. “We’re one of two that do not. There needs to be zero windfall and it needs to be statewide. As a commissioner, I saw how the amount of refunds going out was estimated—appeals were made high. Those loopholes need to be closed.”
Mustio said the candidates had talked about welfare earlier, but it’s not just those who are getting checks, he said. “It’s out most disadvantaged citizens and seniors. Those services are being delivered and not being taken advantage of.”
“Most of our senior citizens should be moved to a better situation,” she said. “We’re the 39th overall provider for long-term health care services. There is 10- to 15-percent fraud in collecting Medicaid money and services.”
Raja said we should to privatize hospitals.
“The money needs to be spent efficiently,” he said. “Vendors fund the politicians. The money comes in and it’s not for the best. The federal government mandates the direction of money. Some things are very archaic.”
Should Education Funding Be Tied to Performance?
Means said there is one program that bothers her.
“Students score below the state assessment test and then they get more money,” she said. “They keep pouring more and more money into our schools and are not getting results. Teacher strikes needs banned. Prevailing wage needs eliminated."
Raja said he came to Pittsburgh to go to school.
“An integral part is being a leader in education,” he said. “It sets us for the next generation. School choice is a critical aspect of it. The bottom most-failing schools need the option to go to a different area.”
“We need school choice in Pennsylvania,” he said. “We need to update the charter schools. $330 million is going solely into pensions.”
Mustio said parental involvement is key.
“It’s not happening in lower-performing schools,” he said. “Kids aren’t reading with the TV off and parents aren't sitting down with them." He referenced an example about an after-school program in Moon Township.
“Some of the most disadvantaged kids came in and were out of control,” he said. “They came consistently and now they run off of the school bus to see those nuns. They know someone loves and cares for them.”
Means said there is no correlation between money spent and classroom expense. “Taxes are so high and there is no discretionary income,” she said. “Faith-based charity organizations work, but they’re hurting because we’re paying too much in our tax dollars.”
She also said there must to be transparency in our government. "Right now, in Bethel Park, the issue is giving students iPads. “The students shouldn’t even have calculators,” she said. “It’s making our students dumber and their minds weaker.”
Mustio said he’s not a proponent of the moratorium, but did vote against House Bill 1950.
“Peters Township is gorgeous,” he said. “I understand how residents are concerned that it might be taken away because of ordinances, etc. It’s different (to drill) where there aren’t very many people. But, it will help us from an energy standpoint."
He said we must marshal that, so that we use it here in Pennsylvania. “We’re in the market for the product, at the same time you’re going to see jobs created.”
Means said Act 129 should be repealed.
“Mustio voted for 129,” she said. “It was passed. It you want to conserve, that’s fine. But, this is state mandating. The bill was passed in 2008. We need to repeal the Utility Act. The state is picking winning and losers, and driving up the price of our electricity.
“The more energy we use, we’re growing and manufacturing more goods,” she said. “It’s the detriment of us all.”
Raja said that we’re fortunate for Marcellus. “That said, I believe about the local control,” he said. “The local bodies need to be able to decide. This gives us the ability to lead in energy production. I agree with Sue. We should be creating a platform where regulation is fair and consistent.”
He said he feels 40 percent of the money shouldn’t go to Harrisburg, but should stay local.
Integrity of the Government
Means said she’s for term limits.
“Pensions are tied with careers,” she said. “I plan to serve two years with no pension. We need more citizens volunteering for duty."
“There are two kinds of politicians—one of those is seeking a career,” he said. “We need someone who wants to serve the people. Pensions are a detriment. The longer you stay, the more you become a career politician. You must have people who go there and want to give back. Allegheny County gave me the opportunity to be successful here. This isn’t a career for me. I want to focus on results. There are significant issues in Harrisburg. I want to lead by reform and make sure there’s transparency.”
Mustio urged voters to check his expenses online.
“It’s a good way for all of you to vent,” he said. “It’s hard for me to go to Harrisburg and see what happens to some of those people. They are indicted and go to jail. That’s not who I am. I first ran for our kids. I ran for the airport. Some are there for the wrong reasons, but I don’t think that’s any of us."
Means said she believes a law should be passed that if you’re an elected official, you can never be a lobbyist.
“There are 2,000 lobbyists in Harrisburg,” she said.
Final Word to Voters
Raja thanked the Peters Township Republicans for hosting the debate.
“I’ve taken a lot of hits,” he said. “I have a small office in India and 94 percent of my company is in the U.S. The rumors aren’t true. I’m committed to growing and prevailing wage reform. I want to focus on results. Someone said to me, ‘If you can trust your life to an Indian doctor, you can most certainly trust your life to an Indian CEO.’ Those who want to serve, get results done."
Means said, “Tough times call for tough decisions. “Pennsylvania is sick. It’s going bankrupt. It’s calling for a nurse. Career politicians are putting the next election ahead of the next generation. We need to cut spending and live within our means. I’m running as an independent, citizen patriot. I’m worried about the future of our children and grandchildren. We need to redirect Pennsylvania onto a path of prosperity."
Mustio said he chose to run in 2003 because he was tired of going to meetings and hearing (officials) say they wanted to keep our young people here.
“I want students who graduate here, to have jobs here. It’s important to consider that when you vote for your next state Senator. I’m pro-business and have never voted for a tax increase. I have a record. I’m pro-life and well versed on the issues.
To learn more about the candidates, click on the links below:
D. Raja: joinraja.com
Sue Means: electsuemeans.com
Mark Mustio: repmustio.com