Lebanon County commissioner seeks governor seat

Jo Ellen Litz, a 14-year Lebanon County commissioner and Democrat, announced her candidacy for the 2014 state gubernatorial election against GOP incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett.

Litz started campaigning around the state two days a week after her announcement July 2, and recently stopped in Williamsport.

She considers herself a moderate and is not a one-issue candidate. At 61, she said she has a broad range of experiences that make her a qualified candidate.

Since 2012, she’s been president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and is chairwoman of the board until next year.

She decided to run because while she shared a stage with Gov. Corbett with CCAP, and she respects him and the office, she said they part ways on some of the current key issues.

One such issue is the Marcellus Shale gas tax – “which never happened,” Litz said.

Plus, the transportation bill didn’t go through, she said, emphasizing the lingering unsafe roads and bridges. She chaired a local metropolitan planning organization, which looked at road conditions and prioritized which roads needed fixed.

Fixing the transportation issue also will boost the local economy, she said, since businesses are more attracted to places with better roads.

“Fixing the roads is a necessity because of safety; it gets the goods to market, children to school, people to work, and it helps provide good-paying jobs,” Litz said.

“What better way to get out of a bad economy?” she asked. “We have projects that need done, let’s do them.”

If she wins, Litz said she’s determined to communicate with the Legislature, see where the “sticking points” are and work them out.

As for the pension crisis, she warned if it’s not soon addressed, it can bankrupt the state and hurt the credit rating.

“To kick the ball down the road doesn’t solve the problem,” she said.

She suggests a revision of real estate taxes with a graduated income tax, so that those who earn more, pay more taxes, and those who earn less may pay less.

“People are struggling to pay taxes,” she said, but the graduated income tax plan may help generate revenue to dig the state out of the pension crisis hole.

She described it as a temporary dedicated debt reduction plan, and said the pension crisis wouldn’t be over until it is at least 75 percent funded.

She clarified she would leave it up to each county to decide what is best for it.

“They know what they need,” she said of the counties.

As for privatization of the liquor system: “No,” Litz said, emphatically. She referred to a study she read years ago that stated the drinking and driving rate would increase if privatization occurred.

She said she respects and supports the Second Amendment – with background checks for gun buyers.

Litz agrees with Corbett on the use of block grants for Mental Health and Human Services, but disagrees with cutting it by 10 percent. If she wins, she would restore that funding, and would back legislation by state Sen. Pat Vance, R-Mechanicsburg, a Williamsport native, to allow the state’s 67 counties to have access to those grants.

She is for small government and thinks government sometimes oversteps its bounds by micromanaging businesses.

Litz said she’d like to see businesses and conservation groups to go hand in hand. She thinks it’s possible for businesses to be profitable and environmentally conscious.

“Putting these things together will make Pennsylvania shine,” she said.

She said she speaks from experience as she owned and operated a business for 20 years, and is president of the Swatera Watershed Association, preserving historical landmarks and creating water trails.