State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, told a Williamsport Rotary Club audience Monday that he's not the tax-and-spend liberal that his political opponents make him out to be.
Beyond that, he's often voted much like his local colleagues from the other side of the political aisle serving in the General Assembly, including state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, and state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy.
He's also been known to vote differently than the other two lawmakers, including in his support for a gas severance tax.
Mirabito, seeking re-election to the 83rd House seat, said he takes excep-
tion to recent direct mail sent by the House Republican Committee that supports his political opponent, Harry Rogers.
The flyer called into question Mirabito's vote two years ago for a pair of spending bills that allocate millions of dollars to capital projects across the state.
The lawmaker admitted to voting for the two House bills in 2010, totaling some $4 billion, because they included more than a half million dollars to local projects for railroad track construction involving Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. and Lundy Industrial Realty.
"If I'm a big liberal spender, their senator (Yaw) is a big liberal spender, too," he later told the Sun-Gazette. "The truth is, neither of us are because we voted for an itemization bill, not the actual spending. Only the governor can do that."
Everett voted against the bills.
Other fliers that have circulated accusing Mirabito of recklessly spending taxpayer money were dismissed by the lawmaker as misleading the public.
Rogers did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
Mirabito ticked off a list of issues he supports that mirror those of his Republican colleagues, including a rejection of Interstate 80 tolls, his backing of the Castle Doctrine and his fight to close the "Delaware Loophole" to prevent corporations that do business in the state from not paying their fair share of taxes.
He noted he also voted in favor of tort reform, to prevent waste in the Department of Public Welfare and to strengthen regulations on abortion clinics.
And, he has been out front with Yaw and Everett in trying to return the state police aviation unit to the Williamsport Regional Airport. Most recently, his amendment to bring back the helicopter fell short by eight votes in the House.
Asked if he was perhaps not as conservative as his Republican colleagues, he said, "It's not conservative or liberal. It's what is best for the people in our district."
It's why he voted against the natural gas impact fee.
Not only does the impact fee fail to bring an adequate revenue stream to local communities, it gives up local zoning control to drillers.
Mirabito said the gas industry should pay its fair share for doing business in the state.
After all, he said, "the top six gas executives in Pennsylvania in 2010 took home $64 million in salary."
The lawmaker said he has nothing against the gas industry but asked why drillers should escape a severance tax, especially when 38 other states impose the tax.
The state has its share of pressing financial needs, including help for its deteriorating roads and bridges.
By not passing a severance tax, the state lost an estimated $300,000 between 2009 and 2012.
Mirabito said he could not support this year's state budget with its inclusion of continued cuts to public education.
Those cuts, he said, hurt rural and poorer schools the hardest since they are more dependent on the funding than more affluent districts.