Raja Vows To End Allegheny County’s 7 Percent Drink Tax

Len Barcousky
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

D. Raja, Republican candidate for Allegheny County executive, said this morning the county’s drink tax would disappear and property taxes would not increase if voters elect him county executive on Nov. 8.

Mr. Raja said that his first proposed budget would make up for the $35 million loss in drink-tax revenue by a variety of unspecified cuts and efficiencies in other county departments.

During an outdoor press conference held at the foot of the waterfall-walkway outside the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Mr. Raja identified seven areas where the county could be more efficient and save money. He declined to put specific dollar amount on the savings to be realized from each proposal, saying he would want to confer first with county department heads.

Those cost-cutting ideas include introducing more education and work programs for non-violent offenders, a move which would reduce the population and save money at the county jail. Other proposals call for cross-training workers to do a variety of jobs and consolidating county services with other government units.

The county uses the tax revenue, about $27 million annually, to pay its operating subsidy to the Port Authority.

Mr. Raja’s plan to eliminate the 7 percent drink tax drew the support of the western chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association. Chapter President John Graf said his organization was endorsing Mr. Raja for the county executive post.

“He is a new voice and has a fresh vision that will allow the restaurant and food service industry to thrive,” Mr. Graf said.

Mr. Raja held his press conference on the same day that his Democratic opponent, Rich Fitzgerald, released a new television commercial that criticized him and his company, CEI, for outsourcing jobs to India.

Read more: http://www.postgazette.com/pg/11279/1180169-100.stm