There was common ground on keeping The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. Otherwise, wrangling prevailed as the 199th state House District candidates faced off at Dickinson College last night. Divisions centered on money -- specifically controlling state spending -- and how to rein in health care expenses and rising medical malpractice insurance costs.
Christian Muniz even chastised fellow Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell for a "bad budget" and said Republican leaders passed it "simply to embarrass the governor." Such partisanship has hamstrung government, Muniz said.
Muniz of Carlisle, an aide to State Rep. Jeff Coy, D- Shippensburg, is vying with Matthew Teter of North Middleton Twp., a Verizon sales manager, for the Democratic nomination in the 199th, which covers most of central and western Cumberland County.
Carlisle businessman Dick Suter is challenging State Rep. Will Gabig of Carlisle for the GOP nod.
Last night's forum drew about 100 people.
Teter vowed to be a "vigilant budget hawk" and to bring "cutting- edge companies" to the area for "sustainable economic growth."
He blamed the malpractice insurance crisis on an "ambulance- chasing mentality" and on judges who allow juries to return "ludicrously" high awards in such cases.
Muniz called for "reasonable" caps on malpractice awards and said the state insurance commissioner should be elected, not appointed, to "add a healthy bit of politics" to insurance regulation.
Business taxes are too high, Muniz said, and the state must invest more in site preparation and other elements to attract firms.
Gabig said the best thing state leaders can do to attract business is "to keep control of spending, which will keep control of taxes."
Medical malpractice reform, particularly caps on jury awards, is "something we need to move on," he said.
Suter called for a "real, balanced solution" for property tax reform.
He backed "limited" caps on malpractice awards and urged doctors to help weed out poor physicians. "The medical profession has to do a better job of policing their own," he said.
On the economic front, "the first thing we need to do is to keep the jobs that we have," he said. "We have to be sure that our tax structure is competitive with neighboring states."
As for the law school, Gabig touted his newly introduced bill that would block a plan to move the school, an arm of Penn State University, to Penn State's main campus.
Teter and Muniz backed that strategy, and Muniz demanded that Penn State be made to open its books regarding the economics of the proposed relocation. Suter blasted the law school board for its "secrecy" in handling the issue.
MATT MILLER: 249-2006 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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PHOTO; GARY DWIGHT MILLER; Caption: From left, candidates Christian Muniz, Will Gabig, Matthew Teter and Dick Suter squared off last night at a debate for the 199th state House District.