By Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Port Authority of Allegheny County gets a lot of money from the federal government, but to get those dollars, county taxpayers have been paying a 7 percent drink tax to raise the required $28 million local match.

Republican D. Raja says he can eliminate the drink tax without raising property taxes and still keep federal funding.

“I will eliminate the drink tax in my first budget without increasing property taxes,” he said.

“Anybody who tells you that they can eliminate the drink tax without raising property taxes is just not being honest,” Rich Fitzgerald, the Democrat running for County Executive, said.

But Raja says he has a plan to cut county spending by enough money to eliminate the drink tax.

“Reduce the expenses of county government by $28 million and I’ve outlined the specifics there, Jon, and in fact from internally, I have gone through the budget.”

Raja cites an earlier proposal to cut county taxes, regulations and fees, but won’t give the precise budget reductions until he’s elected and meets with county department heads.

“Internally we have a number which gives us what we need to cut,” he said. “But before I roll that out — as a CEO that’s what you do — get the consensus of the department heads before you do.”

“The fact that he’s being secretive about, ‘I won’t tell you the cuts until after the election’ – I think that tells you all you need to know.

“If he’s got some cuts, he should put them on the table,” Fitzgerald said.

Raja says it’s just a matter of cutting 2 percent of the county budget.

“When you are looking for a CEO for Allegheny County is that somebody you’d want to trust who says they can’t find 2 percent of the budget?” he said.

But Fitzgerald says it’s more like 10 percent and it’s Raja who doesn’t understand county budgets.

“He’s going to put a lot of people at risk, our seniors, our senior centers, children and youth, homeless programs,” he said. “I think what Raja is doing is tremendously irresponsible.”

D. Raja
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