PULSE POLL: Allegheny County Voters Support Free Market Approach to Government

Columnist : Lincoln Institute

Harrisburg (PA) — Allegheny County voters who last year adopted a new Home Rule Charter by the slimmest of margins are now optimistic that the new county executive/council form of government will be more effective than the traditional three-commissioner system it is replacing.

A Lincoln Institute Pulse Poll of likely voters in the upcoming November General Election found 44% think the new executive/council system will meet the needs of Allegheny County better than the old system.  Only 16% thought the change would not result in better government.  Thirty-nine percent offered no opinion.

In the race for county executive, Democrat Cyril Wecht leads his Republican opponent Jim Roddey by a slim 2% margin.  Countywide, Wecht was the choice of 43% of likely voters surveyed, while Roddey won support from 41%.  Wecht leads Roddey by 6% among voters in the City of Pittsburgh, while holding only a 1% lead over the GOP candidate in the rest of the county.

While the race for Allegheny County Executive remains close, a consensus has begun to emerge as to how voters would like their new government to function.  “The Pulse Poll uncovered a strong feeling among Allegheny County voters that county government is unable to provide services efficiently,” explained Lowman S. Henry, Chairman of the Lincoln Institute.  “Given the option, voters would prefer to see private enterprise, an independent authority, or a non-profit organization run services rather than departments of county government.”

For example, 48% of voters think operation of the Kane Hospitals (county nursing homes) should be turned over to a private, non-profit company.  Thirty percent felt county government should continue to manage the hospitals.  Sixty percent of Republican voters want the hospitals privatized, while 42% of Democrats hold that view.

A majority, 51%, of voters countywide support the concept of having the county’s airports run by a separate authority rather than by a department of county government.  Thirty-one percent thought the county should retain operational control, and 18% offered no opinion.

As a general concept Allegheny County voters favor allowing private businesses to take over the provision of county services if they can do so at a lower cost to taxpayers.  Seventy-four percent of voters participating in the Pulse Poll said private enterprise should take over if they can do so in a more cost-efficient manner.  Nineteen percent were philosophically opposed, and 6% voiced no opinion.

  On other issues:

***      Fifty-nine percent of Allegheny County voters favor the abolishment of the Regional Assets District (RAD) tax, 33% think the tax should be retained.

***      If property taxes had to be replaced, 45% favor imposition of additional sales taxes, and 37% would support a county earned income tax.

***      Sixty-five percent of the voters surveyed think construction contracts to build PNC Park and the new Steeler Stadium should go to the lowest bidder, 24% think government should negotiate with companies for the lowest price.

 ***      Sixty-one percent of respondents in the City of Pittsburgh say the city should require that at least 35% of the jobs created by major construction projects in the city should go to city residents.