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Fitzgerald, Raja Go To Battle Over Taxes, Assessments

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Republican D Raja admits it's uphill against Democrat Rich Fitzgerald, so at a KDKA Radio debate moderated by talk show host Johnna Pro, Raja made no apologies for going after the Democrat.

"I'm just pointing out Rich's record, and I'm sorry it's negative," Raja told KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano after the debate.

Raja went on the attack calling Fitzgerald a serial taxer.

"Here's a guy who tells me -- he's got the highest tax in the history of Allegheny County -- the drink tax," Raja said. "He's what I call a serial taxer -- the drink tax, hotel tax, car rental tax, I could go on and on."

Fitzgerald defended his vote for the drink tax, saying Raja wanted to raise property taxes instead.

Fitzgerald: "It's either drink or property tax."

Raja: "That's not true at all."

Fitzgerald: "It is absolutely true."

Raja: "No, no. I'm saying now."

Fitzgerald: "You have to do one or the other. Anyone who tells you they're going to lower the drink tax is going to raise your property tax. That's what he's going to do. He can call me a liar, but that's what he's going to do."

And liar is exactly what Raja called Fitzgerald.

"I saw three things with him. One, it's misleading statements. Two, half-truths. And, lastly, blatant lies."

But when Raja claimed Jim Roddey -- not Dan Onorato -- was responsible for unifying the 9-1-1 system, Fitzgerald jumped into the fight.

Raja: "He [Roddey] did the county and the city. That was the big thing."

Fitzgerald: "That's wrong, Raja. I was there when we passed it, and Dan Onorato sent the legislation over. You're just wrong."

Raja: "No, no. Jim Roddey did it."

Fitzgerald: "Jim Roddey didn't do it. You're wrong."

Raja: "He absolutely did the county, and the city happened then."

Fitzgerald got some jabs in too, accusing Raja -- a former Mt. Lebanon commissioner -- of imposing a sewer tax on Mt. Lebanon homeowners.

"My opponent here calls himself a tax cutter. What he doesn't admit to is that he instituted a sewage tax."

Raja says he cut municipal property taxes to offset the sewer tax.

The Republican went after the Democrat on property assessments.

"What's frustrating to me is this past year we borrowed $11 million in a debt issuance to do the assessments, and Rich, president of the council, says he's not going to send them out," complained Raja.

"Why waste $11 million? It just doesn't make sense."

But Fitzgerald retorted that Raja just wants to raise taxes by increasing the assessed value of everyone's home.

"I'm proud of the fact that we haven't reassessed since 2002," Fitzgerald said. "Raja says he wants to fix it. By fixing it that he means he wants reassess. I want to keep it like it is."

Raja accused Fitzgerald of lying about cutting the number of county workers.

Raja: "We have more full-time equivalent employees today than when he took office. Pease explain that to me."

Fitzgerald: "It's just straight wrong. I don't know where he comes up with these figures."

Raja: "It's the CAFR [Comprehensive Annual Financial Report]. I can tell you the page number if you wish. Rich, please go take a look, 377."

Fitzgerald: "We reduced the payroll by 700 people over the last eight years."

And Fitzgerald said Raja, the owner of a software engineering company, was shipping jobs out of the country.

Fitzgerald: "My opponent is big on outsourcing. His company has been an outsourcer for overseas job. I'm about keeping jobs in America, keeping jobs in Allegheny County."

Raja: "Here's the thing – 94 percent of my spending is here in the U.S. I have a small office in India that he calls outsourcing."

Fitzgerald: "Raja's [company] website boasts that they strive to be number one in outsourcing. That's his website. I'm not making this up. So he can call me a liar all he wants. That his website that says we strive to be number one in outsourcing."

Raja made no apology for accusing Fitzgerald of lying.

Delano: "He goes after your record, and you essentially called him a liar."

Raja: "I did. Jon, as a CEO, I'm not used to blatant lies."

Fitzgerald took the attacks in stride.

"It's unfortunate. I think it's unfortunate that a candidate gets desperate and resorts to those kinds of things."

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