Jeff Bartos, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, described a man he met at a Johnstown diner as he spoke at Elizabethtown College.
Bartos said he met the elderly man while campaigning in the western Pennsylvania city the day before the primary election. The man told him he was heartbroken because his son, his daughter-in-law and their children had moved to Texas because there were not enough jobs in the Johnstown area.
“That story, or some variation of that story, is being told just about everywhere you go in the forgotten areas of Pennsylvania,” Bartos said as he spoke to about two dozen people the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Bartos said Lancaster County should be a model for the rest of the state and emphasized training for skilled labor jobs to grow the state’s economy. He contrasted Lancaster’s Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology with some of the 14 campuses of the state-owned Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. He said Stevens Tech is turning away thousands of students a year for lack of funds; meanwhile, he said some of the state-owned universities are teetering on the brink of collapse for lack of enrollment.
Bartos said there are 200,000 to 400,000 skilled labor jobs statewide that employers cannot fill for lack of qualified applicants. He said if all those jobs were filled, it would add about $15 billion to payrolls in the state, which would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll taxes and create a ripple effect as those skilled workers spend money in their communities.
He said cutting business taxes and regulations would improve economic growth in Pennsylvania and said the state should look to Indiana and Wisconsin as models.
“We don’t need to reinvent this; we just need to go do it,” Bartos said.
Bartos said he looks forward to debating Democratic lieutenant governor nominee John Fetterman, who is the mayor of Braddock, a small town near Pittsburgh. He contrasted his positions from those held by Fetterman, the running mate of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Bartos said Fetterman supports single-payer health care, college education at public expense, a government guarantee of a $15-an-hour job for anyone who wants one, “sanctuary city” policies in which local governments refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials and legalizing recreational use of marijuana – all ideas Bartos said he opposes.
But Bartos said he and Fetterman agree on plenty of things. For example, although Bartos opposes single-payer health care, he said he wants to ensure that people can afford health care. He said he wants people to be able to get a good education and be able to save for retirement.
“The goals are generally the same; how we get there can be very, very different,” Bartos said.
Bartos’ appearance at the college came a day after Wolf and Wagner met in their only scheduled formal appearance together in campaign, moderated by Alex Trebek of “Jeopardy!” fame.
“Alex Trebek turned out to be a read dud of a host,” Bartos said at the college. He said Trebek spoke for 41 percent of the time, leaving Wagner and Wolf with little time to explain themselves to the state. He said Wolf ought to agree to more debates.
“Governor Wolf, unfortunately, has deprived all of you of the opportunity to hear his vision for the next four years,” Bartos said.