State rep kicks off re-election campaign

State Rep. Mark Cohen

State Rep. Mark Cohen kicked off his re-election campaign on Saturday at Daly’s Irish Pub in Wissinoming.

Cohen (D-202nd dist.), a Castor Gardens resident who has been in office since 1974, faces civic leader Jared Solomon in the May 20 primary.

In Harrisburg, Cohen is minority party chairman of the House State Government Committee.

One issue he has long championed is a higher minimum wage. He wants the wage to rise from $7.25 an hour to $11.50 by 2016, with annual cost-of-living increases thereafter.

“We will probably not be victorious this year, but we will ultimately win more money for low- and moderate-income workers at a state and federal level,” he said. “Workers should not be flirting with poverty or in poverty.”

Cohen said that, while many neighborhoods are not the same as they used to be, a lot of residents are living in the finest communities of their lives.

“They have a strong stake in building our neighborhoods up, not tearing them down,” he said. “We can work with our neighbors old and new to build a better place for all of us.”

The incumbent also supports anti-discrimination legislation for gays; an expansion of Medicaid to include more middle-class people; an expansion of pharmaceutical coverage for senior citizens; legalization of marijuana for medical purposes; increased funding for SEPTA and repairs to roads and bridges; additional funding for public education; and creation of an elected school board in Philadelphia.

Among those in attendance were ward leaders Bill Dolbow and Janice Sulman.

“Every time I call Mark about a situation, he’s always there,” said Dolbow, Democratic leader of the Lawndale-based 35th Ward.

Labor unions will sponsor a fundraiser for Cohen Thursday night at the Chickie’s & Pete’s location on Robbins Avenue.

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Jared Solomon, founder and president of the Castor Gardens-based Take Back Your Neighborhood civic association, announced that he would forgo taxpayer-funded per-diem reimbursements for personal expenses, travel or food for state business.

This pledge was made to contrast him with Democratic primary opponent Mark Cohen, who is usually one of the top lawmakers in collecting per diems.

“In 40 years in office, Rep. Cohen has only led the 253 legislators in one thing — taxpayer-funded personal expenses,” Solomon said. “When elected, I’ll put the brakes on the gravy train leading to Representative Cohen’s doorstep, and start diverting it to residents of the Northeast.”

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Democracy for America last week endorsed state Sen. Daylin Leach in the Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District.

“We can depend on Daylin Leach to lead the fight in Congress against income inequality on day one, because whether it’s as a lawyer, professor or state senator, he’s always stood up and fought for the working poor and middle class,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of Democracy for America.

Leach has spent his time in the legislature taking on the NRA on gun control legislation; standing up to Gov. Tom Corbett on school funding and access to women’s health care; working to defeat voter identification laws; sponsoring same-sex marriage legislation; and voting to protect the environment.

Democracy for America is a progressive organization founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean. Leach has already earned the endorsement of Philly for Change, a DFA affiliate, and the DFA’s Montgomery County chapter.

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U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democratic candidate for governor, proposed a $100 million property tax rebate.

“Pennsylvania seniors deserve a secure retirement, the ability to remain in their homes and communities as they age, and access to quality long-term care,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz will raise the income ceiling under which seniors can qualify for rebates. And she will raise the maximum dollar amount of the actual rebates, which has not been adjusted since 2006.

Through these changes, Schwartz will add $100 million to available senior property tax and rent rebates, which amounted to $282 million in 2012–13. This represents a 35-percent increase.

Schwartz will finance these additional benefits by reducing the Corbett administration’s diversion of Pennsylvania Lottery funds to pay for seniors’ nursing home care under Medicaid.

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Former Vice President Al Gore announced his endorsement of his “great friend and trusted former colleague” Katie McGinty for governor.

McGinty, a Democrat who grew up in Rhawnhurst and attended St. Hubert High School, served in the Clinton/Gore administration as chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Prior to that, she was an adviser on then-Sen. Gore’s staff, working on climate and environmental issues. McGinty also served as an adviser to Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

“I strongly endorse Katie McGinty for governor. She shares my belief that we can build a better country and improve the lives of hard-working families. Katie has always viewed environmental challenges as economic opportunities. She knows how to create jobs while protecting the environment. And she has the intellect, leadership skills and optimistic, can-do attitude to build a better and more prosperous Pennsylvania,” Gore said.

In 2003, McGinty was nominated by Gov. Ed Rendell as the first woman to head the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Whether as head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection or chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Katie has always believed that we can create jobs and economic growth, while protecting our environment. And she has the record to prove it,” Gore said.

“She attracted clean energy companies to Pennsylvania, bringing a billion dollars in new investment and creating 3,000 jobs. Under Katie’s leadership, Pennsylvania became №1 in the country in wind energy jobs, №2 in solar and a pioneer in energy efficient technology and systems. She knows that good environmental policy is also good economic policy. I strongly urge others to join me in supporting Katie McGinty for governor of Pennsylvania.”

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Meanwhile, McGinty became the first Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate to call for eliminating the subminimum wage paid to tipped workers and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for all workers.

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 for the last 21 years, while the general minimum wage has risen to $7.25 an hour.

McGinty supports paying tipped workers 100 percent of the hourly wage paid to other workers.

“This issue has a particular impact on women, who represent 67 percent of restaurant workers. It’s time that tipped workers receive the same minimum wage as every other worker in Pennsylvania. While employers are supposed to ensure that consumer tips bring every employee to the overall minimum wage, too often that does not happen. Tipped workers, who often work several jobs to support their families, should be paid at least a minimum wage for the hard work they do,” she said.

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The Corbett administration has launched a revamped website for Pennsylvanians to view the campaign finance reports of candidates for state legislative and statewide offices.

The new site offers visitors a variety of candidate filings from which to choose. Without the user selecting another type of filing, the site automatically defaults to showing campaign reports, which contain the most comprehensive information on what a candidate or campaign committee raised and spent. The site also defaults to the current year, unless a user chooses a specific past year, or all years for which a given candidate has filed reports.

The campaign finance website is available by visiting www.dos.state.pa.us, and under the heading “Most Frequently Requested Services,” clicking on “Campaign Finance Report Search.” ••