Lowman S. Henry

Robert W. Keibler
Vice Chairman

Jane R. Gordon

Board Members

Jerry Bowyer
Allegheny Institute

James Canova
Canova Electric

LeGree S. Daniels
U.S. Postal Governor

Joseph Geiger
PA Assoc. of Non
Profit Organizations

Hilary Holste
PPG Industries

Charles L. Huston, III
Huston Foundation

Doris O'Donnell
Allegheny Foundation

Albert Paschall
King of Prussia
Chamber of Commerce

James Trammell
Sun Company, Inc.


Survey Consultant
Albert E. Sindlinger
Sindlinger & Company

Focus Group Moderator
Charles L. Kennedy
Penn State University

September 29, 1998


CONTACT: Lowman S. Henry / (717) 671-0776


Central Pennsylvanians Don't See Eye-To-Eye with
Envision Capital Region's call for Regional Government

      Harrisburg, PA -- Central Pennsylvania's effort at regional government, known officially as Envision Capital Region, got mixed reviews from voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and York Counties in the Lincoln Institute's recent Pulse Poll.
     Respondents shared Envision's goals for higher educational standards and for better highway, rail and air transportation. But, voters say Envision's vision is less than 20/20 when it comes to regionalizing municipalities and school districts.
     "The Pulse Poll found voters strongly in support of retaining the current system of local government," said Lincoln Institute Chairman Lowman S. Henry. "In fact, when it comes to school districts, more voters would prefer to break districts up into smaller units rather than to consolidate into a countywide system as proposed by Envision Capital Region."
     Sixty-four percent of voters in the tri-county area said they think municipal governments should maintain their independence while 28% said the number of municipalities should be reduced through mergers. An even higher number, 70% felt THEIR municipality should remain independent. That feeling was particularly strong in Dauphin County where 77% of voters support continued independence for their municipality.
     Voters largely feel their municipal governments are on the right track when it comes to meeting the needs of their community. Seventy-eight percent of Cumberland County voters, 75% of Dauphin County voters and 79% of York County voters gave a thumbs up to the job being done by their local officials.
     When it comes to deciding whether or not a municipality should merge, mid-state voters feel local elected officials, not state government, should make the decision. Only 7% of voters thought state government should be able to mandate consolidation of municipalities, while 81% thought local elected officials should make the call.
     Despite their opposition to formal merger of municipalities, voters do think there should be more cooperation among municipalities in their region. Sixty-seven percent said there should be a higher level of regional cooperation among local governments. Eighteen percent though the current level of regional cooperation was acceptable.
     Envision Capital Region's call for taking zoning and planning functions out of the hands of local government and consolidating them at the county level received support from 30% of the voters surveyed. The strongest support for countywide zoning and planning came in York County where 34% favored consolidations, 32% of voters in Cumberland County and 21% of those in Dauphin County agreed. Overall, 59% said planning and zoning functions should remain in the hands of local municipalities.
     On the overall question: "Do you think local governments should be eliminated and replaced with one countywide government?", 80% of the voters surveyed said "no", while 13% felt local municipalities should be replaced with countywide government.

     Responses to those questions were at least partially driven by the fact voters feel local government operates the most efficiently. Forty-four percent said local governments were most efficient, 21% credited state government for efficiency, 9% said county government was the most efficient, and 5% said the federal government operated the most efficiently. Another 10% said no level of government operated efficiently.
     When it comes to school districts, voters say they like the status quo, but smaller is better than bigger. Forty-nine percent said school districts in Central Pennsylvania are "about the right size," 26% said school districts are too big and should be broken up into smaller districts, and 11% favored Envision's call for centralized, countywide school districts.
     Satisfaction with the size of school districts ran the highest in York County where 55% of the voters surveyed said they like the status quo, in Cumberland County 50% thought their school districts were the right size. However, in Dauphin County only 39% of voters felt school districts are appropriately sized, while 36% think districts are too large and should be broken up into smaller districts.
     The survey found solid agreement on the issue of academic standards, a concept supported by Envision Capital Region. Ninety-two percent said public schools should adopt a clear set of academic standards which must be met for students to advance from grade to grade.
     Envision Capital Region's goals for improving Central Pennsylvania's transportation system received a vote of support from those surveyed by the Lincoln Institute. Sixty-nine percent support the development of a high speed rail line to link Harrisburg with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Only 15% disagreed with that goal.
     The development of a commuter rail line linking Harrisburg with Carlisle, Lancaster and York also received solid support. Seventy-nine percent say such a rail system should be built, while 11% disagreed. Dauphin Countians were particularly supportive as 83% want such a commuter rail line. Seventy-nine percent of Cumberland Countians and 76% of York Countians agreed.
     The Pulse Poll found Harrisburg International Airport (HIA) is the point of departure of choice for most mid-staters travelling by air. Fifty-four percent said they use HIA, while 28% cited BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport) as the facility they most often use. Only 1% said they most frequently depart from the Philadelphia International Airport. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed in Dauphin County and 60% of those flying from Cumberland County say they use HIA, while York Countians choose BWI over HIA by a 44%-38% margin.
     There is consumer support for increasing the number of flights departing from HIA. Sixty-three percent of tri-county voters said more flights should be scheduled, versus only 9% who felt that enough flights originated from HIA.
     Central Pennsylvanians also believe last Spring's hike in gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees was justified. Fifty-two percent felt the additional revenue was needed, 38% thought the state already had enough money to meet transportation needs.
     Central Pennsylvania voters would like to have a more direct say in governmental affairs. Eighty percent say they should be given the right to vote by referendum on key public policy decisions made by their local or county government, or by school districts. Dauphin County voters in particular support referendum rights as 85% want the right to vote in referendums. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed in Cumberland County and 75% in York County also said they would like more opportunity to vote in referendums.
     A good place to start might be the issue of spending tax dollars to finance the construction of new sports stadiums. Seventy-nine percent say a statewide referendum should be held to allow voters to decide whether or not tax dollars can be spent on new stadium construction. In Dauphin County, which is the only one of the three counties that currently has a taxpayer financed sports stadium, 88% say referendums should be held. As York County considers constructing a minor league baseball stadium, 77% of voters there feel they should be able to express their opinion by referendum.
     Mid-staters may want such a referendum because they strongly feel sports stadiums should be paid for with private dollars, not financed by public (tax) money. Ninety percent say private investors should pay to build sports stadiums, only 5% say it is proper to use tax dollars. Ninety-three percent of Dauphin Countians, and 89% of Cumberland and York countians voiced opposition to using tax dollars to construct sports stadiums.
     Proposals to sell off the state liquor stores and to use a portion of the proceeds to pay for the construction of sports stadiums lacks support in the tri-county area. Sixty-eight percent said the state stores should not be sold to raise funds to build sports stadiums, while 24% said they should be sold and part of the money be used for such purposes.
     The Lincoln Institute's Pulse Poll was conducted by Precision Marking, Inc. of Easton, Pennsylvania on September 13 and 14, 1998. A total of 311 registered voters in Cumberland, Dauphin and York Counties participated in the survey which has a margin of error of +/- 4%.
     The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. is a Harrisburg-based non-profit educational foundation which conducts public opinion research on key local, state and national public policy issues.