Democracy Rising PA: Corbett’s Plan: This is Reform?
Facing mounting criticism for appearing to brush off a campaign pledge to issue a “reform plan” his first week in office (a commercial said he would do it on “Day One”), Gov. Tom Corbett yesterday barely met his own deadline with a document that looks more like a campaign brochure than a carefully considered gubernatorial plan of action. For example, Corbett’s plan offers no leadership on:
- Banning all public officials from accepting gifts and gratuities, which 66% of PA voters favor.
- A referendum in November for a Constitution convention, supported by 72% of PA voters.
- Prohibiting lame-duck legislative sessions, which 82% of PA voters want to do.
- Strengthening enforcement of ethics laws through a powerful, independent Public Integrity Commission, as proposed by Rep. Curt Schroder, R-Chester.
- Improving a campaign finance system that makes it nearly impossible for citizens to get accurate information about who is influencing candidates either before or after elections.
- Improving a legislative re-districting system that produced the second most gerrymandered districts in America 10 years ago.
Following are some items and some of the questions they raise. Click here for the entire plan.
Transparency in State Government.
Corbett is directing the Office of Administration and Department of General Services to create an ongoing joint task force with the General Assembly to examine ways to institute broader transparency and make information available online more accessible.
The current online database will be enhanced to include all aspects of the state budget as well as all revenues and expenditures, allowing taxpayers to easily search for financial information across all of state government, including contracts.
Pennsylvanians have a right to know the potential fiscal impact of proposed legislation. Corbett will work with the General Assembly to ensure that accurate fiscal notes are attached to each piece of legislation coming to the floor of either chamber for a vote. That way, members of the House and Senate, as well as Pennsylvania taxpayers, can properly assess the value of each legislative change.
- Why not ask for recommendations from the Office of Open Records and integrity advocates?
- Why not work to close gaping loopholes like the “pre-decisional documents” loophole?
- Why not insist on PA having the best open records law in America?
Working with his cabinet members, Corbett will establish performance goals, review them annually and require state departments and agencies to meet them. Funding for any program that has failed to meet its stated goals over a multi-year period will be reviewed.
- Where is the plan for priority-based budgeting?
- What good is a well-run program that doesn’t meet the real needs of PA citizens?
Ban Gifts during the Procurement Process
Corbett is directing the Office of Administration and Department of General Services to conduct an immediate review of all policies that govern gifts during the purchasing process and bidding for state contracts.
The governor is asking that the review be completed within 90 days and that the Department of General Services continue to work to strengthen existing policies to ban them.
- Does this mean that officials who make purchasing decisions currently are allowed to take gifts from potential government contractors?
- Why limit gifts only during the purchasing and bidding process? What time span does this cover?
- Why didn’t Corbett simply issue an Executive Order, as former Gov. Bob Casey did on his first day in office, prohibiting any executive branch employee from accepting gifts, period?
Reduce Legislative Reserves
Corbett believes that the General Assembly should limit the amount of taxpayer money which is held in reserve. This will be a topic of negotiation during the budget process. [News reports say Corbett would allow lawmakers to keep 25% of their annual operating budgets.]
- Why not allow the legislative branch to keep the same percentage of their budget in reserve as the executive and legislative branches, which is 0%?
Elimination of WAMs and Discretionary Funds
Corbett will eliminate the use of discretionary funds, known as walking around money or WAMS, which are used to finance pet projects.
- Every WAM must be approved by the governor. Will Corbett simply refuse to approve them? Why not just say so?
Every governor since Dick Thornburgh has promised to eliminate WAMs; none has. See Corbett’s first challenge: slaying WAMs, by Editorial Page Editor Jeanette Krebs, Harrisburg Sunday Patriot-News, Jan. 16.
Bottom Line Question:
These are mere appetizers. Where’s the real meal?