That was the message from Tom Corbett and supporters as the Governor officially kicked off his bid for re-election Wednesday.
“We inherited this problem. But instead of taking the usual Harrisburg approach – of either well, we’ll worry about it later, or raising taxes and killing job creators – we led,” he said. “So when Washington’s money dried up, we made the decision to get our finances in order and replenish the state’s education budget.”
“I know people didn’t like it, but we did what was absolutely necessary to do to get us back on track.”
Corbett, along with his wife Sue, Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley and other supporters hammered home the dual themes of ‘promises kept’ and ‘mess inherited’ throughout the hour-long program.
“In 8 short years, we went from a budget surplus to a budget deficit of $4.2 billion dollars. No sooner did Tom and I lower our right hand on election than in our left hand we were being handed that bill for $4.2 billion dollars,” Cawley said.
Despite that tough start, Corbett said, his administration made tough choices that put the state on a course for future prosperity.
He ticked off a list of accomplishments, starting with an on-time budget that eliminated the deficit in the state’s operating budget without raising taxes. Several times he boasted that the state added 141,000 private sector jobs since he took office.
“Were the decisions I’ve made to get here tough?” he asked. “Yes. Were they always popular with those who would rather tax and spend? No. Were they politically expedient? Never.”
“But leadership isn’t politically expedient. Leadership and governing are about doing what’s right, not what’s easy.”
The Governor took the stage at the Heinz History Center facing a potentially historical uphill climb. Though no Pennsylvania governor has ever lost a bid for re-election, polls continually show Corbett with anemic job approval ratings. Head-to-head polls have shown him trailing several of his 8 potential Democratic challengers.
Even before Corbett finished his speech this morning, his opponents were assailing his cuts to education, the state’s lackluster job creation and his perceived affinity for Marcellus Shale drilling.
“Our Commonwealth has been held back by Tom Corbett’s broken promises, outrageous and offensive comments, and egregious ethics violations,” blasted Pa. Democratic Party spokesman Marc Eisenstein. “Pennsylvania deserves a governor who will work for them and will make them proud – something that we have not been able to do since January 2011.”
Corbett’s campaign had a message for critics. Lt. Gov. Cawley called out Democrats – and gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz – by name.
He said the Democrats’ energy policies would move Pennsylvania backwards.
“They don’t understand how important this industry is. As a matter of fact, they want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
He poked fun at Schwartz, who supports a severance tax on gas drilling, and the Pa. Democratic Party, which passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus shale.
“Now folks, help me out here. How do you ban it and tax it at the same time!” Cawley said.
But many of Corbett’s recent headaches have come not from the left but from the right. Numerous GOP insiders told PoliticsPA and later the Harrisburg Patriot News that an effort was ongoing to convince the Governor not to seek a second term in light of his poll numbers.
He dismissed the rumors on stage.
“You know you read stories out there of people being asked questions and everything. Sometimes they forget to ask who the party leader is the party questions,” Corbett said, introducing GOP Chairman Rob Gleason.
Several Republican officials cheered Corbett along with roughly 150 attendees, including Majority Leader Mike Turzai, State Sens. Randy Vulakovich and Kim Ward and State Reps. Hal English and Jim Christiana.
Corbett said he chose the venue – Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center – because the late Senator John Heinz originally encouraged him to run for elected office.
He departed Pittsburgh this morning and will head to Greensburg and Pittston for speeches later today. Over the next week, he will be on a bus tour of the state that will conclude next Wednesday in Erie, making stops in Hershey, Philadelphia, Allentown, York and among others.
“We are seeking that second term as your Governor and Lieutenant Governor,” Corbett said. “Why? Because we’re not finished yet.”