Another Day, Another Change in Position for Tom Corbett

Harrisburg Republican’s budget credibility is further undermined

PITTSBURGH: GOP gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett, the only candidate who has raised property taxes, backed away from his “no-tax-pledge” yesterday – raising new questions about his ability to balance the budget and handle the economic crisis facing Pennsylvania.

See the video here.

In January, Corbett told reporters that raising taxes should be a “last resort” but that “you can’t rule anything in or out.” [Capitolwire, 1/9/2010]

Under political heat from his primary opponent, Corbett soon back-tracked. The next month, he signed a no-tax pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, and he has consistently bragged about the pledge on the campaign trail ever since.

In an interview on KDKA-TV, Corbett then had the following exchange with political analyst Jon Delano:

Corbett: “…No tax increases whatsoever.”

Delano: “And that would include fees… use of services and things like that?”

Corbett: “That’s right.” [3/8/2010]

But not any more.

Yesterday, Capitolwire reported that: “Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Tuesday that in Corbett’s ‘taxpayer protection pledge, fees are not included in that, just taxes are.’” [8/24/2010]

And the Associated press said that “(Corbett) told The Associated Press in a July interview that the (no-tax-increase pledge) would not stand in the way of increase in fees – for such items as vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses – and other levies that are not called taxes.” [8/24/2010]

Also yesterday, another of Corbett’s Republican allies – State Senator John Rafferty – raised questions about whether Corbett would keep his promises if elected Governor. Earlier this Summer, Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi had said that he doubted whether Corbett could keep his budget pledges, and challenged Corbett to provide evidence of what he would cut. Corbett has not done so.

“It’s easy for a candidate to make a promise on the campaign trail, but voters need to take a look at our records,” said Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato. “I have balanced the budget for six years in a row without ever raising property taxes. Tom Corbett was responsible for a budget just once, and he cast the deciding vote to raise property taxes by 20%.

“I’ve been asked why I’m talking about a vote that Corbett made in 1988. It’s because he has so little experience, you have to go back that far.”

The fee-hike flip-flop is just the latest example of Corbett’s shifting budget positions.

Earlier in the campaign, Corbett said that he “agrees” that “Pennsylvania should not incur additional debt.” [Commonwealth Foundation questionnaire]  But Corbett then said: “There are going to be places where we need to use debt to build things.” [Capitolwire, 7/9/2010]

Corbett once said he wouldn’t have accepted any of the stimulus money when he was courting conservatives in the primary, but later backed Pennsylvania’s application for $400 million in stimulus funds for the education competition “Race to the Top” in the general election.

Corbett has also called for both limiting spending growth [Commonwealth Foundation questionnaire] and across-the-board spending cuts [Harrisburg Patriot-News, 6/11/2010], while also requesting additional spending for his own office.

So it should come as no surprise that while calling for across-the-board cuts, Corbett has also proposed tens of millions of dollars in new spending on the campaign trail.

A life-long Pennsylvanian, Dan Onorato was raised in a working class neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He graduated college from Penn State and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Onorato has served as Allegheny County Executive since 2004 and was unopposed for re-election in 2007.  Prior to being elected County Executive, Onorato served as Allegheny County Controller and a Pittsburgh City Councilman.  Dan and his wife Shelly reside in the Brighton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh with their three children.

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