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CAUGHT ON TAPE: Corbett Can’t Answer Questions About His Plan to Hit Pennsylvania Workers With a $3 Billion Tax

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Corbett Can’t Answer Questions About His Plan to Hit Pennsylvania Workers With a $3 Billion Tax

Two Weeks After Proposing Plan to Tax Pennsylvania Workers Corbett Still Dogged by Questions


Harrisburg, PA – Tom Corbett is on the defensive over his proposal to hit Pennsylvania workers with a $3 billion tax that violates the no tax pledge he took. Over the weekend, WGAL asked Corbett if he broke his pledge by proposing a $3 billion tax on hardworking Pennsylvanians. Unfortunately, Corbett had no answers. After Corbett’s repeated refusal to give an answer, one reporter remarked to another, “Well you did a good job pressing, and pressing a little further, but we still didn’t get a hard answer.” 


“Tom Corbett can’t tell the people of Pennsylvania why he wants to hit hard working Pennsylvanians with a $3 billion tax increase,” said Mark Nicastre a spokesman with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “Even the organization who wrote the tax pledge said Tom Corbett broke his tax pledge, and now Corbett can’t even give the voters an answer about why he broke it and why he thinks that levying a $3 billion tax on hard working Pennsylvanians is the right policy.”


Reporter: In tonight’s Commitment 2010 election coverage, the race for Governor.  Republican candidate Tom Corbett signed a no-tax pledge. But the question now is, will he break it if elected?
Reporter 2: News 8’s Matt Barcaro was covering the race for Governor, and today he pressed Corbett on that pledge. 
Barcaro: This has been a major point of contention for Corbett and Democrat Dan Onorato since their first debate back in Hershey. And while it sounds like “he said, he said,” the no-tax pledge is at the center of Corbett’s campaign.  So we went straight to the candidate to have him address the controversy.
Barcaro (Announcer): At last month’s gubernatorial debate, Republican Tom Corbett was asked if he would consider increasing payroll taxes to fund the state’s unemployment compensation fund.  This was Corbett’s response:
Corbett: I would look at … uh … the payroll tax … uh … increasing the payroll contributions.
Barcaro (Announcer): Since then, Corbett has come under fire from his opponent, Dan Onorato, who says Corbett broke a no-tax pledge he made in February.  It says the candidate “will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”  We met up with Corbett at a campaign event in Lancaster County Friday, to see if he thinks he broke his pledge. 
Corbett: Listen, we’re not – we’re not even going there because my whole goal is to increase…uh…the jobs in Pennsylvania…
Barcaro (Announcer): He would not say if he considers a contribution increase a tax increase.  

Corbett: Talking about what is or isn’t, that’s all hypothetical.  That’s all down the future.  Let’s worry about the election right now.  Let’s get through this election and get in to, in to office.  That’s what I’m focused on right now. 
(Announcer): News 8 checked with Americans for Tax Reform, the group that wrote the no-tax pledge.  It says raising the payroll contribution is a tax. 
Voice of Patrick Gleason (ATR): It is what is commonly known as a payroll tax, um and – this is not a matter of dispute.
Barcaro (Announcer): Corbett told us he signed the pledge because he says Pennsylvania’s taxes are too high, and spending needs to be cut.  But then he said this:
Corbett: As long as we look at the option of a tax to increase, to cover the spending, we will go that way.
Barcaro (Announcer): We asked him to explain what that means.
Barcaro (Interviewer):  Can you explain how that’s not contradictory?  To say you’re not going to raise taxes, but then say you would look at raising the payroll tax. 
Corbett: (Hesitates) Let me go back to what I said before.  We’re gonna work to increase the economy in Pennsylvania.  I’m not going to worry about the payroll tax at this point in time, and that issue until after we get elected, and we get in there, and we start cutting the – the – the spending of Pennsylvania. 
Barcaro: And according to Americans for Tax Reform, there is a way Corbett could raise the payroll tax and still not break the pledge.  Its argument is as long as Corbett cuts taxes elsewhere to make up for that payroll tax hike, the overall budget would be tax-neutral, and by the group’s assessment, that would be in line with the pledge. 
Reporter: Well you did a good job pressing, and pressing a little further, but we still didn’t get a hard answer. 
Barcaro: There may be more to follow
Reporter: Ok, yes.
Reporter 2: That’s your job. Thanks Matt.


It’s a Tax The group who authored Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Corbett’s “no tax increases” pledge says his proposal to hike employee contributions to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation fund would count as a tax hike. [WDUQ, 10/8/10]

Has Tom Corbett Already Broken His No-Tax Pledge? Our Podcasting Pal Scott Detrow swings for the fences this afternoon in a post examining whether the Republican gubernatorial nominee has already reneged on his famed no-taxes pledge by saying during last month’s debate against Democrat Dan Onorato that he’d consider raising employee contributions into PA’s unemployment compensation fund to pay back the billions of dollars that PA borrowed from the feds to make benefit payments. [Capitol Ideas, 10/7/10]

Americans for Tax Reform: it’s a tax increase* At first glance, The Americans for Tax Reform “no new taxes” pledge for gubernatorial candidates seems about as straightforward as it gets. “I,_______, PLEDGE TO TAXPAYERS OF THE STATE OF ______, THAT I WILL OPPOSE AND VETO ANY AND ALL EFFORTS TO INCREASE TAXES.” That’s the pledge Republican Tom Corbett signed during the spring primary, and has since turned into a centerpiece of his stump speech and advertising campaign. Democratic opponent Dan Onorato has made the pledge an issue, too, calling it a “gimmick,” and saying Corbett has no intention of honoring it. [Scott Detrow, WITF, 10/7/10]

Corbett wants a $3 billion tax on workers. “But despite Corbett’s words, in his first debate with Onorato, Corbett said he was willing to consider increasing the amount that taxpayers pay into the Unemployment Compensation, or UC, Fund.” [KDKA, 10/5/10]

Pa. governor candidates’ stances on taxes diverge. The state Department of Labor and Industry, which administers unemployment compensation, says employer and employee payments are both technically contributions. But courts have ruled that the employers’ portion is effectively a tax, so the department “treats them both as taxes,” department spokesman Troy Thompson said.

A spokesman for Americans for Tax Reform told Harrisburg radio station WITF on Thursday that the group also considers employees’ payments a payroll tax. [AP, 10/9/10]

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