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Five Years Ago Today: Tom Corbett’s Pay Raise Defense

Five Years Ago Today: Tom Corbett’s Pay Raise Defense

Harrisburg insider defended the pay raise law when leading reformers tried to stop it 
PITTSBURGH: When reformers were fighting to overturn the infamous 2005 middle-of-the-night legislative pay raise, Harrisburg Republican Tom Corbett took another approach: defending it.
On October 7, 2005, Attorney General Corbett asked Commonwealth Court to dismiss a lawsuit that was trying to undo the pay raise. The lawsuit said legislators were doing an end-run around the Constitution by giving themselves a taxpayer-funded pay raise in the middle of their terms – which the Constitution forbids. And other reform advocates argued that the pay-jacking violated two Constitutional requirements for transparency in how bills are passed.
But not Tom Corbett.
In his filing, Corbett wrote that “Act 2005-44” – the pay raise law – “comports with the requirements of both the Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions in all material respects.”
The document, which is attached and posted at, ends with: “Respectfully submitted, THOMAS W. CORBETT, JR., Attorney General.”

“Tom Corbett’s defense of the pay raise law is exactly what we’d expect from a Harrisburg insider who asked to increase his own budget every year and shifts his positions depending on the audience,” said Onorato Communications Director Brian Herman. “The pay raise is perhaps the most glaring example of the Harrisburg culture that serves the special interests – not the interests of taxpayers.
“Tom Corbett is going to say that he was just doing his job. But with the stakes so high in this election, Pennsylvania voters need a Governor who is going to put the taxpayers first and change Harrisburg – not defend it.”
Throughout the campaign, Corbett has changed his positions on key reforms like term limits and cutting the size of the Legislature.
Earlier this year, Corbett responded to one questionnaire by indicating that he “disagrees” that “the number of terms someone can serve in the state legislature should be limited,” noting that “legislative term limits would have the ultimate effect of depriving the voters of an option to return an effective legislator to represent their interests.” [Commonwealth Foundation questionnaire]
The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that “Corbett disagreed with the… idea of reducing the size of the legislature, said his campaign manager, Brian Nutt….” [5/26/2010] 
But after Onorato emphasized the importance of reform, Corbett changed his tune.  As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted just a week later: “Brian Nutt said Mr. Corbett is willing to discuss term limits and a smaller legislature…” [6/2/2010]
As Allegheny County Executive, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato has a record of reforming government to save taxpayers money and to make the region a place where businesses want to invest and create jobs.  Under Onorato’s leadership, Allegheny County consolidated six unnecessary elected positions, cut waste and patronage and made government more efficient.  Running the state’s second-largest county, Onorato has enacted six consecutive balanced budgets – each one passing on time and never increasing property taxes.

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