PA-Gov Round-Up: Last in Jobs and Tripled Taxes?

PA-Governor-Mansion2The last few weeks of the Gov race have been focused on the debates and attacks.

This week, though, there were a number of discussions about policy, most pointedly two specific claims that earned a lot of attention. So, we thought we would use this opportunity to deconstruct both of them.

Wolf

The main talking point for the Wolf team this week was a new report from the left-leaning Keystone Research Center that contended that since Gov. Corbett took office in January 2011, the commonwealth is 50th (last) in the nation in job growth.

“Instead of taking charge of Pennsylvania’s economy, Tom Corbett’s failed policies plummeted the commonwealth to 50th in the nation job creation,” said Wolf campaign spokesperson Beth Melena. “Because of Tom Corbett’s failed policies, Pennsylvania has a $2.7 billion deficit, was forced to take out a $1.5 billion bailout loan just to keep the lights on, and suffered five credit downgrades in just two years. In addition, Tom Corbett’s $1 billion cuts to our schools resulted in 27,000 educators being laid off, increased class sizes, and skyrocketing property taxes. Pennsylvania cannot afford another four years of Tom Corbett’s fiscal mismanagement.”

To arrive at these numbers, Keystone took the employment numbers from January 2011 (when Gov. Corbett took office) to this September (the latest state jobs report). In that time frame, PA went from 5,664,900 jobs to 5,782,600 jobs, an increase of 117,700 or 2.08%. Under that measurement of 2.08% growth, the state finished 50th.

They also noted that during Gov. Rendell’s final year (Dec. 2009 to Dec. 2010) the state ranked 10th in job growth. In raw numbers, though, there was a 79,000 job increase from 5,580,500 to 5,659,500. That comes to 1.42%.

The Corbett Administration has been more inclined to mention the unemployment rate which (for all it’s flaws) is the most-cited employment statistic.

Thanks to davemanuel.com, we can look back at Pennsylvania’s monthly unemployment statistics from 1976 to the present. So, we broke the unemployment rate down by term for each Governor:

Shapp (took office in Jan. 1971, second term began in Jan. 1975)

Jan. 1976: 8.1%

Jan. 1979: 6.7%

Thornburgh (first term)

Jan. 1979: 6.7%

Jan. 1983: 12.9%

Thornburgh (second term)

Jan. 1983: 12.9%

Jan. 1987: 6.0%

Casey (first term)

Jan. 1987: 6.0%

Jan. 1991: 6.5%

Casey (second term)

Jan. 1991: 6.5%

Jan. 1995: 5.7%

Ridge (first term)

Jan. 1995: 5.7%

Jan. 1999: 4.4%

Ridge/Schweiker (Ridge resigned to become DHS Secretary in 2001)

Jan. 1999: 4.4%

Jan. 2003: 5.8%

Rendell (first term)

Jan. 2003: 5.8%

Jan. 2007: 4.2%

Rendell (second term)

Jan. 2007: 4.2%

Jan. 2011: 8.1%

Corbett

Jan. 2011: 8.1%

Sept. 2014: 5.7%

Under this measurement, Corbett has had the most successful first term since 1976 and the most successful overall.

Corbett

Speaking of numbers and how they can be used or misused, there is one number the Corbett campaign has frequently used this month. That number is 188%.

“Tom Wolf needs to come clean and admit that the reason he won’t release the details of his income tax plan is because the voters wouldn’t be pleased with a 188 percent tax increase,” Corbett-Cawley Communications Director Chris Pack said a few weeks ago.

This statistic is also used to justify the claim made in a recent Corbett ad that Wolf will triple taxes.

The 188% number comes from a study done by the right-leaning website Commonwealth Foundation.

If you’ll remember, last July Wolf suggested a possible increase in income tax for wealthy Pennsylvanians would allow for a reduction in taxes for the middle class. Wolf threw out the numbers $70,000 to $90,000 as a salary range for what he would consider middle-class.

Commonwealth asserts that Wolf wants to raise taxes on that range. Under that philosophy, they ran the tax numbers if those making $80,000 or more would see their income taxes rise and there was a universal exemption of $52,200. They found the tax rate would increase from 3.07% to 8.85%, a 188% increase.

Wolf, however, has never called for raising the taxes of those in the $70,000 to $90,000 range though he hasn’t identified at what income the tax rate would rise. Either way, even if the 188% figure is accurate, you then get mired in the dispute over what income range qualifies as middle-class.

Hopefully now you can see that in campaigns, even numbers aren’t always what they seem.

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