PoliticsPA: For Corbett on Onorato, it’s all about taxes, taxes, taxes

By Alex Roarty

PALMYRA — Boiled to its bones, Tom Corbett’s message is simple: I’m not going to tax you if elected governor.

The other guy, Dan Onorato? He, like his “mentor” Ed Rendell, never met a tax he didn’t like.

It was the central theme of remarks the GOP gubernatorial nominee delivered to employees at a food-processing plant here in Lebanon County Friday morning shortly after taking a tour. The local business event was one of many Corbett, who’s run a relatively low-profile campaign to date, has taken across the state as he emphasizes a pro-business message.

“In this campaign he’s calling for even more taxes and spending,” the GOP attorney general said. “He shares the same tax-and-spend philosophy as Governor Rendell.”

Corbett has signed the Americans for Tax reform no-tax pledge, a promise not to raise any taxes if elected. On Tuesday, he promised the audience that he would cut taxes, although stressing later to reporters that any tax cuts would come after the state dealt with a looming multi-billion deficit.

Dan Onorato has repeatedly stressed he doesn’t plan to raise any taxes outside of one that will likely become law before the next governor takes office. His campaign shot back that Corbett is distorting not only the Democratic nominee’s record but his own, which Onorato contends shows he’s proven he doesn’t know how to balance a budget.

“(Onorato) has made it very clear he’s not considering raising the income and sales tax,”said his spokesman, Brian Herman “The highest priority needs to be finding efficiencies and looking where to cut.”

On a conference call earlier this week, the Allegheny County executive called signing a no-tax pledge “gimmicky” but nonetheless vowed he wouldn’t raise the sales or income tax.

Herman, echoing a theme the Democrat’s campaign has pushed throughout, said Corbett has almost no experience balancing a budget, and what little experience he has proves he won’t do it well.

“Tom Corbett has demonstrated that he can’t handle a budget,” said the spokesman. “He’s asked for more more money every single year as attorney general. The one time he had to vote on a budget he had to raise taxes.”

The Onorato campaign earlier this week cited a vote Corbett took in 1988 as a township supervisor to raise property taxes by 20 percent.

Asked directly by a reporter what taxes Onorato wants to raise, Corbett cited his support of a new levy on natural gas extraction in the state’s Marcellus Shale region. But that tax, per a budget agreement among legislative leaders in July, will likely reach Governor Rendell’s desk before he leaves office.

The attorney general struggled to name another tax Onorato supports.

“I have to go look at my notes,” he said. “I don’t have my notes here in front of me.”

But the candidate said the Onorato-supported severance tax would be the “worst thing you can do” for the state’s burgeoning natural gas industry. His campaign has also repeatedly cited an array of taxes raised by Onorato as chief executive in Allegheny County as evidence he would do the same in Pennsylvania.

Corbett leads Onorato by 11 points, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday, based mostly on the strength of an enthusiasm gap among voters that strongly favors Republicans.

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