UPDATED: Onorato says Corbett has ‘flip-flopped’ on no-tax pledge

By Alex Roarty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato on Wednesday blasted GOP opponent Tom Corbett for saying he would consider increasing fees if he becomes governor, a position the Democrat said contradicts with the Republican’s no-tax pledge.

Corbett’s campaign told Capitolwire.com Tuesday that raising fees, a proposal lawmakers are considering to help the state deal with a billion-dollar transportation-funding shortfall, would not violate the high-profile no-tax pledge from Americans for Tax Reform signed by the candidate earlier this year. But in an interview with KDKA in March, Corbett explicitly said fees were included in his pledge not to raise any taxes.

Onorato called that a “flip-flop.”

“When you make a no-tax pledge a key part of your campaign, and then you start changing the parameters of what it covers, you have no credibility,” he said.

The Allegheny County Chief Executive has tried to criticize Corbett’s tax stance this week — on Tuesday he dug up a 22-year-old vote from the Republican in which he voted to raise property taxes in his local municipality by 20 percent.

Updated, 3:45 p.m.:

A spokesman for Corbett’s campaign said he hadn’t seen Corbett’s interview with KDKA’s Jon Delano and emphasized that the no-tax pledge does not include fee increases.

“I don’t know what he told Jon Delano about the pledge in March,”  said spokesman Kevin Harley. “He signed a no-new-tax pledge that doesn’t include” fee increases.

Harley pivoted from questions about Corbett’s comments in March to suggest the real story was Onorato’s refusal to sign the tax pledge.

“Tom Corbett has signed a no new-tax pledge. Dan Onorato refuses to sign a no-new-tax pledge,” Harley said. “And the reason for that is plan and simple: Dan Onorato is a career politician, and he’s done nothing but raise taxes and fees on the hard-working people of Allegheny County for the last 18 years.”

Onorato, during Wednesday’s conference call, vowed that he wouldn’t raise the state’s income or sales tax as governor, saying the state needs to bridge looming deficits by finding efficiencies in government first. But he declined to sign a pledge stating as much, calling such a move “gimmicky.”

Parameters for the Americans for Tax Reform no-tax pledge can found here. Patrick Gleason, the group’s director of state affairs, told PoliticsPA in an interview that the fees are allowed as long as they’re used for a specific purpose — not put into the state’s General Fund.

The increases Corbett said he was amendable to, such as raising drivers’ licenses and car registration fees, would be funneled into a transportation-funding account separate from the General Fund. The account funds maintenance and construction of roads and bridges and local mass-transit systems, such as SEPTA, statewide.

“As long as it’s not being diverted from the services the fess are currently funding, and it doesn’t go into the General Fund, the pledge isn’t being violated,” Gleason said.

Corbett, as outlined in his transportation-funding policy paper, also indicates he would consider fees for high-occupancy tolls and vehicle-miles traveled, which also would go into the transportation account.

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