Tom Corbett’s Not-Very-Good Summer

The more voters get to know the Harrisburg Republican, the less he seems up to the job of Pennsylvania Governor

PITTSBURGH: Pennsylvania voters got a taste this summer of their two gubernatorial nominees, with Dan Onorato showing that he knows how to turn around the economy and has experience balancing the budget and reforming government, while Harrisburg Republican Tom Corbett defined himself as an insider who doesn’t have the experience or ability to lead Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit and a Harrisburg culture dedicated to the special interests instead of the taxpayers,” said Onorato Communications Director Brian Herman. “Dan Onorato spent the summer connecting with voters and talking about how to create jobs and make government live within its means, while Tom Corbett proved that he is not up to the challenges facing Pennsylvania.”

1.) Tom Corbett still doesn’t understand the economy.

In July, Corbett told WITF public radio that “the jobs are there” but Pennsylvanians would rather just “sit there” and collect unemployment than go back to work.

Corbett clearly meant what he said – after all, he said essentially the same thing in March – but quickly became flustered by the facts trying to explain himself. Corbett first indicated that he got his information from a candy company and then, when the candy company contradicted him, told reporters that his economic information came from newspaper job listings.

2.) Tom Corbett cannot connect with the average Pennsylvania voter, and he has trouble finding solutions to their problems.

In addition to Corbett’s comments on the unemployed, Capitolwire recounted a story typical of his interaction with voters, during which Corbett failed to appreciate the real-world impact of the state’s troubled economy.

After an employee at a local factory that Corbett was touring attempted to relay his personal experience of being affected by the economy, “Corbett acted like the guy had a communicable disease… It was a chance for Corbett to show he got how workers are faring in this economy, but instead of connecting to the worker, he swiftly followed his employer to another part of the tour.” [Capitolwire, 8/27/2010].

3.) Tom Corbett still hasn’t figured out how to separate his official duties from his political activities.

Throughout the summer, Corbett took heat for mixing politics with his taxpayer-funded office – leading to calls for his resignation as Attorney General. In July, Corbett joined other Attorneys General in opposing the federal government’s attempt to block portions of Arizona’s politically potent illegal immigration law. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board noted: “It’s nearly impossible lately for the public to separate Corbett’s law enforcement duties from his role as the GOP nominee for governor.” [7/21/2010]

Later in the month, reported that Corbett campaign materials were found at the Attorney General’s official booth at a county fair. Neither the Corbett campaign nor his taxpayer-funded office could offer a serious explanation.

4.) Tom Corbett still doesn’t understand the state budget or, apparently, his own policies.

Last winter, Corbett told reporters that he could not rule out raising taxes. Then, in February, he signed a no-tax pledge. The next month, Corbett told a KDKA-TV political analyst that his pledge prohibited fee increases. But by July, Corbett was telling reporters that fee increases were OK. Last month, Corbett apologized if his conflicting remarks caused any “misunderstanding.”

Before the summer, Corbett swore off stimulus funding as well as new debt. Around Memorial Day, he backed an application for $400 million in education stimulus funding. And in July, he said that: “There are going to be places where we need to use debt to build things.” [Capitolwire, 7/9/2010]

In June, Corbett – who has asked for an increase in his budget every year that he has served as Attorney General – called for broad spending cuts, saying that: “‘Everyone is going to have to feel that cut,’ which he said would be ‘across the board,’ from vehicle fleets to reducing Medicaid abuse.” [Harrisburg Patriot-News, 6/11/2010]

But in August, when Corbett was asked to take a 1.9% cut in his own discretionary spending, along with other state agencies, to help balance the current year’s budget, he refused to agree. “I am not making any pledge” to take that cut. [PoliticsPA, 8/27/2010] According to Sunday’s Harrisburg Patriot-News, the Attorney General’s Office is “continuing to review the budget and look for ways to economize.”

It’s no wonder that even Corbett’s Republican allies doubt his ability to keep his budget promises. In June, Senate Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said: “I don’t see how he can do it, frankly.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/28/2010] And last month, Senate Republican Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty agreed.

5.) Dan Onorato has the experience, record and plan necessary to turn around Pennsylvania’s economy.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato has balanced six consecutive budgets without ever raising property taxes. Running Pennsylvania’s second-largest county, he reformed government, cut waste and patronage, and insisted on efficiency.

Under Onorato’s leadership, Allegheny County has withstood the national recession far better than much of the country, and its unemployment rate is significantly lower than both the nation’s and the state’s.

“We need real leadership and cannot take a risk on a Harrisburg insider like Tom Corbett, who doesn’t have experience and doesn’t seem to understand what his policies are or why what he says about them matters,” said Herman.

A life-long Pennsylvanian, Dan Onorato was raised in a working class neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He graduated college from Penn State and received his law degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Onorato has served as Allegheny County Executive since 2004 and was unopposed for re-election in 2007.  Prior to being elected County Executive, Onorato served as Allegheny County Controller and a Pittsburgh City Councilman.  Dan and his wife Shelly reside in the Brighton Heights neighborhood of Pittsburgh with their three children.

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