Tom Corbett: Lost Without His Talking Points

The more the Harrisburg Republican campaigns, the less credibility he has

PITTSBURGH: Tom Corbett, who has repeatedly made conflicting statements and policy reversals when discussing his own plans, last week proved he has no idea what he’s talking about when he’s discussing Dan Onorato’s record either.

On Friday, Corbett – who cast one budget vote in his life and used it to hike property taxes by 20 percent – launched his now-standard attack against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Onorato, who has balanced six budgets in a row without ever raising property taxes.

Speaking in Palmyra, Corbett falsely alleged that Onorato supports raising taxes. But asked by reporters to name a single tax that Onorato favors besides a severance tax on gas drillers like other states have (and which Corbett opposes on behalf of his major campaign donors, although even the Senate Republicans have agreed to enact one this fall), Corbett couldn’t.

According to PoliticsPA’s Alex Roarty: “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.’”

Corbett also whiffed at what should be a softball for a candidate who claims he’s committed to deep budget cuts. Asked by reporters whether he will agree to the 1.9% cut in discretionary spending to his own budget that Gov. Rendell has requested of all independent agencies in order to address the state’s current budget mess, Corbett “at first misunderstood” the question. [Capitolwire, 7/30/2010]

In fact, it has been nearly 2 weeks since Corbett was asked to take a 1.9% cut in his own discretionary spending. But “I am not making any pledge” to take that cut, said the candidate who had no trouble taking a no-tax pledge when it was politically convenient to do so.

Corbett’s loose grasp of the issues has allowed him to make a stunning array of contradictory policy statements throughout the campaign:

  • Corbett told reporters in January that raising taxes should be “a last resort” but that “you can’t rule anything in or out.” [Capitolwire, 1/9/2010] The next month, Corbett signed a strict no-tax pledge, which he has bragged about ever since.
  • Then, in March, KDKA-TV political analyst Jon Delano asked Corbett if the pledge prohibited him from raising fees. Corbett answered: “That’s right.” [3/8/2010] But now Corbett is saying that fees are not covered by the pledge. He told reporters on Friday: “…if there’s a misunderstanding, we apologize for that.” [Capitol Ideas, 8/27/2010]
  • Corbett has even called for a long list of tax cuts, from business taxes to the inheritance tax, without specifying how he would pay for them when the state is facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit. “Asked how many hundreds of millions of dollars it would cost to make his proposed tax cuts, Corbett declined to answer,” according to Capitolwire. [8/30/2010]
  • Earlier in the campaign, Corbett said that he “agrees” that “Pennsylvania should not incur additional debt.” [Commonwealth Foundation questionnaire] But Corbett then said: “There are going to be places where we need to use debt to build things.” [Capitolwire, 7/9/2010]
  • Corbett once said he wouldn’t have accepted any of the stimulus money when he was courting conservatives in the primary, but later backed Pennsylvania’s application for $400 million in stimulus funds for the education competition “Race to the Top.”
  • Corbett has requested an increase in his office’s budget every year that he has served as Attorney General – despite calling for “across the board” spending cuts for everyone else. [Harrisburg Patriot-News, 6/11/2010]  He also says in a campaign policy paper that he will cut state administrative spending in all agencies by 10 percent if elected Governor. [Capitolwire, 3/22/2010] This year alone, Corbett requested a 12% spending hike – even as the state was facing a massive budget crisis.

It’s no wonder that experienced Republican leaders are increasingly questioning Corbett’s budget promises. As Corbett ally Senate Republican Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said: “I don’t see how he can do it, frankly.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 6/28/2010] And Republican State Senator John Rafferty made similar comments just last week.

“We need real leadership and cannot take a risk on someone who doesn’t have experience and doesn’t seem to understand what his policies are or why what he says about them matters,” said Onorato Communications Director Brian 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.

August 30th, 2010 | Posted in Front Page Stories | No Comments