And Corbett's own party is not helping him when it comes to budget issues:A small group of activists seeking more money for Pennsylvania’s public schools staged a sit-in protest outside Gov. Tom Corbett’s office.
An organizer said Thursday that similar demonstrations are planned in and around the state Capitol in the days ahead in an effort to pressure Corbett and lawmakers into restoring nearly $1 billion in education spending cuts in 2011.
Jesse Kudler says the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools is urging policy-makers to raise the additional money by imposing a tax on natural gas extraction, embracing the federal Medicaid expansion and freezing corporate tax breaks.
More than a dozen parents, retired teachers and children from the Philadelphia area sat in a hallway outside the governor’s office suite, singing songs and clapping their hands as Capitol police officers looked on. - AP, 6/26/14
And Corbett keeps trying to push this:A $29.1 billion Republican-penned budget plan that makes higher payments to public schools, human services and public pension funds passed late Wednesday but was headed for certain changes in the Senate as the new fiscal year closed in and Democrats accused Republicans of assembling an irresponsible budget.
The bill, made public barely two days ago, passed, 110-93, with every Democrat and one Republican opposing it. Five days are left in the fiscal year, and senators seemed likely to have their own ideas about where to find the revenues, particularly because the House plan relies on $380 million from the unlikely sell-off of the state’s wine and liquor operations.
The plan does not raise broad-based taxes, but leans heavily on one-time moves to tap special off-budget program funds, some of which are likely to be erased in the Senate. Democrats counted up $2 billion in one-time maneuvers to balance rising costs and help make up for a massive and unexpected shortfall in tax collections.
In a statement Wednesday night, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, promised prompt Senate committee action on the bill Thursday and said he will “continue pushing for a sustainable, responsible state budget.”
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said the House plan was built on “smoke and mirrors,” and predicted a Senate bill could rely on higher taxes on cigarettes and the booming natural gas industry, plus rollbacks of planned business tax breaks kept intact by the House.
In the House, debate was highly partisan.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, called the plan “an exceptionally responsible budget” that does not increase taxes while House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, tied the deficit and suffering public schools to a “failure of leadership” under Gov. Tom Corbett and his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature.
The pressure is on for the state to erase its operating deficits and deal with its pension debt: credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has warned that it could downgrade Pennsylvania’s rating in the coming months if it does not see significant strides to structurally balance the budget and address long-term pension liabilities.
Overall, the House plan would increase spending by about $727 million, or almost 2.6 percent, over the current year’s approved budget. The increase is deceptively small: More than $200 million in additional spending would occur without being reflected in the plan, according to Democrats. - AP, 6/26/14
Yeah, I wouldn't hold my breath on an extraction tax:Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday that legislative approval of changes to public-sector pension systems would make him more open to the possibility of raising taxes to balance the state budget.
But in an interview with The Associated Press at his residence, Corbett also said he won’t consider a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction without changes to the state-owned liquor system.
“They want me to do something that I’m not wont to do in the first place, right?” Corbett said, with four days left in the state government’s fiscal year. “Well, this is when I’m looking to get some bills done that are important for the people of Pennsylvania.”
The Republican has not necessarily agreed to new taxes. But if lawmakers approve those changes, “I’m much, much, much, much, much more open to it,” he said. “Because they’re helping me look to the future for the people of Pennsylvania. I have to get them to look beyond the election cycle.”
Discussions about a prospective public-pension overhaul continued Thursday, largely behind closed doors, as leaders of the House Republican majority sought to win over enough caucus members to pass the proposal. House Democrats are united in their opposition.
Corbett proposed similar legislation last year, but it went nowhere. He has redoubled his lobbying for it as he campaigns for re-election this year.
Corbett favors a proposal that would replace the current guaranteed pension system with a new “hybrid” system for future school and state employees that combines a defined-benefit program with a 401(k)-style plan in which they would make their own investment decisions.
Democratic legislators and labor unions argue that the proposal would slash pension benefits for new hires while providing no short-term reduction in the nearly $50 billion unfunded liability of the state’s two major public-employee retirement systems. - Delco Daily Times, 6/26/14
With the gas industry pouring a ton of money into Corbett's campaign, wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one happens first:With the state facing an estimated $1.4 billion budget deficit and calls for a severance tax on natural gas drillers growing louder, industry representatives Thursday reiterated their opposition to any such tax, saying it would dissuade investment and hurt job growth.
“We are absolutely against any severance tax,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, the executive director of the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, during a telephone conference call with reporters. “Any kind of severance tax is extremely problematic.”
Proponents of a severance tax have estimated that a 5 percent levy would raise as much as $400 million in additional annual revenue for Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Corbett has opposed implementing a severance tax, while Democratic governor candidate Tom Wolf has proposed a 5 percent tax to fund education, roads and other services.
But industry officials have insisted that any severance tax would curtail investment in the lucrative Marcellus shale region, leading to fewer jobs and, ultimately, an economic downturn for small businesses and local communities that have benefited from the so-called “shale boom.”
Wissman said that a “misguided severance tax would strangle production” and stunt the industry’s growth just as investment is spurring job growth and pumping $225 million into counties and local communities through the state’s impact fee. - Times Online, 6/25/14
By the way, check out Corbett's latest lame attempt to pander to voters:It is pretty much a given at this point that Gov. Tom Corbett has no intention of taxing his friends in the oil industry who are fracking Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region for natural gas, to raise much-needed revenue for the state.
The Republican governor is unmoved by the fact that Pennsylvania is the only oil-drilling state in the nation without an extraction tax or by the fact that there is strong bi-partisan support for such a tax in the state legislature.
For example, both candidates for the seat of state Sen. Ted Erickson, of Newtown — Democrat John Kane and Republican Tom McGarrigle — have made it clear they support a severance tax on gas drilling.
But since he took office in 2011, Corbett has refused to go down this obvious avenue for defraying what has now become an anticipated $1.3 billion budget shortfall, opting instead over the years to slash education and human service funding.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone either that the governor has proposed raising $75 million for the commonwealth through additional leasing of mineral rights in state parks and forests for “non-surface impact” natural gas drilling.
What is odd is Corbett’s apparent determination to keep secret what companies will be doing the drilling, in what parks and forests, on how many acres and how he reached the $75 million figure. - Centre Daily Times, 6/25/14
Oh, and he really doesn't want to be a part of this right now:Gov. Tom Corbett said today he has never condemned the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno for his actions regarding now-convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky, and he "never will," citing what he called the "unusual circumstances" surrounding what happened.
The Republican governor, now in the middle of a re-election campaign, also told The Associated Press that he regrets that the Penn State board decided to fire Paterno by phone rather than in person. The governor was a voting trustee when the scandal broke in November 2011.
"When they were talking about the whole thing I said, 'You've got to remember the children,'" Corbett said. "Since that date the only thing I have said about Joe Paterno is I've quoted him. As he said, I wish he would have done more. I've not condemned, one way or the other, never have, never will. These are unusual circumstances." - AP, 6/26/14
It's pretty clear why:Claiming he has no real say in the issue, Gov. Tom Corbett is asking a federal judge to remove him as a defendant in the NCAA's lawsuit that aims to kill a state law that requires its $60 million fine against Penn State to stay in Pennsylvania.
Simultaneously, he and state Treasurer Rob McCord, another defendant in the suit, are raising as a defense the argument that the consent agreement between the NCAA and Penn State that includes the fine is legally invalid.
McCord and the governor also are urging U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane to give heed to an April ruling by Commonwealth Court that dealt the NCAA a significant legal blow. That decision upheld the constitutionality of the Endowment Act targeted in the NCAA's federal suit.
Corbett and McCord are taking those tacks in answers they filed to the NCAA's this week. They had to reply to the suit because earlier this month Kane denied their initial pleas to dismiss the case.
Corbett's reply to the NCAA suit focuses on his lack of authority to enforce or administer the Endowment Act. That responsibility falls to McCord's office and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, he notes. Also, the governor contends he has legal immunity from such suits.
"Governor Corbett denies that he is a proper party to this action," his rely to the NCAA complaint states.
The governor's position contrasts with the aggressive stance he took last year when he filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA in a bid to kill the Penn State consent agreement. Kane dismissed Corbett's suit last June. - The Patriot-News, 6/26/14
I can't wait until November so PA voters can finally replace Corbett with someone with a heart and a brain:Corbett, who is in an uphill campaign for reelection this year, faces a bigger Penn State problem than whatever happened in the Sandusky investigation begun by his office in 2009 when he was attorney general, several Republican strategists and other analysts said Tuesday.
Anger still burns among some PSU alumni over Corbett's role, as governor and a member of the school's board of trustees, in firing legendary football coach Joe Paterno after Sandusky was arrested in November 2011.
Corbett at the time also publicly backed the NCAA sanctions imposed on the university, including limits on football scholarships and the erasure of 111 of Paterno's 409 victories, the most ever for a coach, from the record books.
"The Kane report doesn't cause more bleeding, but it doesn't heal past wounds for those who are angry at him for how he treated the university in the aftermath," said Christopher Borick, a pollster based at Muhlenberg College. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/25/14
Wolf's out on the campaign trail now and we need to help him keep up the momentum and keep his campaign strong. Plus we have the State Senate up for grabs. So please do contribute and get involved with Wolf's campaign, Mike Stack's (D. PA) Lt. Governor campaign and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:While campaigning in Philadelphia, Democratic candidate Tom Wolf said Pennsylvania's budget crisis could be solved with just a few things. The key he said is enacting a tax on extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, better known as a severance tax.
"I've called for a five percent severance tax, I know we have that right from a this could be a game changer for Pennsylvania's economy," Wolf said. "I know we have to do it right but it would give us hundreds of millions of dollars that we could use for Pennsylvania's education."
Wolf says he also would do some things Governor Corbett has refused to do.
"I would expand Medicaid I'm not sure what the net savings to the commonwealth would be if we did that immediately but it would would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the net savings over what we are now spending on Medicaid." - Newsworks, 6/26/14