Republicans say Democrats not being honest about governor’s record
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
WEST CHESTER — Chester County’s top two elected Democrats joined with the leader of the statewide campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf to denounce Gov. Tom Corbett’s handling of the state economy, Thursday on the steps of the old historic courthouse.
Former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary — and gubernatorial candidate in her own right — Katie McGinty, who now leads Wolf’s Fresh Start Campaign, was joined by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone, who is challenging state Sen. John Raffery for the 44th District seat, and Marian Moskowitz, the Democrat running in the 157th District for State Representative against Warren Kampf — all of whom decried Corbett’s poor handling of the state and its economy.
As a bit of a counterbalance, not quite two dozen Corbett supporters — complete with anti-Wolf and signs and the obligatory person dressed in a wolf costume — chanted counter arguments during the, otherwise lightly attended event, which drew only a couple of dozen other attendees (including Susan Rzucidlo, the Democrat running in the 158th District for State Representative against Republican Cuyler Walker and Downingtown Mayor Josh Maxwell, who is running for State Representative against Republican Harry Lewis Jr. in the 74th state house district) and a minimal amount of local media representatives.
Although much of the discussion centered on the budget and funding of education and community development, the event veered off a bit when an impassioned Dinniman — speaking about the Common Core requirements and the plans to require passing three Keystone exams before high school students can graduate — left his colleagues to directly engage one of the pro-Corbett protestors. McGinty almost literally had to drag the former West Chester University professor and former Downingtown Area School District Board of Education member back, to get the proceedings back on track.
McGinty served as the chief prosecutor, tearing apart Corbett’s performance, particularly as it relates to the state’s economic performance, ripping the governor — who has been out and about in the suburban counties around Philadelphia this week, although not in Chester County, as being on a “magical misleading tour” touting economic success, when his record suggests little more than failure, she said.
She hit the governor on the disputed cut in school funding of roughly $1 billion — Corbett argues that the cut was nothing more than federal stimulus funding that expired and that the amount the state spends on education has increased on his watch — saying that some 23,000 teaching professionals have been laid off and that school districts were being forced to cut music and arts, tutoring and sports.
Not surprisingly, county Republicans took strong issue with McGinty’s comments — suggesting that she was being dishonest about Corbett’s record.
“Today Kathleen McGinty showed her lack of understanding of Tom Corbett’s commitment to education,” Chester County Republican Committee Chair Val DiGiorgio said in a statement, Thursday. “Democrats continue to spread lies regarding Governor Corbett’s education record. Tom Corbett’s most recent state budget spends the most state tax dollars on basic education in Pennsylvania’s history. Governor Corbett has also dramatically increased spending on early childhood development programs and the Head Start Program. McGinty spent most of the press conference giving a misportrayal of Governor Corbett’s record, rather than informing voters of Tom Wolf’s solutions. Wolf’s platform of higher taxes and more government debt is completely out-of-touch with Chester County voters.”
Dinniman — with his usual energy — expressed excitement that Democrats were unified enough to really run together under banner, the Fresh Start organization, and stand to win not just the gubernatorial race, but dozens of other contests this November.
“It’s good to see how the party has come together,” he said.
Dinniman hit Corbett for the cuts in funding and the failure to address property tax relief — claiming that every school district in the commonwealth has had to raise taxes and that Corbett has failed to lead on the subject. He said there is bipartisan support for a bill that would eliminate property taxes, shifting school costs onto increase sales and income taxes, but that the bill has not come up for a vote.
Cozzone focused her comments on the new state budget, which she called “completely irresponsible.” She suggested because of the highly aggressive revenue estimates built into it, that a deficit would be a major issue within six months.
Moskowitz echoed and amplified those comments, noting that Moody’s had again downgraded the state’s credit rating.
“We can’t keep kicking everything down the road,” she said. She noted that Pennsylvania is the lone state without a shale gas extraction tax, and there is broad support for such a tax, but that governor continues to battle against it.
Public pensions, an issue that Corbett has been trumpeting in recent days — especially after failing to get any sort of pension reform bill through the GOP-controlled state legislature — were also part of the criticism.
“Corbett’s plan doesn’t do anything to address the current crisis for 25 years,” Dinniman said. “Property tax will continue to go higher and higher.”
Dinniman said it was unfair to punish public workers, who never missed a payment, even as the state and local school districts saw their contributions slashed.
DiGiorgio took issue, there, too.
“Not only does Tom Wolf not have a plan to address Pennsylvania’s $47 billion pension crisis, he’s been trying to pretend the problem doesn’t even exist,” he said. “The state’s pension crisis is causing our property taxes to skyrocket, which McGinty quickly blamed on Gov. Corbett’s lack of leadership, but Tom Wolf has offered no plan for how to move Pennsylvania forward. From his lack of a budget proposal to his lack of a pension plan, Tom Wolf has failed the leadership test at every turn of this campaign.”
When pressed on how they would close the roughly $1.5 billion budget gap and then fund additional funding for education and community development, all cited shale extraction taxes, expected to bring in about $500 million in the first year with growth beyond that, as well as reform of cyber charter schools, which they said could be worth some $466 million. By signing up for the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Pennsylvania could realize some $500 million in federal funding (although those numbers would slowly drop off over a period of years under the ACA).
Between those moves and a stimulated economy with more jobs — which all cited as the real culprit in terms of tax revenue for the state, noting that the commonwealth is third worst in nation for long-term unemployed, and 49th in economic activity (“That means a little state like Rhode Island is kicking us around,” McGinty said) — they said they felt Democrats could close the gap and put the state back on the road to prosperity.