1. Under Tom Corbett, the state’s share of education funding has dropped from 44 percent to 32 percent – well below the national average of 48 percent. What do you think is the right ratio of state-to-local funding? Could you support HB-76/SB-76 – the bipartisan bills that would make state government responsible for 100% of education funding?
Providing high-quality public education is the most fundamental responsibility of state government, the key to our children’s future and Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity. Yet Governor Tom Corbett has turned his back on the Commonwealth’s public schools. He targeted public schools for his first and most significant budget cuts, slashing nearly $1 billion in investments to school districts. This is unacceptable.
Governor Corbett’s drastic cuts to basic education have unfairly shifted the burden to local communities, property-tax payers, and school districts across the state. Rural, suburban, and urban school districts have had to make devastating choices, including increases in class size, the elimination of full-day kindergarten, massive teacher layoffs, and cuts in science, technology and other core curriculum areas.
Pennsylvania needs a governor who will make ensuring a high quality education for every student a top priority. As the mother of two sons who attended and graduated from Philadelphia’s public schools, I know personally how important good schools are to Pennsylvania’s families and to our children’s future. As the former Democratic leader of the State Senate Education Committee and as a member of Congress, I have fought for proper support for public education. In the Senate, I introduced legislation to boost aid for public schools. To protect Pennsylvania’s schools from the worst of the Great Recession, I supported over $2 billion in additional federal education dollars for Pennsylvania schools.
And as a senior leader of the U.S. House Committee on the Budget, I have consistently opposed House Republican attempts to severely cut federal support for public education. As governor, I will recommit Pennsylvania to public education. I will end Corbett’s assault on public education and reverse his devastating cuts to our schools. I have released a plan to enact a moderate, 5-percent severance tax on natural gas production that will raise billions of dollars to support transformational investments, especially in public education.
With the natural gas tax and other resources, I will provide funding for all Pennsylvania school districts to offer full-day kindergarten, and for all 4-year-olds to have access to pre-kindergarten.
By growing the economy, re-prioritizing the existing budget, and drawing upon new resources from the natural gas tax, I will completely reverse Governor Corbett’s extreme cuts during my first term. I will also work to find the proper balance between local and state support to ensure that all Pennsylvania schools have the necessary resources to provide a high-quality education.
I have released a detailed education policy paper regarding my goals, ideas, and past record on education. You can find the plan atallysonschwartz.com/issues.
2. Tom Corbett and the Republicans immediately abandoned Ed Rendell’s hard-won education funding formula, which increased state money for districts who serve larger populations of economically-disadvantaged students. The effect was to take much more money from poorer school districts than from wealthier ones. What is your view of the Rendell formula, and would you pledge to use it again?
Governor Corbett eliminated important reforms in how the state distributes support for education. As a result, aid to our schools is now determined by political calculations in Harrisburg, and not by a school’s need. Corbett’s most recent budget, for example, provided $30 million in additional funding to just 21 school districts, all represented by powerful politicians. This is outrageous. The quality of students’ education must not depend on where they live in our state.
I will work with all stakeholders to establish a new funding formula that provides the necessary level of state support for each of our 500 school districts to ensure that all students receive a quality education. I will work to establish a transparent formula that recognizes student and school district characteristics, considers local effort, and provides sustained, adequate, and fair funding to every school.
I have released a detailed education policy paper regarding my goals, ideas, and past record on education. You can find the plan at allysonschwartz.com/issues.
3. Congress opted not to create a federal public insurance option in the Affordable Care Act, but they gave state governments lots of flexibility to do basically anything that will reduce costs more than the ACA envisions. Which state-level cost control ideas do you support? Should PA follow Vermont’s lead and adopt a single-payer insurance system? Should we copy Maryland’s successful all-payer rate setting policy? Do you support HB 1526, Bob Freeman’s public insurance option bill that allows individuals and businesses to buy into the State Workers Insurance Fund (SWIF)?
Throughout my entire career in public service, I have worked to strengthen health care in Pennsylvania. In the State Senate, I introduced and championed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to tens of thousands of Pennsylvania’s children and which became the model for a national CHIP program. In Congress, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I helped write the Affordable Care Act and worked to ensure that it included vital consumer protections, increased access to primary care providers, and improved benefits for our seniors. And, I have authored bipartisan legislation to replace the flawed Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula in a way that ensures patient access to physicians and promotes greater efficiency and quality in health care delivery.
No one in this race is better prepared than I am to ensure that Pennsylvania leads on ensuring that every one of our citizens has access to affordable, quality health care. What’s so frustrating is that Governor Corbett refuses to show any leadership at all. He has failed to lead on expanding Medicaid, even though it is both a moral and economic imperative. Instead of creating a health insurance exchange that works for Pennsylvanians, he has punted the issue back to the federal government. That’s not leadership. That’s putting party politics ahead of the people he serves.
As Governor, I will use all tools available to expand affordable, quality health care access, contain the rate of growth in costs, and improve the quality of care for Pennsylvania’s families and workers.
4. About 78% of Pennsylvania’s GDP comes from the top 5 largest metro areas (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg and Scranton), and more than half comes from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh alone. How can state government help our large metro economies grow and create even more jobs?
To grow Pennsylvania’s economy, from our small towns to our largest cities, we must recommit to investing in infrastructure and education and support targeted and smart economic incentives. That is why I have committed to enacting a moderate gas severance tax to support transformational investments that will lay the foundation for the prosperity of our Commonwealth for generations.
As governor, I will establish Build PA, a state infrastructure bank funded with natural gas profits to invest in critical projects in all regions of our Commonwealth. In Scranton, there is determination to bring passenger rail back to the city to connect it to the Northeast Corridor. In Pittsburgh, community leaders are exploring options for new transit systems to connect the Downtown Central Business District with the airport and Oakland. In Philadelphia, efforts to extend the Broad Street Subway to the Navy Yard have the potential to move ahead.
In addition to pursuing these types of major projects, we must also work to improve the lives of current residents, and attract new residents, by supporting smart growth policies that make our communities safer and more livable. Across Pennsylvania, parents are concerned about their children crossing unsafe intersections or walking along streets without sidewalks; commuters regret the time spent in traffic that could be better spent with their families; and homeowners are frustrated by insufficient transit options that make community centers, grocery stores, parks, schools and other services difficult to access.
As a member of the Livable Communities Task Force, I have worked in Congress to enact policies to revitalize communities and urban areas. I introduced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative to improve access to healthy foods in underserved communities, and I introduced the Green Communities Act to provide training and technical assistance to help communities improve quality of life, attract new business, generate economic development, and protect the environment. As governor, I will push for a green communities program in Pennsylvania in the style of my Green Communities Act legislation. This initiative will ensure that communities have the resources and technical assistance to successfully design and implement green improvements.
To strengthen Pennsylvania’s cities, we must also recommit the Commonwealth to public education. School districts in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton, and in large and small communities across the state are all struggling because of Governor Corbett’s brutal education cuts. As former Democratic Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, I know that a well-educated workforce and good public schools will attract world-class businesses to our Commonwealth and keep our young people living, working, and raising their families in Pennsylvania.
Finally, I know how important it is to provide resources and incentives to encourage business development. As a state senator, I was a strong supporter of Keystone Opportunity Zones, which encourage economic development in underdeveloped and underutilized areas. Keystone Opportunity Zones and other business assistance programs have proven successful in encouraging investment and economic growth.
5. PA has one of the top 10 most regressive state tax codes in the nation. Will you support an amendment to the state Constitution to allow a progressive rate structure for the income tax?
I currently serve on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the chief tax writing committee, where I fight for a fair tax policy that strengthens the middle class, meets our commitment to education, and preserves Social Security and Medicare. I am leading efforts to close egregious loopholes for corporations. For example, I am working to eliminate tax breaks for the already profitable oil and gas companies and for companies that ship jobs overseas. In 2011, I was one of five House Democrats appointed to a joint Senate-House Conference Committee charged with finding an agreement to extend middle-class tax cuts. The committee reached a bipartisan agreement that extended tax relief to working Americans and unemployment assistance for those in need.
As Governor, I will act to make Pennsylvania’s tax system fairer. This includes ending unnecessary tax subsidies that do nothing to contribute to economic growth and fail to expand opportunity for the Commonwealth’s citizens. For example, I will take action to fully and quickly close the Delaware Loophole, which allows some corporations to avoid paying the Pennsylvania taxes they rightly owe.
I’ve led the way in Congress on protecting middle class families from tax increases and as governor I will be committed to not raising Pennsylvania’s income tax .
6. SEPTA, PAT, and other transit agencies are seeing record high ridership, but they still face large funding shortfalls, because such a large share of their funding comes from federal and state transfers. The geography of political power in Harrisburg and Washington does not inspire much hope that our transit networks will ever be generously funded, let alone expanded. If these actors won’t step up, do you think it’s time to give county governments more autonomy to fund transit? Which of the following local revenue options would you be willing to consider: value capture? road fares? regional sales taxes? regional income taxes?
As governor, I will champion public transit because it makes our communities more livable, reduces congestion and air pollution, and contributes to economic growth. In Congress, I secured over $100 million in investments for innovative and transformative transportation projects throughout Philadelphia and Montgomery County, including main street redevelopment, safety improvements along Roosevelt Boulevard, revitalization of the North Delaware Riverfront and improvements to SEPTA stations and commuter access. I’ve also opposed the House Republicans attempts to cut support for transit, which makes little economic or environmental sense.
I will work with mayors, local officials, labor, small business owners, community leaders and Pennsylvanians to strengthen our public transit systems, revitalize downtowns, and to make our communities more livable. I will also stand up to the Republicans in Harrisburg that fail to understand that support for public transit benefits all Pennsylvanians.
Recently, I announced my plan to launch Build PA, a statewide infrastructure bank to be capitalized over time with hundreds of millions of dollars in natural-gas tax profits. This revolving pool of funds will offer loans, loan guarantees, grants and other financing to start, accelerate, or expand infrastructure projects that will modernize our current infrastructure to grow economic opportunity in regions across the Commonwealth. Build PA will leverage federal, state, private dollars to maximize the impact of our investment.
Build PA projects, which will include transit, will be chosen on a competitive basis and must provide public benefit, contribute to economic growth, enhance safety and mobility, engage in sound environmental stewardship, deliver results efficiently, improve quality of life, and promote sustainability.
You can find the plan at allysonschwartz.com/issues.
7. Ed Rendell established a Fix-It-First policy for infrastructure spending that was recently embraced by President Obama in this year’s State of the Union address. Tom Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission reversed course and brought back to life a lot of undead capacity expansion ideas, even though vehicle miles traveled have been declining. Where do you stand on the Fix-It-First policy?
Pennsylvania’s infrastructure system is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our roads and transit a “D-minus” on its latest report card. Pennsylvania has the largest number of structurally deficient bridges in the country, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has imposed weight restrictions on approximately 1,000 bridges. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, nearly 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s major local and state roads and highways are in “poor” or “mediocre” condition. Each year, congested, deteriorated and unsafe roads cost Pennsylvania’s drivers $9.4 billion.
Our buses, trolleys and commuter trains are also in dire need of upgrades. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), serving five southeastern counties, provided 334 million rides in 2011, the most in 22 years. SEPTA is vital to the region’s economy, which generates 39 percent of the state’s taxable income. Yet SEPTA faces a $38 million deficit and service cuts in future years. Additionally, in 2012, the Port Authority of Allegheny County was nearly forced to make record-setting service cuts. The Commonwealth’s other mass transit systems — from Erie to Scranton to Allentown to York to Johnstown — also are in need of assistance.
We must address our backlogged infrastructure needs. That is why I support a robust transportation package that meets the immediate repair needs of our bridges, highways and mass transit systems. We cannot move forward without a comprehensive plan. If this work is left to the next governor, I will act.
But we also must look forward. We must build a 21st-century infrastructure system that is more reliable, efficient and sustainable. We must modernize and maximize our existing infrastructure, provide our citizens with greater transportation options, and make our communities more livable. We must encourage better long-term planning, regional cooperation, and smarter growth.
Again, this is why I put forth a plan for Build PA, which you can read more about at Allysonschwartz.com/issues.
8. The Detroit bankruptcy has prompted some soul-searching about PA’s own municipal finance problems. With about 41% of PA residents living in a distressed municipality, it seems clear that the state municipal finance policies aren’t working. Organizations like the Team PA Foundation and the PA Economy League have argued that one key reason for the widespread distress is too much fragmentation in local government. PA’s 4,562 municipal tax bases and 501 school district tax bases are too small, and leave local governments too vulnerable to small changes in migration. What would you do to help reduce fragmentation?
Many municipalities across Pennsylvania have struggled in recent years to provide their residents with essential services. I supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provided billions of dollars in aid to local school districts and state governments to reduce pressure on state and local budgets and to prevent widespread layoffs. Unfortunately, Governor Corbett has slashed essential funding for our schools and our communities, while refusing to consider a natural gas tax to produce adequate revenue for the Commonwealth.
However, even with strengthened support from Harrisburg, it is clear that some municipalities will continue to struggle. Many municipalities in Pennsylvania have been able to maintain or improve services while reducing costs by sharing services, such as police. As governor, in addition to reversing damaging cuts to priorities like education, I would work to identify and reduce barriers that prevent communities from developing and maintaining effective service sharing arraignments.
9. PA’s Municipal Planning Code makes Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recommendations advisory-only, and does not require our 4,562 municipalities to develop their land use plans in accordance with the broader region. Critics say rendering MPOs toothless encourages municipalities to discount the negative economic and environmental impacts of their land use and development choices on their neighbors. Do you support changing the Municipal Planning Code to give MPOs’ regional plans the force of law? What else can state government do to lean against environmentally destructive land use and development patterns?
As a member of the Congressional Livable Communities Task Force, I have worked to advance policies that promote community planning, that improve the quality of life for residents, and that protect the environment. For example, I introduced the Green Communities Act to provide training and technical assistance to municipalities to implement green infrastructure projects.
As governor, I will work to implement polices to encourage land use and development choices that improve the quality of life for Pennsylvania residents. One important step Pennsylvania can take is to ensure that state funds support projects that advance sustainable development goals. When state funds are directed towards projects that promote infill, brownfield development, and other approaches that promote livable communities, private and local funds will follow, reducing environmental destructive land use and development patterns.
10. The PA Democratic Party platform officially supports a severance tax on natural gas drilling. If PA had a severance tax rate as high as West Virginia’s, we could raise between $800M-1B for the general fund – over four times as much as the Republicans’ “local impact fee” generates. Will you support a statewide severance tax?
We now rank among the top states in production of natural gas, and output is projected to rise consistently over the next decade. Non-renewable gas resources present the Commonwealth with an extraordinary opportunity that may not come again. If managed right, and for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, shale gas profit can transform our public schools; rebuild our roads, bridges, and mass transit; establish the Commonwealth as a model for clean energy development; and launch a manufacturing renaissance—all while we protect the environment.
Unfortunately, Governor Tom Corbett is squandering this opportunity. These natural gas resources belong to the people of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvanians deserve a fair deal and a lasting positive legacy for the Commonwealth.
To ensure they get this, I will enact a moderate, 5 percent gas severance tax to support transformational investments in education, transportation, clean energy, and the people of Pennsylvania. This would generate $612 million for Pennsylvania this budget year alone. Revenue would grow to $737 million for 2014-15 and continue to increase annually, reaching $2 billion in 2022-23.
I would also maintain the existing impact fee. Together, the severance tax and the impact fee will generate $16.6 billion for Pennsylvania citizens and communities over the next 10 years.
Earlier this year, I released a detailed plan regarding my proposed idea for a moderate severance tax. Read more atAllysonschwartz.com/issues.