#PABudget: A Timeline of Tom Corbett’s Excellent Misadventure

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Trailing by double-digits in the polls entering the month of June, Tom Corbett needed to hit a walk-off homerun on the 2014-15 budget to have any real chance at re-election in the fall.  What we got instead from the Governor resembled something more like a three pitch strikeout:

June 2nd- Governor Corbett makes it known that he wants to balance a budget with spending cuts and one-time transfers, and that his two biggest priorities are pension reform and liquor privatization

June 4th- Corbett endorses the flawed Tobash “hybrid” pension reform plan which does nothing to fill the $1.5 billion budget gap

June 10th- In an interview with reporters, Corbett says that if there is pension reform, he will consider tax increases to fill the budget gap.

“If we can’t get pensions done, I’m not open to anything,” he said.  “They’ve got to move on it.”

June 17th- Corbett tells reporters his is prepared to stay past the June 30th budget deadline, if legislators do not reform pensions.  He also states that he will not support tax increases until something meaningful is done with “cost-drivers” like pensions.

June 19th- Corbett’s budget secretary Charles Zogby gives an interview in which he states that all options are still on the table, while blaming Ed Rendell for the current budget mess

June 26th- With the GOP fractured over the Tobash plan, Corbett holds a press conference continuing to urge the Republican-controlled legislature to pass meaningful pension reform

June 29th- With the budget deadline a day away, Corbett links the Philadelphia cigarette tax to a positive pension reform vote from Philly Democrats, further alienating himself from the City of Brotherly Love

“If there is a positive pension reform vote, there will be a cigarette tax for Philadelphia.  It’s in their hands.”

June 30th- The legislature passes a $29.1 billion spending plan which does not raise taxes, and it makes its way to Corbett’s desk for his signature in time to meet the midnight budget deadline.  Corbett refuses to sign it, instead continuing to lobby for pension reform from the members of his own party who control the General Assembly

July 2nd- Corbett holds a press conference where he gives a budget update that rivals Seinfeld as the best programming about “nothing” on cable.  He is still reviewing and considering the document

July 10th- After ten days of review, Corbett finally signs the budget, but exercises his line-item veto on $65 million in General Assembly funding and $7.2 million in legislative-designated spending, essentially declaring war on the legislature.

So to recap, before the month of June, Governor Corbett wanted to deliver an on-time budget, which did not raise taxes, and satisfied his two priorities of liquor privatization and pension reform.  However, with a legislature with GOP majorities in both chambers, he delivered on exactly one of his four main goals, by hashing together a spending plan that will likely force Pennsylvania into an even bigger budget deficit next June.

What are most puzzling to me are Corbett’s actions at the very end of the budget process.  Why not meet the budget deadline and run on the platform of delivering four on-time budgets to Pennsylvania?  By waiting as long as he did to sign the budget, the Governor did nothing except break his on-time budget promise and piss of the entire General Assembly by throwing them under the bus for the lack of pension reform.

A Governor must be a leader and find a way to deliver on his priorities, even when he meets resistance from a legislature comprised of his putative allies.  Instead of leadership, Tom Corbett’s actions throughout the budget process show a lack of awareness and an inability to govern or even communicate effectively with members of his political party or his voters.

The Governor has consistently said that he “didn’t come to Harrisburg to make friends,” which has become evident as members of the legislature from both parties have ripped him for his leadership throughout the budget process.  By putting himself into this war with the General Assembly, Corbett has positioned himself to run against Harrisburg in the November elections as an “outsider” as he did in 2010.  He will the blame the political system for his lack of accomplishments during this budget, as well as Ed Rendell for Pennsylvania’s budget crisis, and urge the people of the Commonwealth to give him four more years in office to enact his priorities.

Although the “outsider” strategy may have worked in the last election, the label hardly makes sense for a man who has held the most powerful job in Pennsylvania politics for four years, and whose party enjoys majorities in both houses of the legislature.  Corbett can run against Harrisburg and the corruption within the system, but at this point, he is part of it.

Besides, if an “outsider” can’t deliver on meaningful reform by cooperating with his party in the legislature, rather than spurning them, maybe this “outsider” wasn’t the right man for the job in the first place. For the people of Pennsylvania, it has become evident that Tom Corbett is part of the problem, no matter how much he will try and distance himself from it.

This entry was posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, State Politics.

3 Responses to #PABudget: A Timeline of Tom Corbett’s Excellent Misadventure

  1. Tsuyoshi says:

    Actually, what I find so astonishing about this is that he started out with the wrong priorities. What are the top two concerns of Pennsylvania voters? Education and jobs. And his top two priorities are pension reform and liquor privatization? I am all in favor of liquor privatization, and I can actually imagine I don’t disagree too much with Corbett on pension reform, but he seems to be completely out of touch with the priorities of people living in Pennsylvania.

  2. PF Smith says:

    Someone needs to pull the plug. This guy has surely inherited a state in crisis. But he has thrown gas on every issue. A good Governor meets with budget committee chairs and leadership to iron out the parameters of the budget. What is even more ridiculous is his party controls both houses. He cannot leave the job soon enough.

  3. stew says:

    The problem with the Governor is not Governor Tom Corbett, but the militant liberal news media. and how they convey the news. Corbett is a great CONSERVATIVE Governor.

    I read a news report recently titled “Many Accomplishments Made, Much More To Do”. it talked about creating jobs, pushing energy research, dropping the unemployment rate, As a result, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has plummeted from 8.2 percent in January 2011 when the GOP took the majority to 5.6 percent in June 2014. Not only is this 0.5 percent below the national average, but it is also lower than nearly all of our neighboring states. Recently, the House and the Senate passed a fourth consecutive, responsible, on-time budget that did not raise taxes on our families or employers, protected our most vulnerable citizens and increased spending on K-12 education to an all-time state record of $10.5 billion. In addition, the state is allocating $1.4 billion in the 2014-15 fiscal year to fund the state’s portion of school districts’ pension obligations, successfully fulfilling the state portion of pension payments.

    Something to recognize is that a Republican Governor (Tom Corbett), and Republican State House and Senate that are causing good things like this to happen, NOT Democrats. Through some very tough economic times, 2008 thru present, PA has overcome the challenge. No thanks to democrats.

    A very big LIBERAL Tom Wolfe will be running against Gov. Corbett. Politically, Wolfe is a “Wolf” and a political relative of “Barack O”. He supports the same programs as the current occupant of the wwhitehouse. SO DON’T BE FOOLED by his 30 second scripted talking points, or what the news media is telling you.

    The militant liberal news media will be trying to “paint” Tom Corbett as someone who is not good for Pennsylvania. They will try to make you believe that his “poll numbers are down” and that he will not be reelected. Of course we know not to believe the news media as they are the left wing of left wing of the democrat party. SO they want Tom Corbett to loose.

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