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

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.

Posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, State Politics

Thank Bob Casey For Supporting Senate Dems’ ‘Hobby Lobby’ Fix

Bob Casey personally opposes abortion rights, which sometimes finds him on the wrong side of the Democratic base on certain votes, but in the case of Senate Democrats’ Hobby Lobby fix, he wants to do the right thing. Criticizing politicians is more fun as an activist, but thanking them when they do what you want is just as important.

We’ve dinged Bob Casey here on the blog a few times for various things, but we want to extend a hearty thank-you to him for being a team player on this specific bill, and for his long-standing support for contraception access as a means to reduce the number of abortions.

If you’re happy with his actions here, please take a moment to send him a note via this contact form, or even better, send a letter to the Editor of your local paper thanking him for being on the right side of this isse.

Posted in Elections, Health, Issues, US Senate

#PABudget: “Republicans in Disarray” Narrative is a Direct Result of Democrats’ Party-Line Vote

Just to make sure Democrats understand the political success of their budget strategy, the circular firing squad we’re seeing play out between the Corbett administration and Republicans in the legislature wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the Dems’ party-line vote against the budget.

The party-line vote shined the bright light of accountability on Republican lawmakers, and they’re squirming under the magnifying glass. If the Dems had bailed Republicans out with some political cover for their budget, it would have papered over the disagreements in the Republican caucus and none of this drama would be happening.

It turns out that when you make the Republican majority govern by itself, there’s a lot of internal disagreement in the caucus, and now the question Democrats want voters to be asking themselves heading into the elections is front and center: can the Republican party actually govern to our liking, or do we want a different party in charge?

Posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, Issues, State House, State Senate

#PABudget: The Republican Budget in One Photo

All you need to know:

Nick Field has the actual details, but the photo suffices.

(photo credit: Bradley Bauer, AP)

Posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, Issues

These Five Philly-Area Lawmakers Voted Against the Cigarette Tax

Anthony Williams was the only Democrat to vote to delay the cigarette tax, and that’ll cost him in the Democratic primary for Philly Mayor next year. But forget about that for now.

These Republican lawmakers all benefit from a strong Philadelphia economy, and their constituents won’t pay the cost of our local cigarette tax, but they voted to mess with our school funding anyway.

These are all districts within reasonable distance for GOTV, and Philadelphians who can afford it should really donate to their challengers. This stuff is going to keep happening next year if we don’t flip the state Senate this year.

Senate (see the roll call)

Bob Mensch, challenged by Jack Hansen.

Chuck McIlhinney, challenged by Steve Cickay.

House (see the roll call)

Justin Simmons, challenged by Mike Beyer.

Dan Truitt, challenged by Sandra Snyder.

Duane Milne, challenged by Anne Crowley.

 

Posted in Education, Elections, Issues, State House, State Senate

PA Local Gov Employment Down 5.9% Since the Start of the Recession

Obviously there’s a lot of duplication and waste inherent in Pennsylvania’s fragmented system of local government. When there are 2562 municipalities for 67 counties, clearly a great many local services could be administered more efficiently if local service providers could take advantage of some economy of scale.

Just look at how many police departments and planning commissions we have:

So in theory, there are some local government redundancies that could be ok if they resulted from consolidating services and municipal mergers. But in practice, this isn’t how we’ve been going about reducing local government employment in the recession. We could be combining municipalities and tax bases. We could be combining police departments and planning commissions. Instead, we’ve just been starving the existing under-capitalized local governments, and getting worse services.

The state Republicans’ cuts have forced local governments to either raise local taxes or lay off public employees, and in total, they’ve cut about 5.9% of local public employment since the recession began, according to this data from Governing.

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Posted in Budget, Economy, Issues

Why Tom Corbett Might Not Sign the #GOPBudget

With all his priorities dashed, and no nice things to take on the road this fall to show the voters, it looks like Tom Corbett may have decided his best chance of hanging on to his office is to break off from the Republican pack and run against “Harrisburg.”

The latest evidence is his public indecision over whether to sign or veto the Republican budget, or let it take effect without his signature – a move that has his fellow Republicans flailing:

A week after its passage by the legislature, Gov. Corbett has yet to sign the $29.1 billion general appropriations bill for 2014-2015. Nor has the General Assembly finalized the a key budget-related bill – the fiscal code – that authorizes spending for schools and hundreds of other items.

Corbett has until Friday to sign or veto all or part of the budget. Without his signature it takes effect immediately.

“The governor is reviewing his options,” said Corbett spokesman Jay Pagni.

The governor’s inaction is causing friction even with his GOP allies in the legislature.

“We think the governor needs to sign the budget and move forward,” House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) said Monday in an impromptu session with reporters. “This is a responsible budget for the needs of the citizens of Pennsylvania, while also protecting taxpayers.”

The basic shape of the politics is that this budget is another nasty all-cuts budget, it does nothing to restore cuts to basic education despite a lot of big talk about that earlier in the year, and Corbett doesn’t want this to be seen as his latest accomplishment. The tea people think that spending cuts are popular, but they’re not.

Members of his party still had to vote for this beast though, so naturally they want Corbett to embrace it and echo all the stuff Turzai is saying, so that the Republicans at least look united after the budget got a  party-line No vote from House and Senate Democrats.

The bright light of accountability that the party-line vote is shining on the Republicans puts them in a fantastically uncomfortable position, as they now own everything in there, as a party. But Corbett seems to be thinking about publicly distancing himself from the product, leaving legislative Republicans to take all the blame at the polls.

(via Inquirer)

Posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, Issues, State House, State Senate

#PA8: Fitzpatrick the Moderate? Not so much.

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s campaign website is all about the concept of political “moderation.” That’s probably because PA-8, the district he represents, is a swing district that President Obama carried in ’08 and ’12, with an 11,759 democratic voter registration advantage that has changed parties 5 times since the 1980’s. A district like PA-8 simply wouldn’t tolerate a tea-party republican. Mike Fitzpatrick may not appear to be such a republican, to be sure, but that isn’t the whole story, his votes are.

He might not always vote with the (R)’s, but when it counts, he does. He voted with the republicans to usher in a government shutdown over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He voted for the horrible Farm Bill (HR 2642), which gutted the food stamp program for over 1.7 million people across 15 states. He endorsed voter suppression tactics with his votes to require photo ID for voting in federal elections. He also has a terrible record on women’s health & choice issues, rated at 0% by both Planned Parenthood and NARAL . This just scratches the surface.

One would think that a moderate would tend to stay away from inflammatory language, such as, say, accusing President Obama of committing treason if elected to a second term, something Rep. Fitzpatrick did at a fundraiser in April of 2012. I guess the fundraising opportunity was too great to pass up.

If you’re still not sold that Fitzpatrick’s record isn’t pretty notable conservative, consider this. His voting has actually been getting more conservative through his last term, moving from voting with the Republican majority 81.0% of the time in 2011, to 88.4% of the time in 2013.

The fact is that at a glance Rep. Fitzpatrick looks pretty moderate, the kind of rare-breed moderate republican that many thought went extinct years ago. Primary Colors even lists him with a +10.6 progressive value. The truth is even his “moderation” is further right than can be tolerated, and while Fitzpatrick can’t be counted among the worst of the House Republican Caucus, a district that can (and has) elected solid progressive candidates should rally around the Democratic nominee, Kevin Strouse, and do so again. Mike Fitzpatrick wants to herald his moderation, but his rhetoric and most of his voting record point staunchly to the opposite direction. PA-8 is a highly competitive race, and presents one of the democrats’ best chances to pick up a seat in the House. If you live in the district, or even near it, get out there and knock on some doors!

Posted in Elections, US House

Peduto: Senator Fontana Introducing Bill to Override Tom Corbett’s PUC Appointees, Legalize Uber X and Lyft

Charlie Deitch reports that state Senator Wayne Fontana (and we’ve heard Erin Molchany in the House, though not sure if that’s been reported yet) is introducing a bill to create a new “transportation network” category in the PA code that would legalize e-hailing apps Uber X and Lyft in Pennsylvania. Since Tom Corbett’s PUC appointees think their job is to protect monopoly rents for incumbent taxi fleet owners, rather than provide safe and convenient taxi markets for PA’s cities – it’s become important to override them by creating this new category, similar to regulations in Colorado and California that regulate safety while encouraging more competition and choice:

After saying on Wednesday that he would fight for innovation, Mayor Bil Peduto announced this morning that state Sen. Wayne Fontana is preparing legislation int he state senate to permit the operation of rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber.

“State Sen. Wayne Fontana is set to introduce legislation to allow for operation of these innovative transportation systems and I support similar bipartisan efforts being introduced in the House,” Peduto said in a statement. “In the interim I fully support a resolution being introduced by State Rep. Erin Molchany calling on the Public Utility Commission to issue provisional approvals for the companies Lyft and Uber to operate this weekend to alleviate pressing public safety concerns about drunk driving this holiday weekend.”

This is an important cross-over issue for progressive Democrats and market-friendly Republicans because it creates a deep market of rides-for-hire that makes it convenient for people to give up their cars and reduce their carbon output, and it provides a transit-like service in areas poorly served by public transit. Peduto has been pushing for PUC to legalize jitneys (dollar vans) too, which heretofore have primarily served poor neighborhoods. And it also soaks wealthy medallion owners (progressive!) by way of lower barriers to competition for new businesses (free market!) so there’s plenty for both sides to like here.

Posted in Economy, Issues, Transportation

Ride-Share Fix Must Apply to Philly Parking Authority as Well as PUC

By some weird accident of history, the city of Philadelphia doesn’t have the same taxi regulator as the rest of the state. Whereas the Public Utilities Commission sets the rules for taxis in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, the Philadelphia Parking Authority is the taxi regulator for Philly.

It’s great to see Bill Peduto and his state allies, including our Brian Sims, are pushing a legislative fix for the derp that’s been flowing out of the PUC on ride-rental share companies Uber and Lyft in recent months – the latest being this cease-and-desist order barring them from operating in Pennsylvania. But it’s critical that the legislative fix – which will probably take the form of a new “transportation network” category in the PUC code – also apply to the PPA as well as PUC. Ideally, the legislation would make the PUC the regulator for all Pennsylvania, and take that power away from the PPA.

The PUC and the PPA unfortunately do not seem to understand that the job of the regulators is to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, not protect taxi fleet monopolists or medallion owner rents – one of the worst affronts to taxi drivers’ livelihoods here in Philly, as the Taxi Workers Alliance will tell you. PPA kicked out ride-share service Sidecar last summer, and Uber X won’t come here even though they’re expanding across the river in South Jersey because they say “the city of Philadelphia has proven time and time again to be against innovation.”

This is nuts. As former transportation head of DC and Chicago Gabe Klein explains in this CityLab post today, the future of transportation is increasingly about these networked services, and it’ll eventually give way to autonomous vehicles. Dumb laws meant to protect a wealthy minority of fleet owners shouldn’t be allowed to stop this innovation, and any state-level legislative fix needs to apply to Philly as well as Pittsburgh. The taxi regulation power is too important to leave to the PPA – a known Republican patronage potty.

Posted in Economy, Issues, Transportation