Madonna, Young on Corbett

Published by James O'Toole on .

By G. Terry Madonna; Michael L. Young

It’s a trite but true political aphorism: “where you stand depends on where you sit,” meaning we tend to see things differently depending on what perspective we see them from.

If you're a Pennsylvania Republican, no matter where you “sit,” it’s hard to see what Gov. Corbett did with the 2014-15 budget as anything but a divisive, last-gasp effort to change perceptions of his leadership.

In case you missed it, Corbett, using most of his 10 days to sign or veto the 2014-15, state budget finally decided to do both. He signed it, but excluded about $72 million mostly earmarked for the legislature. This he excised with his line-item veto popularly known as “blue lining.” (A Pennsylvania governor cannot add appropriations to a budget passed by the legislature, but can selectively delete them.)

Corbett wiped out about 20 percent of the money intended to support the General Assembly plus some pet projects. (Before shedding a tear for the legislature be informed that it currently holds some $150 million in “reserve,” more than enough to get it through the year.

Corbett did this to “encourage” the legislature to return to Harrisburg to enact pension reform, his number one priority, and perhaps salvage his swiftly disappearing chances of re-election. (Ignore for the moment that voters don’t care that much about pension reform and list it as their fourth or fifth most important issue. It spoils the story if you worry too much about that.)

To be fair, Corbett was in a bit of a tight corner when the legislature delivered an on time budget sans pension reform. Facing a daunting re-election challenge, he needed some accomplishments.


Wolf enjoys being a spectator

Published by James O'Toole on .

                                                    By Matt Nussbaum
As the Pennsylvania GOP continues to splinter over pension reform, Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for governor, is savoring the political debate, but treading cautiously on the policy front.

"Why would [Wolf] do anything that gets him into a controversy when he's got a big lead and the Republicans are in a fight?" said G. Terry Madonna, Director of the Center of Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. "He'll have to engage Corbett if Corbett starts to rise in the polls. When you have a 22-point lead, you just go about your business."
When Gov. Tom Corbett hit the legislature Thursday with a veto of $72.5 million in funds controlled by the body, and said that their refusal to address pension reform led him to force "mutual sacrifice” on them, legislative leaders fired back. A statement from Republican senate leaders said, “We are disappointed that the governor has not, to date, been able to work effectively with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate to address important fiscal issues impacting our state.”

Then, Friday morning, House Republican Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) called a press conference in Pittsburgh to assail the governor's leadership on a range of issues, including pension reform.
"We're the ones leading," he said repeatedly, in reference to his House Republican colleagues.
But Rep. Turzai also took the opportunity to hit Tom Wolf on pensions, who has said borrowing by selling bonds might be one remedy to the state's pension shortfall.
"We think that's an unbelievably wrong approach to how to deal with the unfunded liability for the pensions. It's completely irresponsible," Rep. Turzai said.
The Wolf campaign, however, perhaps eager to allow the Republican infighting to continue unabated, declined to respond to the attack.
Wolf campaign press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, declined to say anything about Mr. Wolf's position on bond sales beyond the brief, one-sentence statement available on the campaign website, which says Mr. Wolf "will work to create innovative solutions and explore new funding mechanisms, like issuing pension obligation bonds, that are fiscally responsible, and fair and beneficial to future employees."

Vagueness is not a bad strategy, though, according to Mr. Madonna.

"Wolf is only going to be as specific as he has to be, because at the moment it's to his advantage not to be specific," he said,


Budget decision, before deadline?

Published by Karen Langley on .

Gov. Tom Corbett suggested this morning that he may not wait until the Friday deadline to announce his intentions for the state budget.

The general appropriations bill officially reached his desk July 1, so it would become law at the end of Friday if Corbett neither signs or vetoes.

Corbett was asked about the budget after an event this morning in Lebanon County.

"I started working on it again this morning, about 7:30, 7:45 with my staff, going through some reviews," he said. "When I get done here I'm meeting with them again for probably a good portion of the afternoon, and we may have something later today or tomorrow."

He would not say if he is considering using the budget -- whether by vetoing the General Assembly's appropriation or just calling on lawmakers to return -- as a way to continue his push for pension reform.

"The first thing we're looking at is the budget and exactly what's going on," he said. "So any other aspects I'm not going to address right now. I'm primarily, totally focused on the budget."

Months of lower-than-expected revenue collections led budget writers to trim hundreds of millions of dollars from Corbett's February $29.4 billion proposal, and balancing the $29.1 billion document on his desk still required help from fund transfers and other one-time revenues.

As Republicans sent Corbett the fiscal code yesterday, Senate leaders of both parties said that the governor should sign the budget.


Corbett makes his case

Published by James O'Toole on .

Gov. Tom Corbett is up with his first television commercial of the general election campaign.  It's an upbeat recitation of positive economic statistics that makes no mention of his Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf, who has enjoyed a healthy lead over the incumbent in early polls.    The ad's boosterish narration, a compilation of the governor speaking in a variety of settings, confronts another polling reality impeding Mr.  Corbett's re-election bid _ the perception that the state is off on the wrong track.  The latest Franklin & Marshall College poll, released last month, found that three out of five registered voters had a negative view of the state's overall direction.  The new commercial's litany of positive statistics confronts that image with a portrayal  of a state that's on the move, with private sector job growth and a falling unemployment rate.

Here's the ad:

You can read its full text after the jump.


Mistake on the lake?

Published by James O'Toole on .

Get your Turnpike tolls ready.  The Republican National Committee has announced the tentaive choice of Cleveland for its presidential nominating convention in 2016. 

The GOP bypassed Dallas, the other finalist for the gathering of delegates and media hoardes in search of news at the largely scripted event.  In Ohio, the Republicans are featuring a state that's a traditional center of contention in presidential years.  No Republican has gone on to win the White House without its electoral votes.  But by the same token, there is no correlation between convention sites and state victories for either party.

The Democrats have yet to announce their 2016 convention city.