I got a good number of emails yesterday from readers mocking Dan Onorato for going back to the end of the Reagan administration to criticize a vote Tom Corbett made -- as a suburban commissioner -- to raise property taxes. And as long as Onorato was opening up his research files (and pulling up old, pre-computer clips from the Post-Gazette and the Press to marshal that argument) the Corbett camp was happy to pile on, sending over its 28-page "Onorato Record On Taxes" file, which is largely a compendium of newspaper stories on his tax votes and proposals over an 18-year career in city and county government. (Woo-hoo! I'm in there from 1998!)
Part of the Onorato counter-argument is this: at least he has a record of votes. (And old timers may remember how knock-down/drag-out Pittsburgh budgets were during Onorato's city council years -- in one 11th hour budget agreement in December 1997, the city avoided layoffs only after Onorato, then-finance chair Sala Udin and Mayor Tom Murphy met up at a Dan Rooney Christmas party alongside Chuck Noll and Tom Foerster. Such is Pittsburgh.) The Dem's camp claims Corbett has no similar experience with the tough realities of government budgeting, and when Corbett has been put on the spot (with that 1988 vote in Shaler, or with the growing budget of his state Attorney General's office) he has been a tax-and-spender, despite his pledge not to raise taxes as governor. As county exec, Onorato reminds everybody that he has not raised property taxes, while trimming county jobs and merging some government functions, such as the city-county 911 center.
Onorato has called a press conference for 11 a.m. today to go over some of this tax territory again, so we'll see what he says. It might be on whether Corbett's pledge covers fees, as well as taxes (see: anti-Corbett crusaders CasablancaPa). Here's the Americans for Tax Reform language on the limited allowance of fees under the pledge Corbett took.
Until then, it's worth noting there's a bit more to this story strategically.
Shaler-- where Onorato had his press conference yesterday, and which is just outside Pittsburgh's northern border -- is exactly the kind of suburban community the Onorato camp must target statewide to be successful Nov. 2.
Onorato beat incumbent county executive Jim Roddey by 368 votes in the township in 2003, while four years earlier Roddey trounced Dr. Cyril H. Wecht by 1,651 votes there in the first county executive race. In the 2008 presidential race, the township voted 55-45 percent for John McCain over Barack Obama.
And Shaler has a Democratic registration edge, despite a history of voting for Republicans and Democrats. In other words, Tom Corbett's home municipality is a lot like Pennsylvania.