Here's my story from the main site on Corbett's budget-related appearance in Clairton this morning:Gov. Tom Corbett mounted a defense of the cuts in education spending and other facets of his proposed state budget during a tour of a Clairton manufacturing plant today, often using campaign-style analogies to hammer home the state's yawning gap between spending and revenues, and responding to polls showing his popularity spiking down.
"We didn't control our spending," during the Rendell administration, Mr. Corbett said at a talk to employees at the Kurt J. Lesker Co. "If all of you at home took a 20 percent or a 10 percent reduction in salary you'd have to say where am I going to spend my money? Am I going to go out on that extra dinner date? Am I going to buy that car this year?"
He also compared the state's estimated $4.2 billion budget shortfall to a stack of $1,000 bills piled 250 miles into the sky, or a mint printing the bills every second for 125 years. "I hope the media will report that [number] in their stories," he said.
When engaging workers and reporters at the plant, the governor would not address moves by the administration to cut state salaries of some unionized state workers by 4 percent, or suggestions that he or legislators cut their pay too. "I'm not going to get into the negotiations, I'm not going to say what I have or have not done," he said.
He defended his budget's $1 billion cut in basic education cuts, saying schools were relying too heavily on federal stimulus money and his plan returned them to pre-stimulus levels. "What we don't have this year is access to federal dollars. The federal money's been cut off," the governor said, gesturing to a large education spending chart his aides brought to the high-tech vacuum plant. School districts "should have known -- and they were told -- that that wouldn't be there. It's not coming back."
He also continued his no-tax pledge on Marcellus Shale drilling operations, saying it was necessary to help grow and attract the new industry to the state, but repeated that he was open to imposing some kind of impact fee for local municipalities. Those fees could not only go to repair roads and infrastructure, but other local needs too, he said.
"Is there an impact? There is an impact, I realize that . . . I want to see the communities protected and the impact is not just roads, it can be schools [if] schools are suddenly growing in an area, the impact can be to the social services network. Let's take a look at it."
Mr. Corbett -- who while in town was attending the Pirates opener today as a guest of team ownership -- also responded to polls showing his popularity was going down just three months after taking office.
"I got into this race last year recognizing this was going to be a very difficult job. I got into this race with the support of people that we were going to change the culture and the practices of Harrisburg. When you make change, people react to it, some positively, some negatively. They're reacting to a very difficult budget proposal. We'll worry about that reaction, if it continues, way down the road."