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Taking each other to school

Published by Mike Pound on .

Education has been identified as the most important issue to Pennsylvania voters this fall, so we should expect a lot of discussion of the issue by The Battling Toms between now and November. And SURPRISE – two new ads and two opposing takes on Gov. Tom Corbett's education budgets.

Did we say "surprise?" OK, maybe not so much.

Corbett: Statistics Class

What's new: Not much, except that Ed Rendell seems to be as much of a target here as Mr. Corbett's actual opponent, Tom Wolf. As we recall, Mr. Rendell was a pretty popular guy and we wonder if he's the best surrogate for Mr. Corbett to pick on.

What's not: The Corbett campaign employs happy musicians as well?

Bottom line: "And now you know the truth."

Random things we noticed: Given the recent ads by Mr. Corbett and the state Republican party, it seems likely we're going to see as many mentions of Mr. Rendell and President Obama as we will actual issues – or an actual candidate. Given the complexity of this issue – and that fact that both candidates can lay claim to being right – we wonder if the Corbett campaign will continue to focus on the funding issue or move on to something more palatable to his base, like, say, dismantling Common Core.

Tom Wolf: Education Facts

What's new: As was the case with Mr. Corbett's ad, not a whole lot. Although it does seem like Mr. Wolf is content to run against one guy.

What's not: Outside of the bit about the number of educators who have lost their jobs under Mr. Corbett's watch? It's all old hat, even down to using the same headlines for the claims about "taking the ax to education" and the number of districts considering property tax increases.

Bottom line: "Tom Corbett. Can't trust him on education. Can't trust him to be for us."

Random things we noticed: We wondered before whether Mr. Wolf himself has the personality to pull off an attack ad, so it's worth noting he doesn't appear in this one. And we really appreciate the addition of a new claim on Mr. Corbett's education record—that would be the one about teachers losing their jobs – because the old ones are feeling a little stale.

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Toomey sets sights on corporate tax inversions

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

20140718MWHhealthBiz06-5toomeysmallSen. Pat Toomey (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

As Congress returns from its summer break, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., laid out his fall priorities, reiterated his criticism of the administration's reaction to ISIS, and said he has little confidence, but still a bit of hope, his colleagues will find a way to discourage American multi-national corporations from keeping revenue overseas to avoid U.S. taxes on foreign profits.

One priority for Mr. Toomey will be his legislation to require more extensive background checks for school personnel in order to keep students safer from violent and sexual predators. He has been working on the bill with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with whom he also teamed up on last year's failed effort to require more extensive background checks for gun purchasers.

Mr. Toomey, who more typically throws his weight behind fiscal issues, also is hoping for Congressional action on tax reform to curb corporate tax inversions, maneuvers increasingly used by multinationals such as Cecil's Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

Immediate action appears unlikely, but the senator said the lame duck session will provide another opportunity to address inversions. That's when Congress will take up a series of expiring tax breaks.

"Am I optimistic we'll get it done? I'm really not ... but I'm going to continue to advocate for solution," he told Pennsylvania reporters on a conference call Monday.

Some Republicans insist on tackling inversions only as part of broader tax reform because they believe the real solution is to reduce the country's corporate tax rate. At 35 percent it is the highest in the industrialized world, although few pay that much because of tax loopholes and write-offs.

Mr. Toomey wants broad-based tax reform, too, but short of that he is more willing than some of his colleagues to address inversions separately.

"I want to fix this badly," he said. "My hope is that they would at least agree to changing the tax code so that an overseas subsidiaries ... can repatriate the money after paying taxes due in the jurisdiction" where it is located.

Currently, when U.S. multinationals bring profits home, they must pay the difference between the U.S. rate and the rate of the country where the profits were earned.

Meanwhile Monday, Mr. Toomey remained critical of the Obama administrations lack of transparency on its approach to ISIS. He said he looked forward to briefings this week.

"More fundamentally, we need to understand what the president's strategy is. Is the goal just to contain these guys? Is the goal to destroy their ability to act?" the senator asked.

"People would like stronger American leadership, and that very seldom means putting troops on the ground. There are a lot of ways,' he said.

President Obama isn't doing enough, Mr. Toomey said.

"ISIS is an extraordinary threat," he said. "Their goal is to kill as many Americans as they possibly can ... and now they have a country of their own and lots of money and lots of weapons."

He said the U.S. must find a way to eliminate the threat but that it should not require significant numbers of troops on the ground. Rather, he said, it might require air strikes and intelligence.

Washington Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: 703-996-9292, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.

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Metcalfe: ISIS and E-Verify

Published by Karen Langley on .

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe

Why require Pennsylvania businesses to check that employees are eligible to work in the United States?

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the conservative Republican from Cranberry, has a new reason: Keep out ISIS.

He explained his thinking Thursday after a meeting in which the House State Government Committee received an update on a 2012 law requiring contactors to verify the eligibility of employees on public works contacts.

"There's a larger issue now for us as a state and as a nation because of the illegal alien issue," Metcalfe said. "With all of the youth that are now being brought in the states and the way that the borders have been flooded most recently, with ISIS, what's been going on there, with the terrorist threat resurrecting its ugly head again, I think there's more cause for concern for members of the Legislature to say: hey, we need to take further action to discourage Pennsylvania from being a destination point for people who want to work here illegally."

"If you reduce the magnet that draws illegal aliens here and you reduce the number of illegal aliens violating our border and you reduce the amount of cover that's provided for people who want to come in and commit atrocities against our people," he continued. "So right now, when you have a flood of people coming across the border, it's easy for terrorists to intermingle and come across the border."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry got attention last month when he suggested militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could already have sneaked across the border from Mexico.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said there was no evidence ISIS operatives were crossing the border.

Metcalfe has introduced a bill to require all employers in Pennsylvania to enroll in the federal E-Verify program. States have varying requirements for using the database.

At the committee meeting, Secretary Sheri Phillips said that in the past 18 months the Department of General Services has conducted 53 audits and found 17 firms not in compliance with the law.

The majority of violations occurred because of misunderstanding, she said. The department recommended limiting the requirement for screening to on-site workers and requiring all public bodies to include in their bidding documents notification about the law.

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Harper poll shows tighter race for Corbett, Wolf

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Corbett. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Corbett. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette)

After two consecutive polling disasters, the campaign for Gov. Tom Corbett has to be buoyed – at least a bit – by numbers in a Harper Polling poll released Thursday.

Yes, as was the case in recent Franklin and Marshall College and Robert Morris University polls, Mr. Corbett trails Tom Wolf, his Democratic challenger, by double digits; the Harper poll, however, pegs Mr. Wolf's lead at 11 percentage points (52-41, with 7 percent of respondents undecided), much tighter than, say, the 30-percentage-point spread in the RMU poll.

There are a few other things in the Harper poll that might boost the moods of Mr. Corbett's campaign team, some of whom have seemed grumpy as of late.

  • Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they oppose Mr. Wolf's plan to increase taxes on households with an income of $90,000 or more, while 34 percent said they supported the plan and 15 percent were undecided.
  • The Corbett campaign has apparently succeeded in making Mr. Wolf's personal income taxes a campaign issue; 40 percent of those polled said they would be less likely to vote for Mr. Wolf because he paid at a below-average income tax rate from 2010 to 2012.
  • The Democratic contention that Mr. Corbett is responsible for cutting $1 billion in education funding hasn't stuck. Respondents were split pretty evenly on whether Mr. Corbett's explanation – that the money lost was federal stimulus funds – was credible, with 48 percent saying Mr. Corbett's contention was "very" or "somewhat" credible, while 47 percent called the argument "not very" or "not at all" credible.
  • Mr. Corbett's explanation that a gas extraction tax isn't necessary in Pennsylvania also has gained some traction. Forty-seven percent said they found Mr. Corbett's argument "very" or "somewhat" credible while 49 percent said it was "not very" or "not at all" credible.

But before Mr. Corbett's people get too excited, there is one more number to point out. Harper asked respondents to pick a winner in the race, without regards to their personal preference; 61 percent said Mr. Wolf would defeat Mr. Corbett, while just 33 percent picked the incumbent.

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Wolf allies point to McDonnell fundraisers

Published by Karen Langley on .

Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell leaves a federal courthouse after being convicted Thursday on corruption charges.Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell leaves a federal courthouse after being convicted Thursday on corruption charges. (AP photo)

A political group campaigning for Tom Wolf is using 2010 fundraisers to try to draw former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's corruption convictions into the Pennsylvania governor's race.

After the announcement this afternoon of the McDonnell verdict, the Campaign for a Fresh Start pointed to a 2010 report of three fundraisers McDonnell headlined or hosted for Governor Tom Corbett.

Fresh Start also criticized the state Republican Party for featuring McDonnell at its 2013 Lincoln Day Dinner.

"By keeping the money McDonnell raised for them, Corbett and the Pennsylvania Republican Party are condoning corruption -- it's as simple as that," the group said.

GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney responded by reasserting the party's claim that Fresh Start has been violating state election law.

The Corbett campaign had no immediate response.

UPDATE 11 p.m.: The Corbett campaign issued a statement earlier this evening saying it has not received any donations from McDonnell this cycle. It continued:

Tom Wolf has repeatedly condoned the abuse of the taxpayers’ resources and trust and should be the last person throwing charges on personal ethics considering his own rap sheet. Wolf gave tens of thousands of dollars to officials Tom Corbett put behind bars for public corruption and raised money so Stephen Stetler could attempt to overturn his conviction and keep his taxpayer-funded pension. Tom Wolf’s actions speak for themselves, and he simply can’t be trusted to put hardworking Pennsylvanians before his political allies or special interests.

The state GOP also said it had received no contributions from McDonnell.