Once again Gov. Tom Corbett is proposing a state budget plan that drastically slashes funding to higher education and programs that aid children, the disabled and elderly.
Last year the governor cut state funding to higher education by nearly 20 percent in which colleges responded by raising tuitions and cutting programs.
This week Corbett proposed a $27.1 billion budget plan that calls for a 30 percent cut in state aid to Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh and Temple University and a 20 percent cut to the 14 state-owned universities including Cheyney University and West Chester.
Funding for Lincoln University would see no reduction and remain at this year’s $11.1 million level. The Corbett administration did not explain why Lincoln was spared.
Slashing state funds to higher education is misguided and shortsighted. Another drastic state funding decrease will result in colleges raising tuition to make up for the difference in lost aid. The cuts to higher education mean working families will end up paying higher tuition costs.
Ironically the same day the governor proposed drastic cuts to colleges he also appointed a Higher Education advisory panel to report on affordability and access issues.
The governor does not need to wait for the 30-member advisory panel to issue him a report to know that slashing state funding to higher education for the second straight year will result in higher tuition cost which will make college less affordable and less accessible to many Pennsylvania students.
In addition to proposed cuts of up to 30 percent, the governor is also proposing to eliminate a $300 million program that provides temporary cash assistance to more than 60,000 residents who don’t qualify for disability payments.
The governor is also proposing a $170 million in cuts to social-service funding, Philadelphia is expected to lose $42 million in the city’s welfare system, most of it in cuts for mental-health and homeless services, said Donald F. Schwarz, deputy mayor for health and opportunity.
Corbett’s budget proposal is made even grimmer as a result of his refusal to propose any state tax increases.
The governor is seeking to balance the state budget by slashing aid to colleges and cutting funding to those most vulnerable.
The recent voter ID law that was passed in Pennsylvania, in April, has created such a political stir that grassroots leaders, prominent community organizations, politicians and clergy, have shifted into overdrive to push voter registration, voter turnout and an educational blitz about the proper ID required to vote in the November election.
During a citywide voter ID rally, held on Sunday at Bright Hope Baptist Church, the Tribune caught up with civil rights leader Jerome Whyatt Mondesire, president, NAACP/Philadelphia Chapter, for his comments about the voter ID law. Mondesire believes the voter ID law is a veiled political attempt to suppress votes: “We firmly believe that, it’s not just in Pennsylvania; there are 41 states where they have tried this, it is designed to keep the turnout of African Americans, Latinos, young people and seniors down … Republicans believe that if they are able to keep the vote down, that they can possibly win several key states that they didn’t win in 2008.”
Mondesire did not mince words in further excoriating high ranking Republicans for crafting the voter ID law for this particular election cycle, “It’s all about the politics, to talk about stopping fraud, it’s just a lie. (Governor) Corbett’s a liar and his colleagues in the state House and the state Senate who passed this law, they’re equally liars.”
According to an August 10, 2012 news article published in the Altoona Mirror newspaper, in Altoona, Pa. (“Voter ID Law, Wrong”), it read: “Pennsylvania recently passed a voter ID law, citing the need to protect against voting fraud. However, there hasn’t been any such widespread fraud in the state, with only four cases of voting fraud documented since 2004.
Recently, Rep. Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania House majority leader, revealed the real reason the voter ID law was passed. Speaking to a Republican gathering, he bragged the voter ID law will ensure Gov. Mitt Romney a victory in Pennsylvania.”
Cherelle Parker, state Representative (D-200th District) and chair, Philadelphia Delegation of the Pennsylvania House, received a standing ovation during her brief speech at the Bright Hope Baptist Church Voter ID Rally, “The clergy, of all faiths, has always been at the lead to motivate and inspire and to organize … we all have to take responsibility for ensuring that we won’t allow any law, any legislator, or anything of that nature, to infringe on our constitutional right to vote.”
Parker cited that in the 2008 presidential election, Pennsylvania delivered a victory for Obama by a slim margin of votes saying, “I didn’t realize that there was such a short-small margin of victory between the winner and the loser in the last presidential election … there was only a 620,000 vote difference … we have 12 million people here (in Pennsylvania), and the (state) election was determined by a little over a half million people.”
The VIP guests on the dais, representing and supporting the Pennsylvania Voter ID Faith-Based Coalition/Voter ID Rally at Bright Hope, included a diversity of ethnicities, genders, faiths, political hierarchy and community leadership: Rev. Dr. J. Wendall Mapson Jr., pastor, Monumental Baptist Church; Everette Gillison, chief of staff, Mayor’s Office; Stephanie Singer, chair, Philadelphia County Commissioners; Rev. Charles Quann, pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church (Penllyn, Pa.); Rabbi Alan D. Fuchs (retired), Congregation Rodeph Shalom; Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Hispanic Clergy Community; Minister Rodney Muhammad, Muhammad Mosque No. 12; Imam Suetwedien Muhammad, resident imam of Masjid Muhammad of Philadelphia; state Representative Cherelle Parker; Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, pastor, Bright Hope Baptist Church; Rabbi Adam Zeff, Germantown Jewish Center; Rev. Tamieka Moore, Tenth Memorial Baptist Church; Rev. Dr. William Moore, pastor, Tenth Memorial Baptist Church; and Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director at Committee of Seventy/Greater Philadelphia Area.
Commenting on the voter ID law, Rev. Quann said, “I really think it’s a moral issue … (African Americans) have been denied the right to vote for many years. People have given their lives to vote, and I just believe in my heart that this (election) is not about a particular candidate, but rather, it’s an opportunity for people to vote based upon their choice. And when that’s taken away, then we have to really respond, so, I’m here today to respond on behalf of a people,” who many believe are targeted to be disenfranchised from voting this election cycle.
“It’s important that everyone vote and that we teach people how to get their proper ID to do so. If the law makes it difficult for people who have every right to vote, to do so, then the law I think, becomes a problem; but we’re going to do the best we can to make sure that everybody’s able to vote,” said Rabbi Fuchs.
Rabbi Zeff said his synagogue and the Jewish community are very active in advocating for voter rights for all people saying, “we thought with the passage of the Voting Rights Act (of 1965) that our fight was over and that we had won; and now we’re finding that our fight is not over, and that the right to vote is being attacked, even in our (current day). So, we see this as an issue of justice and equality, that whoever people support for an election, and whatever partisan views that they may have, their voice deserves to be heard. And this (voter ID) law … makes it more difficult, especially for certain classes of voters, who have every right to vote, to be able to exercise that right. It’s an unjust law … we need to work to help voters comply with this law, even while thinking, it’s an unjust law.”
“People need help in navigating the law and navigating the process, and we just want to be available as faith leaders, because we feel it is our responsibility to speak for social justice issues and for equality. We just want to help empower (citizens) so that they can make their voices heard through the ballot, which is the democratic way,” said Rev. Mapson.
The Committee of Seventy, a prominent non-profit that advocates for effective government and fair elections, has published a list of area churches where the community can find information and help with voter ID requirements. An abridged listing includes: Bible Way Baptist Church, 1323 N. 52nd St., Philadelphia, Pa.; St. Mark AME Zion Church, 136 N. Congress St., Newton, Pa.; Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Holmesburg, 8101 Erdick St., Holmesburg, Pa.; Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, 1328 N. 19th St., Philadelphia, Pa.; and Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 128 Walnut St., Ardmore, Pa.
For 25 years, Imam Suetwedien Muhammad, has been the resident imam of Masjid Muhammad of Philadelphia, in Germantown. He expressed impassioned feelings about the voter ID law and other recent political maneuverings, “We appreciate being able to hold such a rally to educate our people (about the voter ID law), but I really look at it as another form of modern day slavery. As we begin to close 40 schools, open 10 new prisons, and begin to take the right away from our people to vote, I think it’s a travesty in our community.” As a committeeman in his neighborhood, Imam Muhammad said, “I have worked the (voting) polls myself…I’ve worked the polls for the last 20 years, and there’s no voter fraud going on at the polls.”
According to Stephanie Singer, chair, Philadelphia County Commissioners, the voter ID law, “Is an attack on Philadelphia. This law is designed to suppress the vote in Philadelphia, and all of us Philadelphians … all of us need to come together to defend our city against this attack. I want people to know that voting is powerful, and that every election matters … elections have consequences, and when we as a city do not turn out to vote, we are giving up power to the rest of the state.”
Everett Gillison, former deputy mayor for public safety and current chief of staff to Mayor Michael Nutter, had this to say about the voter ID law: “As the mayor would say, ‘Democracy began here (in Philadelphia).’ And this (voter ID law) is an attack on our fundamental right to vote and to participate. That’s why voter education is so critically important, and the mayor wanted to make sure that we all rallied together and do what’s necessary to protect our rights.” Gillison said that a more measured approach to rolling out this law and greater public education would have been a better way to implement the law. Furthermore, Gillison concluded that, according to Mayor Nutter, the voter ID law “was a remedy in search of a problem.”
Joe Certaina, co-convener and director of operations for the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition, said that “The main purpose of (today’s rally is) to form an alliance, a grassroots alliance, with the faith community in Philadelphia County and the surrounding area. From that alliance, we expect to harness volunteers as well as voter educational opportunities through voter ID clinics, and to put together a transportation network that will help people to get to the Pennsylvania PennDot offices … in time for people to get the voter identification they need to vote.”
For more information about proper voter identification, or to volunteer, the Pennsylvania Voter ID Coalition’s office is at 310 West Chelten Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., phone: 215-848-1283; or visit the Committee of Seventy website: http://www.seventy.org/.
“We cannot sit here and say we’re not going to vote, simply because the law has changed. You have to vote, beloved … ,” said Rev. Kevin Johnson, pastor, Bright Hope Baptist Church.
While Democrats — who far outnumber Republicans in Philadelphia — held court at a gala at the ballroom of the Warwick Hotel to rejoice President Barack Obama’s re-election, the reaction 15 blocks east was more subdued.
“Congratulations to President Obama and the Democratic Party on their victory,” said John Featherman, a Republican who ran against U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and lost. “The American people spoke, and I urge my colleagues to respect the will of the people. Differences that Republicans have with Democrats should no longer be met with obstruction.”
Featherman attended a Republican watch party on South Street Tuesday night, it was a group made up of what he called “loyal opposition” — Republicans from Philadelphia who have split with the party’s traditional leaders. Both sides agreed to a truce during the presidential election.
On the other side, Calvin Tucker, a Black Republican, speaking Wednesday, also congratulated the president.
“Hopefully, we can now get about the business of addressing some of the major issues that confront the nation and Philadelphia,” he said, adding that he too, would like to see the GOP embrace African Americans.
“What we have to do is engage the African-American community in a broader discussion about the issues they’re confronting,” Tucker said. “We’ve got to not be seen as the party who is not receptive to the big tent. If we do, we’ll have some success in the future.”
Featherman and the loyal opposition gathered in a second floor room at Paddy Whacks Pub at Second and South streets where about 125 Philadelphia Republicans watched the returns come in. Members of the city’s Grand Old Party gathered in knots near the bar and the buffet, steaming along the back wall, grazing on hors d'oeuvres and cocktails as overhead television sets carried the election results.
At least five flat screens — all turned to Fox News — carried election news to the faithful.
At 9:15 p.m. when the network projected that Obama had carried Pennsylvania, few people seemed to notice. There was a notable lack of enthusiasm, summed up by one woman as she filled her plate at the buffet.
“I don’t think tonight is going to be very exciting,” she said to the man next to her. He nodded in agreement as they meandered off to a table.
Featherman noted that many in the room were lukewarm in their support of Romney. As an example, he said he supported Ron Paul in the primary.
“That crowd was not an ordinary group of Republicans,” he said. “We tend to be more Center City professionals and once we register the numbers, we’re not going to spew hateful kinds of responses. Many of those people did not support Romney in the primary, so I don’t think they had much emotion invested in Romney.”
That 84 percent of Philadelphians had supported the Democrat was unremarkable.
But, outside the city and region ,the race had become a nail-biter.
By 10 p.m. with 56 percent of the state’s votes counted, most media outlets, including the New York Times and CBS News, trumpeted Obama’s win in Pennsylvania and the 20 electoral votes it gave the president.
Pennsylvania’s highest ranking Republican refused to concede anything.
“There’s a long way to go,” Gov. Tom Corbett told the Associated Press, waving away the party’s loss in Pennsylvania.
He would be proven wrong shortly after that statement.
In Philadelphia, on Election Day, party officials vigorously defended its prerogatives — suing to have a mural depicting Obama painted on the wall of the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School polling place covered up, and fighting to make sure minority inspectors were allowed in all polling places.
The congenial crowd at Paddy’s clung to the hope that Romney would somehow garner the 270 electoral votes needed to win the contest. But, with most of the voting behind them, that hope consisted mostly of glancing up from their drinks more frequently.
As the clock approached 10:30 p.m., many news outlets showed Romney pulling ahead with electoral votes 158 to 147. Fox defied the trend and reported both men in an electoral tie 163 to 163.
Chatter in the room increased, momentarily.
But California and its 55 electoral votes remained uncounted. None of the states of the far west had been counted.
At 11 p.m. western returns started to come in. Fox reported that California and Washington had backed Obama, netting the president 67 electoral votes.
By 11:19 even Fox was giving Obama 268. The crowd at Paddy’s thinned.
Early Wednesday morning it was clear that the president had won with 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206.
“I’m hoping we can put aside the rancor, and let the president and Democratic Party try to speak for the American people,” said Featherman on Wednesday morning.
Results tallied Tuesday are preliminary — the count only becomes official in Pennsylvania only after the state Department of State certifies the results, a process that can take several days.
During an angry and vocal rally held outside of the Municipal Services Building Thursday morning, members of the NAACP, several union representatives, clergy, state and city legislators took turns commenting on the Pennsylvania Voter ID law.
The rally, which was hosted by the NAACP, took place before the state Supreme Court heard testimony regarding the controversial law that has been the target of opposition since Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed off on it. Opponents of the law have said it was not designed to prevent voter fraud but to disenfranchise voters who most likely will cast their ballot for Pres. Barack Obama in the upcoming election.
“This law is nothing less than a criminal offense against democracy,” said Philadelphia NAACP President J. Whyatt Mondesire. “We’re out here to let the government know that this voter identification law is wrong and based on a lie. We have not stopped fighting to turn this thing around. Despite attempts to use voter ID as a way to block the vote, we will make sure that people vote. Today, we use the voice that the NAACP has been fighting to protect for over a century.”
Referencing deceased civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and Harry T. Moore, who were murdered while working to register African Americans to vote, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said the law amounts to a modern poll tax.
“This year, in this country, we have seen more states pass laws to push voters off the polls than in the past 100 years,” Jealous said. “Turning the tide, we have won in Texas and we have even won in the Republican states of Michigan and Virginia, but we find ourselves here challenging the law again. We won in Wisconsin and Minnesota and yet here we are, in the cradle of our democracy, fighting to keep the right to vote. This is not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. It is an extremist thing. All of us should have the right to vote.”
According to a legal brief filed by the city , City Commissioners Stephanie Singer and Anthony Clark, and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the Voter ID law would place unconstitutional burdens on more than 100,000 voters in the city. At least 186,000 registered voters in Philadelphia have no form of PennDOT identification. At least 175,000 registered voters have expired PennDOT identification. The brief goes on to state that approximately 361,000 of the city's 1,100,000 registered voters may not have sufficient identification to cast their votes on Election Day.
Opponents of the law say that despite virtually no evidence of voter fraud — the problem that the law was supposed to prevent — voter ID is necessary to protect the integrity of the ballot. During hearings in March, before Corbett signed the law, attorneys for the Commonwealth could provide no instances of voter impersonation fraud. Following the passage of the measure into law, the U.S. Department of Justice requested information to determine Pennsylvania’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section prohibits voting procedures or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership or membership in a language minority. That information request was subsequently refused by James Schultz, general counsel for the Corbett administration. In a letter responding to the DOJ request, Schultz said the federal government had no authority to either request or compel the Commonwealth for that information.
“The question is why you really had to change the law?” asked the Rev. Dr. Kevin, R. Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, during the rally. “Did you change the law because you knew that people lack photo ID in poor black and brown communities?
“We have to vote because people died for out right to vote. We have to vote because Medgar Evers died for us. We have to vote because hundreds of thousands marched for us.”
At a town hall meeting in Philadelphia held at the city’s Museum of Art, Gov. Tom Corbett made a statement that his numerous critics say is in total opposition to a newly funded building project.
At the meeting, which was hosted by radio personality Dom Giordano, Corbett said he would build no new prisons.
“When it comes to the construction of prisons, not only have I not added new prisons, I’ve stopped the building of prisons,” said the governor. “Forty percent of every tax dollar you spend goes to education in Pennsylvania. Right now over $9 billion goes to K-12. It is the highest state funding has ever been in the history of Pennsylvania.”
In October, Corbett signed off on an extensive legislative package aimed at reducing recidivism and the high cost of incarceration. Corbett said that “it was time to start thinking smarter about how the state incarcerates defendants and that the answer isn't always building new prisons.”
But on Monday, Nov. 19, seven members of a grassroots organization known as DecarceratePA held a protest blocking the entrance to the construction site of two new prisons right beside SCI Graterford. The organization is calling for the state to stop the construction of the new prisons and to reinvest the money, more than $600 million, in communities; as well as calling for an end to mass incarceration, and a reduction of the prison population.
“We blocked the entrance to the construction site using school desks and a mock-up of a little red school house to illustrate the point we’re trying to make. The state is spending over $400 million on this project, money the state doesn’t have to throw around,” said Thomas Dichter, spokesman for the group. “Our message is this money should be used for community reinvestment, for education, housing and social services, services that Governor Corbett has cut funding for. He eliminated general assistance for needy families, yet can fund the construction of new prisons. This just shows a lack of reality. He stated at a town hall meeting that he wouldn’t build new prisons and signed off on prison reform. He’s not about prison reform. What we’re doing is putting the Pennsylvania prison system on trial.”
In 2011, the Corbett Administration halted construction of a $200 million prison construction project in Fayette County that would have housed 2,000 inmates, but it proceeded with prison construction projects in Centre County and at SCI Graterford, The Corbett Administration agreed to pay Walsh Construction and Heery International $315.8 million to design and build a facility capable of housing 4,100 offenders on the Graterford State Prison grounds. The total cost of the project was estimated at $365 million.
Dichter said the new construction represents an expansion of mass incarceration in Pennsylvania and a continuation of policies that lock people up instead of giving the communities the resources they need to thrive. The money used to build these prisons is money that is being stolen from the schools, healthcare and re-entry programs, social services, and the environment, Dichter said.
“Corbett said he wants to shrink the prison system — so why is he expanding it?” Dichter asked. “We would like to see more legislators from Philadelphia on board with this, since Philly residents are over-represented in the state’s prison population. These projects are in the early stages, so it’s not too late to pull the funding for them and reinvest the money where it’s most needed.”
Among the projects related to incarceration that lost funding under the Corbett Administration was a successful program for ex-offenders called Philly ReNew. State Senator Anthony H. Williams managed to get the program a $50,000 grant to keep the program operating for a while longer. Philly ReNew began operations in 2008 and took in 150 men a year, ex-offenders from not only city detention facilities but also state and federal inmates who were being released. People who were non-violent offenders, violent offenders, both men and women and, sex offenders were assisted in putting their lives back together.
“If state government does not pay on the front end, then we will continue to pay $30,000 to $40,000 per year per individual on the back end, and by they way, they will be younger and in prison longer,” said Williams. "That is an unsustainable economic model for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
Federal, state and city officials are ramping up pressure on Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration in an effort to halt plans to implement asset testing for food stamp recipients.
“This is one of the most mean-spirited, asinine plans to come out of Harrisburg in a long time,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, in a burst of fiery opposition to the plan that seemed to sum up the opinion of all the government officials present.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, state Sens. Shirley Kitchen and Vincent Hughes and Nutter all voiced their opposition to the state’s plan to limit the value of assets held people who receive food stamps. People under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets – including an automobile – will be barred from receiving food stamps. For people over 60 that threshold would be set at $3,250.
Asset testing will go into effect May 1 unless opponents are able to convince the Corbett administration to reconsider. The food stamp program feeds 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including 439, 245 in Philadelphia.
Vilsack, who spoke with Nutter and Brady at a press conference at City Hall, refuted the official reason for implementing asset tests – cost-cutting and fraud prevention – saying that Pennsylvania already had one of the lowest fraud rates in the nation, and added that the program is funded by the federal government.
“It’s not going to save the commonwealth of Pennsylvania a single dime,” Vilsack said. “The money for this program is federally funded. Number two, it’s likely going to cost the commonwealth of Pennsylvania money because when you institute an asset test you have to make sure that you create a process by which those applications are reviewed.”
Last fall, state Department of Public Welfare Executive Deputy Secretary Timothy Costa outlined plans to change eligibility rules. The department has the authority needed to make the changes without approval from the state legislature. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the food stamp program, does not need to sign off on the plan. In his testimony, Costa said the change would reduce the state’s costs and cut fraud. Officials hope to slash $470 million from the state welfare department’s budget.
Vilsack also said that the many stereotypes about who gets food stamps and why were wrong.
“Do we really want to reduce access for senior citizens who’ve played by the rules all their lives?” he asked. “Do we really want to say to children that they are not going to have access to nutritious food? Are we at a point where we really want to say to people with disabilities ‘you’re on your own?’ I would hope not.”
Nationally, nearly 75 percent of food stamp recipients are in families with children, and more than a quarter of them are in households with seniors or people with disabilities, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Nearly one-third of recipients work, according to the USDA.
“Before we take any action we want to make sure that the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the folks who are administering the program understand the full impact,” Vilsack said.
Brady, who has for weeks been urging Corbett the reconsider the idea, said there was little federal lawmakers could do, because while the food stamp programs are funded by the federal government, they are administered by the state.
“It’s a ‘state’s rights’ kind of thing,” he said. “We do fund them, and the funding is already there, but what do we say to them, ‘We’re going to decrease your funding next year?’ Then they make the asset test $4,000.”
He added that he was confident the Corbett administration would eventually come around.
“I really think that somebody made a mistake up there. I think they’re looking for a window to get out of,” Brady said. “We’re putting pressure to help them find that window. “I think Corbett probably grabbed a hold of somebody and said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ because it wasn’t thought out.”
Kitchen questioned the administration’s motives, and said she had not seen numbers to back of claims of fraud.
“DPW maintains that it is working to ‘root out fraud and waste,’ yet it has yet to produce solid numbers on any fraud and waste in DPW programs,” she said. “Meanwhile, children, the elderly and disabled individuals and their loved ones are enduring the agony of losing their lifeline and scrambling to re-apply. It’s shameful.”
Hughes noted that the federal government already mandates income limits for food stamp enrollment, so asset tests are a waste of time and administrative costs.
“This is a misguided policy that does a disservice to the needs of Pennsylvania citizens,” he said. “Punishing low- and middle-income individuals for trying to lift themselves out of poverty is not only cruel, but also completely unnecessary.”
Bucking what seems to be a statewide trend, only 35 percent of Philadelphians approve of how Gov. Tom Corbett is doing his job, according to a new poll.
That figure compared to a 50 approval rating statewide, a rating that pushed Gov. Corbett above his peers, freshman Republican governors in battleground states, found a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
Two things pushed Corbett’s approval rating to its highest level ever — support among women and the solid backing of his party.
“Corbett’s batting average with women and Republicans has surged, getting him to the important 50 percent benchmark in approval rating,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a poll released Thursday. “Compared to struggling first-term Republican Governors Rick Scott in Florida and John Kasich in Ohio, two other swing states, Gov. Corbett’s .500 average makes him an all-star candidate.”
Overall, 32 percent of Pennsylvanians disapprove of the way Corbett is doing his job and 18 percent were uncertain. The poll reported that 72 percent of Republicans support the governor, as do 52 percent of Independents and 29 percent of Democrats.
Those numbers have risen steadily since February, when Corbett’s approval rating was 39 percent, where it stayed in April and June. His approval rating started to rise in August when it hit 44 percent.
Malloy attributed the surge to an upswing in support from women, which rose from 37 percent in August to 45 percent in September.
Philadelphians and other residents of the southeast corner of the state were at odds with their fellow Pennsylvanians. Corbett polled considerably lower here than he did in other portions of the state. Only 46 percent of voters in the counties surrounding the city approved of the job Corbett has done over the first nine months of his tenure as governor.
Residents across the state made a distinction between Corbett and his policies — with many saying they liked the governor but thought he was giving mixed messages on his policies.
Most, including Democrats, support drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale but they also support a tax on drilling, which Corbett has consistently rejected.
As far as drilling, 62 percent said they supported drilling and that the economic benefits outweighed environmental concerns. Only 30 percent disapproved. Poll numbers found strong support even among Democrats, with about 50 percent of them in support of drilling.
An even larger number support a tax on drilling.
A drilling tax had the support of 64 percent of voters with only 27 percent opposed to the idea. The tax enjoys strong support among Republicans, with 51 percent of them behind it.
Weighing in on other policy matters, 62 percent of voters supported privatizing liquor stores; 43 percent opposed privatizing health care in state prisons, 64–28 percent opposed privatizing the operation of state parks.
Months ago, when Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law was being bandied about in the legislature, members of Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration went out of their way to assure voters that the measure had the purest of intentions: eliminating voter fraud. (Never mind the fact that only a handful of cases of actual voter fraud have ever been documented.)
Not only was Voter ID good for the election process, they argued, but also compliance with the law wouldn’t be much of an inconvenience to voters. Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele told lawmakers at the time that 99 percent of the state's voters already had the necessary identification.
Over the past few weeks, the thin web of shameless lies surrounding the Voter ID law has begun to unravel.
Late Tuesday afternoon, just before the July 4th holiday, Aichele’s department issued a press release disclosing the results of a computerized match between PennDOT's databases and a database of registered voters – doubtless hoping that information would be lost in the news cycle.
It showed 758,000 Pennsylvania voters, roughly 9 percent – did not have PennDOT-issued ID, either a driver's license or a non-driver photo ID. In Philadelphia, the numbers were twice as bad, with 18 percent of registered voters not having the necessary identification to cast their ballots in November. That’s a far cry from her previous 99 percent lie, which is why Secretary Aichele has not commented publicly since issuing the release.
Six organizations, the Committee of Seventy, the League of Women Voters, the state ACLU, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, The Advancement Project, and Pennsylvania Common Cause petitioned Corbett on Friday, in light of the new numbers, to delay enacting the Voter ID law for a year.
Corbett’s office issued an immediate refusal.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai let the cat out of the bag a couple of weeks ago, when he bragged to GOP allies, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania – done.”
Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law has a lot less to do with stopping voter fraud than it does stopping President Barack Obama from winning a second term. And the law’s Republican supporters are perfectly happy to deny hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians their constitutional right to vote in order to achieve that goal.
One is at a loss to know where to begin in answering Daryl Gale’s column calling for the governor’s impeachment.
He says the governor has cut education. In truth, the governor budgeted more in state dollars for basic education than at any time in our history. What was missing was $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars which were intended for shovel-ready, one-time projects.
Among his more alarming claims is that the governor is allowing gas drillers to “rape” our state’s environment while paying no taxes or fees. This is wrong on several levels.
Marcellus drillers have paid more than $1.6 billion in taxes — most of it in the past three years. They are not tax exempt.
The governor crafted and implemented an impact fee in addition to this, meaning that a fully productive well will pay $310,000 to its host community over a 10-year period.
As to environmental issues, one need only google the terms “Chesapeake” and “record fine” to see that Tom Corbett laid down more than $1 million in penalties on a Marcellus driller for environmental failures.
The assertion that Gov. Corbett has put college out of financial reach for students is especially odd. College tuition at state and state-related universities was spiraling past the inflation rate for the past 15 years until the governor cried halt. This year, for the first time in modern memory, state-related universities agreed to hold tuition increases at, or below, the rate of inflation.
The astonishing declaration that Corbett did nothing about Jerry Sandusky is outrageously untrue. Since 1998, four different agencies failed to pursue allegations that Sandusky was preying on children. As soon as a complaint reached the office of then-Attorney General Tom Corbett in 2009, a team of agents and lawyers was assigned to locate victims, persuade them to come forward publicly, and testify.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts. He’s off the streets for good. Tom Corbett did that.
That there are partisans and opportunists out there during an election year calling for impeachments of all sorts is no surprise. The surest way to enrage one’s enemies is to succeed. But the Tribune, and a city editor entrusted to bring straight and unbiased news to its readership, should not be swept up in the campaigns of political opportunists.
Dennis Roddy is a former newspaper journalist who now works as special assistant to the governor.
PITTSBURGH — Unveiling a much-anticipated plan to regulate and harness Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry, Gov. Tom Corbett called Monday for even-handed laws that recognize the competition beyond the state's borders for an industry that he said is boosting the economy and lowering energy bills.
Corbett's plan would allow counties to impose an impact fee for up 10 years to help pay for the cost to regulate the drilling and fix the damage it causes to the environment. It also would toughen laws that protect the state's water sources and help the industry find new outlets for its product, such as converting school bus fleets or mass transit systems to natural gas power.
"Affordable, reliable energy allows companies to grow, but how do we get there? We have to make sure that we do this right, from the very beginning," Corbett told a crowd at a unionized carpenters training hall in Pittsburgh. "If we're looking at this industry, it's a little bit beyond a newborn, it's not even crawling yet though. ... We have to get there by smart, sound, even-handed, level playing-field regulation and legislation."
Corbett, a first-term Republican who is viewed as an industry ally, did not go as far in his proposal as have plans from many urban and suburban lawmakers for extracting tax revenue from the Marcellus Shale producers or imposing tougher environmental standards on drilling to protect waterways, reservoirs, wetlands and private water wells.
Although many aspects of his plan are vague, it will form a crucial part of the debate this fall as lawmakers try to resolve a nearly three-year-old debate over how to modernize state drilling laws, force the industry to pay its fair share and make Pennsylvania a more attractive state in which to do business.
But well over a dozen different plans are floating around the Republican-controlled Legislature to impose a tax or fee on the industry, making it possible that Corbett's proposal could undergo significant changes.
Corbett took a campaign pledge not to increase taxes or fees, and opposes the kind of severance tax imposed by many other natural gas producing states because he says he fears it would drive the industry away while Pennsylvania is trying to recover from the recession. But he views an impact fee as being fundamentally different than a severance tax, and he defends his proposal as being in line with his campaign pledge.
Under his plan, counties would have the latitude to impose an impact fee of up to $40,000 per well in a well's first year. The maximum fee amount would decline to $30,000 in the second year, $20,000 in the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through tenth years of production. After that, it would disappear.
The Corbett administration estimates that the plan would generate up to $120 million in the first year and up to $195 million by the sixth year.
Top Senate Republicans were largely noncommittal on Corbett's plan. But Luzerne County Sen. John Yudichak, the ranking Democrat on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said the county-based fee that Corbett chose as a vehicle to address for environmental impact and economic development is a mistake.
"It doesn't make good economic policy and it certainly doesn't make good environmental policy," Yudichak said.
The money primarily would go toward the costs of regulating drilling and absorbing population growth stemming from the influx of drilling crews, heavy machinery and truck traffic. It would not help the state's general fund, public schools or statewide environmental improvement programs.
Most of the impact fee money, 75 percent, would be split up by counties and municipalities that are home to the drilling for a wide range of uses, such as improvements to roads and bridges and water and sewer systems, social services, affordable housing projects and emergency response. The rest, 25 percent, would go to the state for environmental protection, road and bridge improvements, health studies, emergency response and pipeline safety.
To encourage economic development, counties could forgive 30 percent of a company's fee in exchange for approved spending on natural gas usage infrastructure, such as fueling stations or public transit vehicles.
One prominent industry member, Fort Worth, Texas-based Range Resources Corp., seemed to like what it heard.
"At first glance this is a competitive model and certainly one that adequately accounts for impacts," Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said. "The most important element right now is ensuring the growth remains in Pennsylvania. We're witnessing a very healthy competition for jobs between Ohio and Pennsylvania and while the gas isn't going anywhere, some of the rigs are. The coming weeks will be critical."
One environmental group was sharply critical.
"This plan is neither fair nor comprehensive, and is full of giveaways to the drillers," said Jan Jarrett, president of Harrisburg-based PennFuture. "It appears that the governor's thinking in devising his plan was, 'What's the least I can ask of the drilling industry?'"
Meanwhile, union members who watched Corbett speak wanted assurances that the jobs that Corbett says are being spurred by the industry's growth are going to Pennsylvanians.
"Nothing against the Texas worker, but this is Pennsylvania, and we want to put Pennsylvanians to work," said Philip Ameris, the president of the Laborers' District Council of Western Pennsylvania.
The Marcellus Shale formation lies primarily beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio. Pennsylvania is the center of activity, with more than 3,000 wells drilled in the past three years and thousands more planned in the coming years as thick shale emerges as an affordable, plentiful and profitable source of natural gas.
Pennsylvania, along with Ohio, also may see a substantial number of wells drilled into the Utica Shale formation, which is below the Marcellus Shale.
The drilling has drawn opponents who fear it is polluting public water supplies, damaging public health and ruining the quality of life in rural Pennsylvania.
Corbett's plan was largely derived from a July report delivered by a study commission. Corbett appointees and members of the industry dominated the panel, which he picked. -- (AP)