Governor Tom Corbett announced his reelection campaign during a spirited ceremony on Tuesday in Harrisburg.
Corbett, making the announcment alongside running mate Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, Pennsylvania Republican Committee Chairman Rob Gleason and other Republican lawmakers, said his administration has kept its promise to “reform government,” create jobs and implement no new taxes.
“Our promises came in four words: ‘More jobs, less taxes.’ We kept that promise and today we are adding one more line: ‘Promises kept,” Corbett said. “We inherited a fiscal nightmare. A budget deficit of $4.2 billion, and Pennsylvania was spending more than it had. I promised to spend within our means and we passed three budgets on time. This had not been done for eight years. We balanced the budget without increasing taxes, and that’s a promise kept.
“We reduced state spending for the first time in 40 years, another promise kept,” Corbett added, taking a broad swipe at the preceding administration of former Gov. Ed Rendell. “We made state government the smallest it has been in over 50 years. For instance, we cut state auto fleet by 20 percent, saving Pennsylvania taxpayers $43 million. We tightened our belts, made the tough choices, and put Pa.’s budget back on track and today we are stronger for it.”
While Corbett kept mostly to his administration’s promises, Crawley took aim at Corbett’s presumptive challenger, U.S. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-13th District), painting the Congresswoman as an anti-business, pro-big government liberal more content with taxing the state out of its problems.
“There are a couple of ways to address the [fiscal] problems. One group says to just keep spending but if we do that, the hole would be a lot deeper. Or, some suggest asking Pennsylvanians to dig deeper for more and more taxes, and Gov. Corbett said that is the road to ruin [that] got us into this problem to begin with,” Crawley said, noting that Schwartz wanted to “tax into oblivion” the Marcellus Shale project and that the State Democratic Committee wanted to kill the energy projects altogether. “We chose the third road, the one less travelled, but one that made all the difference: Have the state live within its means and stop sending money we don’t have.
“Corbett promised to restore fiscal discipline, reform the way the government operated in the commonwealth, promised not to raise taxes and Corbett has delivered on those promises,” Crawley continued. “Our opponents don’t get it. Their answer is the same answer it’s always been: Higher taxes, more government and more spending. Tax-and-spend got us into these problems.”
Corbett, in advance of making his official reelection campaign announcement, launched an official website – www.TomCorbettForGovernor.com – and Twitter account - @CorbettForGov – for his reelection push.
Corbett, however, may need more than ritzy announcements and nifty social media outlets to win reelection next year, as many polls show Corbett trailing the field.
A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling termed Corbett a “massive underdog,” and raised the alarm that Corbett’s numbers may continue to trend downward.
“Tom Corbett is in bigger trouble than ever, trailing all the Democrats tested against him when he led them all just two months ago. The first-term Pennsylvania governor is down 11 points (34-45) against U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and by an identical margin against former Rep. Joe Sestak and State Treasurer Rob McCord,” read Public Policy Polling’s explanatory note. “Corbett also lags behind businessman Tom Wolf by nine (33-42) and John Hanger by seven (34-41). When PPP last polled the state in January, Corbett led Hanger by four points, Sestak and McCord by six, Schwartz by seven, and Wolf by 12.
“Corbett’s deficits are even more remarkable when one considers that these prospective opponents are unknown to the vast majority of voters,” the note continued. “When asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them, only 52 percent can say how they feel about Sestak, 38 percent about Schwartz, 31 percent about Hanger, 30 percent about McCord and 22 percent about Wolf. To boot, the large group of undecided voters in these match-ups is strongly Democratic, and they disapprove of Corbett even more than the overall electorate does, so this could actually represent closer to the governor’s ceiling than his floor.”
Schwartz – who also launched a website, www.allysonschwartz.com, and Twitter account, @SchwartzAllyson, to help publicize her campaign – has taken a more low-key approach so far. On the forefront of her campaign Schwartz is promising to be a governor that puts public education first, a stark contrast to the Corbett Administration which cut nearly $1 billion in public education funding since assuming office.
“Governor Tom Corbett has turned his back on Pennsylvania’s public schools. As the mother of two sons who attended and graduated from Pennsylvania public schools, I know personally how important good schools are to Pennsylvania’s families, to our children’s future and to economic growth,” Schwartz wrote on her official campaign website. “As the governor made record cuts of nearly $1 billion to public schools, student test scores have fallen, class sizes have risen and the cuts have unfairly shifted the burden to local communities and property taxpayers and school districts across the state.
“In fact, in Erie County, we have seen cuts in all 13 public school districts. Corbett has slashed funding for these school districts by more than $12 million.
Rural, suburban and urban school districts have had to make devastating choices, including increasing class sizes, eliminating full-day kindergarten, making massive layoffs of teachers, counselors and support staff, and cutting science, technology and other fundamental curriculum areas,” Schwartz continued. “I have fought consistently for expanded access to early childhood education. I championed full-day kindergarten legislation that became law; wrote a plan to reduce class sizes in Pennsylvania; and sponsored plans to modernize schools to increase efficiency and accountability.”
Teacher union AFT Pennsylvania and its membership supports Schwartz’ claims, taking great issue with the deep education cuts and the fallout from what the group sees as anti-education policies.
“The nearly $1 billion in cuts to public schools across the commonwealth have meant that many of our children don’t have access to full-time school nurses, counselors, librarians, art, music, extracurricular activities, technology, paper, books and other basic elements of a quality education,” said Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan. “As Pennsylvanians, we must make sure that our next governor is committed to a sustainable funding formula for education to ensure that our children get a high-quality education year after year.”
In fact, Corbett’s announcement alone drew the ire of Democratic gubernatorial challenger Katie McGinty, a veteran legislator who worked on former President Bill Clinton’s Council on Environmental Quality and assisted with the reauthorization of the Clean Air Act.
McGinty termed Corbett’s announcement and the governor’s plans to tour the state an “extreme makeover tour” that won’t fool voters.
“There’s no way to cover it up: Tom Corbett has been a disaster for Pennsylvania,” McGinty said. “His policies have hurt millions of hard-working Pennsylvania families. Under Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania lags 46th in job growth, our economy are stagnant, our cities are decaying and our children have been hurt by $1 billion in education cuts. Tuition increases have cut off college for too many, and Tom Corbett has disrespected the health privacy of women and insulted and demeaned same sex couples.
“We can build a better and brighter Pennsylvania. We can lead the nation in creating jobs and make Pennsylvania a national leader in energy development, while protecting our air and water,” McGinty continued. “We can revitalize our cities. We can build a 21st century school system so every child can get the world-class education they deserve. We can make college more affordable. We can protect a woman’s right to choose and give same-sex couples the right to marry. We can do this and more because I believe its Pennsylvania’s time to shine.”