Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Notes from Onorato / Corbett Debate on Oct. 18th

Again, thanks to our friends at PCN I taped and watched a debate. Unfortunately I missed the first few minutes so if there were opening statements I missed them. As always these are just rough notes. I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Gubernatorial Candidates debate
October 18, 2010
Democrat Dan Onorato
Republican Tom Corbett
open office, no incumbent
Moderator: Jim Gardner

Q1: voters feel disaffected and alienated, are you part of the problem?

TC; As governor the first thing is to become the leader, make difficult decisions. not necessarily in political best interests and will have political consequences but need to be made. not in this race for me personally but for my children and future grandchildren. PA needs to become a shining example that other states want to measures themselves by. we are crawling into the past, in part because of rancor. I don’t think I’ve been part of that. what I do is in the best interests of PA.

DO: thanks. people are worried upset at Harrisburg and DC and they should be because of unemployment levels.. I spent last 7 years governing, able to reform government, took on own party, consolidated row offices and 911 centers, downsize payroll, clean up old industrial sites, not raised property taxes in 7 years, froze assessments, unemployment below state level. want to reform Harrisburg, We have the most expensive legislature in nation, I will reduce by 20%, create an environment where private industries want to come to PA, regulatory agencies act in timely manner, train people for jobs of tomorrow.

Q2: why are voters in Southeastern Pennsylvania not engaged in state government

TC: difficult question. people start paying attention in last two weeks. don’t know who Dan and I are at this point.

DO: obviously a lot of races going on, congressional, senate, governor. crazy attack ads, people disgusted. I’ve spent a lot of time in SEPA last two years, talking about how things will affect Southeastern Pennsylvania, now its up to the field operation

Q3: hate crimes and bullying, what steps to increase diversities, outlaw discrimination based on orientation. would you sign [missed this].

DO: I’ve already done it. As the county executive of Allegheny Co passed anti-discrimination bill for sex orientation and gender identity. We shouldn’t discriminate against anyone. I even talk about in policy papers. No one should be intimidated at school or work. As governor I would sign.

TC: been dealing with this myself. As attorney general, going into schools talking about cyber bulling. this concerns me. The governor should participate in education. teach tolerance in schools. The civil rights division in the attorney general’s office, very active, important to continue being active. The amendment won’t make enforcement any better, The laws already there.

Q4: changes in gun laws, specificially in Philly

TC: the Supreme Court has ruled on whether cities can have separate ordinances. It is clear you cannot have separate ordinances. I’m not in favor of more gun laws. My office created a gun violence task force with Philadelphia DA’s office. Recently issued a report, 1300 active investigations, taken nearly 1k guns off street. enforcement of existing laws. courts have to help with this. when we get people in courts, sometimes lack of enforcement

follow up – Florida loop hole

TC: I cannot change this. Restrictions in Florida greater than in PA, have to demonstrate that you have taken 12 hour gun safety course, fingerprints, background check, no convictions or committed for mental illness, we have reciprocity with Florida.

DO: totally disagree. Supreme Court made it clear that we have an individual right to own guns but also right to reasonable regulations. in favor of that, of requirement to report lost or stolen guns, child safety locks, Florida loophole. I believe the Attorney General does have ability to close. Florida giving permits to carry concealed weapons.

TC: The Dept of agriculture and licensing in Florida issue permits, not like bunch of farmers make this decisions.

DO: I respect sportsmen and sportswomen and self-defense in home. Regarding dept of agriculture and licensing. should Florida’s dept be dictating to PA who should carry a concealed weapon

Q5: job creation -- what specifically would you do? How many jobs will your administrations create?

DO: I can’t give you a number because we don’t know what the future holds. Can tell you what we did in Allegheny Co. We have lost jobs as every other county has. Allegheny has weathered storm better tan other parts of the state. create a better business tax environment, lower business tax, phase out corporate stock tax, look at regulatory agency. get permits in 4 months not 2 years. train workers for jobs of future. marcellus shale – potential 80k new jobs, part of my platform, we want them to hire Pennsylvanians..

TC: If we could say how many jobs we would create we should be in different business. We have to create private sector climate when taxes 11th worst burden in nation. clear correlation between the two. whole list of taxes, look on campaign site for list. stock and franchise, inheritance tax, tort reform, grow young businesses already here, regulatory reform. agencies must work with business, not be adversarial. I’m the only candidate that has ever worked in a regulated industry. I understand when agencies hounds you. we have the potential in this state for hundreds of thousands of jobs.

follow-up: how long will it take you to lower those taxes

DO: can’t give exact timeline. it all depends on what is on the table. Are some corporate loopholes on the table? push hard to get down what I want to do.

TC: can’t give date …… will cut size and cost of state government, be accountable to money paid into Harrisburg

Q6: Harrisburg close to declaring bankruptcy. 19 towns and cities in distressed status. mayors asking for more taxing authority. in favor of this?

TC: look at Act 47. many cities in act 47 status for long time. haven’t been responsible with them, overseeing plan they develop so they can come out of it. state has responsibility that municipalities work to reduce time under act 47. work with towns before they go into act 47. not looking at new taxes, look at cost reductions, efficiencies. one thing state does do is send down unfounded mandates. should review that area.

DO: I run a local government, watched unfounded mandates and won’t send those down as governor. provide incentives to stressed cities to work outside box, consolidate police and fire depts.. if municipalities want help, need to look at how we provide services. look at school districts, local government. look at options. look at efficiencies. glad we were able to be creative in Allegheny county. not raised prop taxes because we are efficient. I don’t use more taxes, are there other options. demand efficiencies, shared services, lower cost.

Q7: 3 things you will cut?

DO: I do understand why people cynical when talk about downsizing legislature. They told me the same things when I said I would downsize county government, but we consolidated offices and streamlined government, got it down. cut and save, want to cut 20%. legislature sitting on $200M in leadership funds and walking around monies, look at turnpike and [missed this] agency, can we be more efficient. Won’t cut school funding. continue to fund basic funding forward, early childhood education. would rather invest pre-k than spend 10 times more building jails.

TC: We need to go through and look at budget and work with agencies. use auditor generals example of ineligible payments in welfare, reform plan, work with legislature, cut per diems, reduce size of fleet, institute zero based budgeting, Dept of Community and Economic Development has 300 separate programs. school funding, take a look at it, not committed to cost funding program, in favor of early childhood education. generational change. if we invest in pre-k education, we’re going to save ourselves money over a generation.

Q8: property taxes, what is wrong with HB 1275, shift from property tax to sales tax, with exemptions

TC: issue been going on since eisenhouwer administration. Looked at hb 1275, concerned that amount of revenue raised is insufficient to support school districts and counties. talked to many people, can look at what revenues we have, and what size of sales tax, idea appears to be fair, reaches all kinds of people. the problem is a spending problem. schools and counties spending a lot of money. need to get that under control.

DO: Tom has campaign ad against me for this. the largest property tax was under predecessor, who is now on tom’s campaign committee. Allegheny County has not had a property tax increase in 7 years. I delivered on campaign promise. In first debate Tom criticized me on school education, now agrees with me. He changes his views. That house bill needs serious consideration. but if we do that take it to voters via referendum. I would investigate issue of doing away with property tax but only if way to fund schools and passes a referendum.

TC: we will take a look at this. nice if we could find a source to fund all this but must be sure you are replacing revenue with revenue neutral. He says ads incorrect. He said he would cut prop tax 10% but he hasn’t.

Q9: kids can’t make grade level in reading in math, failing schools in particular areas, school choice?

DO: Tom voted to raise taxes when he was elected. On education, continue to reform and fix charters, supported them in my city. but don’t pit one school against another. hold them accountable. support program where companies can give money to schools, support grant program for kids stuck in poorly performing schools.

TC: school system across state that is failing and broken. we have to fix it. very detailed plan on website. early childhood initiative. earned income tax benefit for businesses, vouchers are a yes for me. let students and teachers and parents know what schools are failing.

Q10: taxes versus fees, Corbett quote that people prefer to take unemployment vs work

TC: People of PA out there looking for jobs. we need to work much better on workforce development, to match jobs that are available. need to develop workforce for the future. recently in career center in Northeast PA, observed 65 year old man learning skills to run a computer to run a lathe. statement I made was in response to two anecdotes reported to me. got to get people the jobs we should develop. Marcellus shale will grow 100k of jobs. I have signed a pledge not to increase taxes or fees

DO: I take exception with what he’s saying. He’s on records saying he doesn’t want to extend unemployment because jobs are there. I don’t need to sign a pledge because I’ve done that. I heard TC say in first debate that he would increase unemployment taxes. I have a track record and platform, applauded in some places, not in others but consistent. Allegheny has lowest foreclosure and is recognized on “best” lists in magazines

Q11: Marcellus shale. severance tax? do we ask developers to pay now or let them pay state later in diff kinds of taxes

DO: we should do what every state is doing, a competitive severance tax. replace all cuts in Dept of Environmental Protection, has taken 28% cut, watch water quality, growing greener fund, watch roads, etc for wear. make sure industry understand they will hire our people not people from elsewhere before we will issue permits.

TC: we have to understand we are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. need to develop now because will bring hundreds of thousands of jobs. no severance, they pay through income and royalty taxes. economy in areas there are now growing. DEP secretary has said permits have allowed him to hire enough people to make sure environment guarded. I’m the only one here that has protected environment as US attorney. As attorney General worked with legislature to increase penalties against those who have harmed environment

DO: Tom not the only one who has protected environment. TC taken more money than anyone from natural gas. He is jeopardizing the environment. while in private sector he defended largest [missed this] of the environment, goes both ways. these CEOs know they have to pay the tax, they are willing to pay the tax

TC: my record is clear on protecting environment. When I was working with that company it was to make them compliant with environmental laws. look at taxes of Texas. if looking at how other states have severance tax, let’s look at their entire tax system.

Q12: no bid contracts, Rendell criticized for this

TC: The governor serves the people of PA. Under Gov. Ridge there was a bar for people to lobby government. totally inappropriate for governor to create contracts or hire legislator who is out of office to keep them on payroll.

DO: I will not do that. I have a reform paper out on that. Everything will be competitively bid. no sole sourcing of contracts. 2 year or more moratorium on lobbying, etc by former employees.

Q13: You are Catholic, how will faith affect decisions, abortion

DO: product of Catholic school, part of who I am, wouldn’t change abortion law.

TC: Our faith guides how we make decisions. must do the right thing. decisions will be made in best interests of PA. support current abortion law, if the legislature passes stricter law I will sign it.

Q14: Medicaid, 20% of state budget, will you pledge not to cut?

TC: find waste in Medicaid, look at auditor general’s report. won’t make pledge without knowing what money we will be getting from feds on that, do my best to keep it at 20%.

DO: do everything I can not to cut Medicaid. look at all parts of budget before looking at this part. health care generally will be a challenge. We need to implement it, watched costs of health care rise. problem with adult basic. called for insurance companies to extend contract till 2014 to make sure we don’t throw 45K off roles before health care reform implemented.

Q15: immigration only federal concern

DO: legally has to be done at fed level

TC: feds have duty to enforce laws. states can make sure payments not going to illegals.

Closing statements

TC: thanks, The next governor has serious challenges. I view them as opportunities. take PA back to being an example for other states. next governor has to make tough decisions. I’ve done that throughout my entire career. Look at Chris Christie (NJ) and Bob McDonnnell (VA) who were prosecutors and had to make tough decisions. distinct choices between candidates. Onorato will increase taxes and unemployment, trying to be all things to all people, Rendell-like policies. if you want someone who will bring change, job creation to PA, vote for me.

DO: thanks. Corbett wishes he were running against Ed Rendell but he is running against me. I have a record of downsizing government, will bring an outsiders point of view, never been part of Harrisburg. will make real reforms. worked with private sector to create more jobs. I’ll take on Harrisburg and even legislature. I know people are hurting out there. I respectfully ask for your vote.

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