The race for governor: How Tom Corbett would address 3 pressing Pennsylvania issues
Through hard work, innovation, strong leadership, a commitment to smaller government and lower taxes, the Corbett-Cawley administration is succeeding in building a stronger Pennsylvania.
When I was sworn into office in 2011, our commonwealth faced unprecedented challenges. Our budgets were increased to unsustainable levels and too often tax increases were the first place state government went looking for new revenue to fulfill its desire for wasteful spending. To compound issues, public school funding had been cut and replaced with one-time federal stimulus money. Unemployment was as high as 8.7 percent while businesses were leaving in search of states with lower taxes.
Pennsylvania was in desperate need of a new direction and the voters trusted me to take our commonwealth down the road to a brighter future.
I restored fiscal discipline, reduced taxes and got Pennsylvanians back to work. I replaced the cuts made to state education funding under the previous administration, increasing our investment to an all-time high. I also worked to implement critical reforms, including teacher and school evaluations, so taxpayers, parents and our children receive the 21st-century education system they deserve.
I have continued those reform efforts by authorizing a Basic Education Funding Commission to consider the input of educators, parents, legislators and other stakeholders in agreeing on what a truly fair funding formula should look like. In my second term, I look forward to reviewing their recommendations and implementing, with their guidance, what would be landmark reforms to how we fund our schools.
While my opponent has made it clear that he wants to raise taxes, I am working to make government more efficient so that you can keep more of your hard-earned money. I have prioritized pension reform to ensure more of the precious taxpayer resources we have are going directly to the classroom and made the required payments toward our pension liability that the last administration failed to do.
The pension crisis threatens not only our schools but the entire state budget. The underfunded liability of $50 billion today threatens to grow to twice our state budget in just four years. I proposed last year a plan that would transition current and new employees into a defined-contribution or 401(k)-style plan and preserve the benefits already accrued. It is clear that there is no quick solution but we must begin to address the issue.
We must take this critically important first step to bring those costs under control and provide long-term relief to property taxpayers, schools and communities. When I am re-elected, the first thing I will do is call a special session to develop further consensus on how we deal with property taxes and pensions moving forward. Not addressing this issue will result in a Detroit-like economic collapse that will impact Pennsylvania's economy for generations.
Equally important is ensuring the next generation has jobs waiting when it graduates. We have added nearly 180,000 new jobs in the private sector since I took office, including many in the Marcellus shale region, while an additional 240,000 jobs are made more secure because of the success and growth of the natural gas sector.
While some would argue we must apply a special tax to an industry that is thriving and responsible for creating thousands of jobs, I believe punishing success with new taxes should never be our answer and ignoring the $2.2 billion in state taxes the industry has paid since 2008 is deceitful. It is not financially wise to implement additional burdens on an industry when we are competing with other states for limited drilling rigs, especially when this industry in particular has brought new jobs and new life to many parts of Pennsylvania.
Additionally, our one-of-a-kind impact fee has reinvested over $636 million in our local communities for environmental and transportation projects related to drilling, a use much more beneficial than growing the size of Harrisburg's coffers that is distributed even to counties where drilling does not occur.
There's no doubt we are better off today than we were four years ago when I took office. The courage to tackle reform has put us on a path to prosperity and a stronger and brighter future for our children and grandchildren. I hope to have your support in November so we can continue to address the issues at hand and accomplish the goals we have set out for a successful future.