Politics & Policy

Live: Final Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Debate

The final gubernatorial debate before Election Day is taking place from 7-8 p.m. tonight, live on 6 ABC in Philadelphia in a studio debate. Battle ‘10 will provide highlights as the debate unfolds.

Opening Statements

“The next governor is going to have to make decisions that are not particularly in their best interest,” says Tom Corbett in his opening statement of the fiscal challenges confronting the commonwealth. “I don’t believe I’m part of the [political] rancor.” Corbett’s opening statement seems weak on specific policy in comparison to Onorato:

“People … should be worried because of the unemployment in this country and this state,” says Onorato. Consolidated five 911 centers into one, saved millions. Talks up freezing property taxes over the past seven years. Onorato says legislature is too large, needs to be cut by at least “20 percent.”

There’s a “distinct lack of engagement among southeastern Pennsylvania” says moderator in terms of the gubernatorial race. What does this mean for the state of the race and the commonwealth? Both candidates 

Hate Crimes and Discrimination

Onorato responds to the third question, on hate crimes legislation and discrimination. Onorato says he would sign amendment to Human Relations Commission to avoid discrimination.

Corbett, the current attorney general, addresses cyber bulling, an issue he says has “taken over” among young people online, saying it “concerns” him, saying there’s a need to teach diversity and tolerance in public schools. 

“I don’t know that an amendment would make anything better,” cautions Corbett. “We need enforcement,” and legislation doesn’t translate into proper enforcement.

Gun Laws

Corbett cites Supreme Court ruling in Washington saying he doesn’t see a need for further anti-gun legislation. Shifts to talking up his accomplishments, “having taken nearly 1,000 guns off the street” through a gun violence task force. Emphasizes need to enforce existing legislation.

“I totally disagree with Tom,” says Onorato. “As governor, I’d support reasonable regulations. If someone steals your gun, you should be required to report it to police,” he cites as an example. “There is no reason why the Department of Agriculture in Florida [can] give license to carry firearms in Pennsylvania.”

Corbett clarifies that a specific licensing division in the Florida Department of Agriculture licenses the guns. Onorato responds by talking up hunting gun rights, emphasizing Pennsylvania should not gain access to weapons via a Florida”loophole.”

Economics

“How many jobs will your administrations create in four years,” asks the moderator, “and how would you go about achieving that?”

Onorato demurs on giving a specific number, and shifts to talking about his experience as Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania. Phase out the franchise tax and capital stock tax, he says. Look at the regulatory agencies like PennDOT and DEP, and train workers for “jobs of the future” that have curriculum that match needs of companies.

Tom Corbett says there’s a need to create “climate” for private sector to grow, laments job creation among other states at #47. The corporate net income tax, the capital stock tax, the death tax, tort reform, cites Corbett as only a few. “You’d have to bring regulatory reform,” says Corbett to make agencies not be “adversarial.”

“I’m the only one who’s ever worked in a regulated industry,” Corbett says, “and I know what it’s like to be harassed” by overzealous agencies. Declines to give specific number.

“The first thing we have to do is cut spending,” Corbett says, which is the “first thing we’ll do.” There’s a need to be accountable, says Corbett, and the tax climate cannot be fixed long term without spending austerity.

’Distressed’ — Bankrupt — Pennsylvania Cities

“Some cities have been [distressed] for twenty years,” says Corbett, and “I’m looking for cost reductions, and efficiencies, and to help them manage their city and local governments better than they have.”

“We need to look at unfunded state mandates,” that burden localities, Corbett emphasizes, and take a “thorough review of that area.”

Onorato wants localities to “think outside the box” by consolidating services. “We have way too much government,” says Onorato. “We have to look at how we provide services. It doesn’t work any more. … They have to give efficiencies and returns.” Onorato avoids direct question on whether there would be additional taxes on munipilaties. He says “they would decide,” though, and it wouldn’t be forced upon them.

Reforming the Legislature

“I do understand why people are cynical about reforming the legislature,” says Onorato, “because it’s never happened.” Onorato cites his experience in Allegheny County convincing fellow Democrats to consolidate offices.

“I will find more ways to be efficient,” says Onorato, but “one area I will not cut is school funding.” Onorato says he will expand early childhood education.

Corbett responds, citing Democrat auditor general Jack Wagner as example of someone who sees inefficiencies and is “more independent” in identifying legislative savings. “We’re going to reduce the size of the [auto] fleet and introduce zero based budgeting,” says Corbett.

“I do think we need to invest in early childhood [education],” echoes Corbett.

Property Taxes

“For so many years we’ve heard people run for office promising to reduce property taxes,” says the moderator, “but it virtually never happens.”

“This issue of property tax reform has been going on since the Eisenhower administration, … and it’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” says Corbett. “The problem is, we have a spending problem. The schools are spending a lot of money, the counties are spending a lot of money … we’ve got to get that” in order, he says.

“I’ve been dealing with property tax reform for seven years,” says Onorato, and says he would “absolutely” look at eliminating property taxes through alternative funding mechanisms if voters approved of the idea.

Corbett responds by asserting that any mechanism would need to be “revenue neutral.” Allegheny County, “where I live,” says Corbett, “still is one of the highest in the nation” for property taxes. 

Public Schools, School Choice

Dan Onorato says, “I think we should continue to reform and fix” charter schools. Says he supports grant programs for children, but emphasizes “we need good public schools schools where majority of kids can go.” Endorses a grant program for kids in failing schools to attend private schools, but would not support a direct subsidy, i.e. traditional school vouchers.

Tom Corbett says “we need to put letter grade” on schools so parents can know concretely the performance of their schools. “From the perspective of the child, the parent, and the teacher in the classroom — not the unions,” says Corbett, we need honest decisions on an individual level.

Re: Corbett’s Unemployment Gaffe

Moderator asks Corbett about his much-maligned comment over the summer when he said the “jobs are out there” and certain people would be more likely to stay on unemployment than search for a job if benefits continue to be extended.

Corbett pushes back strongly, saying his remarks were taken out of context, and that he was merely repeating “anecdotes” that had been relayed to him.

Taxes, Fees, and Pledges

Corbett: “I’m the only candidate who has signed a tax pledge,” he says, and is committed to not raising new taxes or fees in his first term. Onorato says he doesn’t need to sign a pledge, and will let his record in Allegheny County speak for itself.

Marcellus Shale

The key issue in the extraction of Marcellus Shale is whether a severance tax will be imposed on companies that are extracting the natural gas. This is a still growing industry in the commonwealth, and has been a contentious issue that Onorato has sought to use as a wedge in the race.

“We are the Saudi Arabia of natural gas,” says Corbett, “and this industry will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs. The money [companies] create [by mining the gas] will flow into communities,” says Corbett.

“We do need to make sure we protect the environment. I’m the only one here who has protected our environment,” says Corbett, “as a U.S. attorney … and attorney general.”

“I believe we would chase away these companies at this time,” says Corbett, if a severance tax is imposed.

Onorato hits back, suggesting Corbett is beholden to the industry as its “largest recipient” of donations. This, despite the fact that Onorato has also received hundreds of thousands in donations from the same industry. Onorato characterizes Corbett’s no-tax position as “extreme.”

Patronage

Tom Corbett promises not to use governor’s office to hire out of work lobbyists, politicians, or friends into state payroll jobs. Onorato also promises he will not engage in patronage style hiring, promoting competitive bidding processes. This issue is in the news in Pennsylvania thanks to outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell’s h

Catholicism and Abortion

Both Tom Corbett and Dan Onorato are Catholics, and one moderator asks them how their faith would impact their time in office, specifically on abortion.

“I’m the product of Catholic school,” says Onorato. Without batting an eye, continues to say, “as governor, I support Pennsylvania’s current law, and would veto any attempt to change that law.”

Corbett says “obviously our faith really guides how we make decisions. … One thing I’ve learned is that we really must do the right thing. … When it comes to abortion, I support the present law.”

But, Corbett qualifies, “If the legislature were to pass a stricter law, I would support it.”

A disappointing bit of waffling from both candidates here.

immigration

“Is immigration policy exclusively the domain of the federal government?” asked moderator, in perhaps the most direct question of the night.

“Yes,” says Onorato, it’s a federal decision, and swipes at Lou Barletta’s efforts as mayor of Hazleton to reform illegal immigration.

“I believe the federal government has a duty to enforce federal immigration laws,” says Corbett in a more enlightened response, but he says “I believe states have an obligation to make sure their payments” are not going to illegal aliens.

Closing Statements

“The next governor of Pennsylvania has a number of serious decisions and challenges” to confront, says Corbett. “I’ve made tough decisions throughout my career,” he says, citing his prosecutorial career, and name-dropping Dick Thornburgh and Chris Christie.

“If you want four more years of trying to be all things to all people,” says Corbett, then “elect my opponent.”

Onorato distances himself from Gov. Ed Rendell, whom he has previously cited as a mentor, saying he would bring an “outsiders” view to Harrisburg, working with the private sector to create jobs and “be more business friendly.”

“If you’re looking for someone to take on the legislature,” Onorato says, “I’m your guy.”

Most Popular

Media

Jeffrey Toobin and Our Public-Hate Ritual

Oh, Jeffrey Toobin — let him among us with a free hand cast the first stone. Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and fixture on CNN, was participating in a role-playing exercise on a Zoom call with his magazine colleagues, wargaming election-night scenarios. Toobin was standing in for the courts when he ... Read More
Media

Jeffrey Toobin and Our Public-Hate Ritual

Oh, Jeffrey Toobin — let him among us with a free hand cast the first stone. Toobin, a writer for The New Yorker and fixture on CNN, was participating in a role-playing exercise on a Zoom call with his magazine colleagues, wargaming election-night scenarios. Toobin was standing in for the courts when he ... Read More
Elections

Biden Is Still Underperforming Hillary

On October 20, 2016: Hillary Clinton was up 6.8 in the RealClearPolitics average in Pennsylvania. Today, Biden is up 3.8. (that race only tightened to 2.1 in the last week of 2016.) Clinton was up twelve points in Michigan on that day. Biden is up 7.5 right now. Clinton was up 6.5 in Wisconsin. Biden is ... Read More
Elections

Biden Is Still Underperforming Hillary

On October 20, 2016: Hillary Clinton was up 6.8 in the RealClearPolitics average in Pennsylvania. Today, Biden is up 3.8. (that race only tightened to 2.1 in the last week of 2016.) Clinton was up twelve points in Michigan on that day. Biden is up 7.5 right now. Clinton was up 6.5 in Wisconsin. Biden is ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More
Media

The Biden Protection Racket

Joe Biden is the most cosseted presidential candidate in memory. He’s run a minimalist campaign that’s avoided the press as much as possible, while the press hasn’t been braying for more access and answers, but eager to avoid anything that could be discomfiting to the campaign. Never before have the ... Read More
Media

The Unseemly Urge to Excuse Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker, was suspended from his jobs and subjected to a round of public mockery for visibly exposing himself while masturbating on a Zoom call with New Yorker colleagues. The call was designed to role-play post-election scenarios for a contested election; Toobin ... Read More
Media

The Unseemly Urge to Excuse Jeffrey Toobin

Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker, was suspended from his jobs and subjected to a round of public mockery for visibly exposing himself while masturbating on a Zoom call with New Yorker colleagues. The call was designed to role-play post-election scenarios for a contested election; Toobin ... Read More