New Castle News

July 13, 2013

John K. Manna: Gov. Tom Corbett’s agenda is going nowhere

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — It’s been a tough couple months for Gov. Tom Corbett.

In June, a Quinnipiac University poll showed 48 percent of Pennsylvanians surveyed disapproved of Corbett’s job performance. The poll noted that it was slightly better than a year earlier when his disapproval rating was 50 percent.

The June poll also showed that 52 percent said Corbett does not deserve to be re-elected.

Corbett also trailed potential Democratic challengers, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and state Treasurer Rob McCord.

Then, this week, the Rothenberg Political Report changed its prediction for next year’s gubernatorial race from “Pure Tossup” to “Tossup/Tilts Democratic.”

When Corbett arrived as governor in 2011, the table was set for him to get his agenda through — seemingly. He had the luxury of Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

However, his major initiatives — privatization of state liquor sales, transportation funding and reform of the state’s pension system — have yet to come to fruition.

The transportation bill, as one example, was passed by the Senate, but has stalled in the House. And legislators won’t return to Harrisburg until September to possibly take up any of those matters.

(They may return next week to vote on the fiscal code that allows the state to spend money for items in the state budget.)

Despite the Republican majorities, partisanship in the Legislature is more intense now than it has been in modern times, according to political analysts G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young. They point out that partisanship has not only polarized Republicans from Democrats but the House from the Senate. Sort of resembling what is happening in Washington.

Key measures passed in the Senate with bipartisan support. But that’s not the case in the House where members have voted along party lines. House Republicans, Madonna and Young say, have been unwilling to compromise to pass Corbett’s agenda.

One of those Republicans, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Cranberry Township, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the biggest problem “is we lack a strong leader in the executive branch.”

He added that of recent governors, “Corbett is the most conservative, but he’s the least effective. ... Corbett’s really left it up to the Legislature to lead.”

Obviously, the Legislature hasn’t shown an ability to lead either.

What happens in the fall when legislators return, particularly with transportation funding and pension reform, could further determine Corbett’s political future.

If the Legislature fails to pass those two initiatives, both of which have the most impact on Pennsylvanians, Corbett surely will be held responsible — but only partly. The Legislature should also share in the blame.