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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/12/11

Pa's Corbett Expands Conservative War on Middle-class

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Message Linn Washington

Swinging a sledge hammer, Pennsylvania's first-term Republican Governor Tom Corbett, smashed into educational spending and state worker jobs during his first-ever budget address recently, following in the footsteps of his conservative cost-cutting confederates across the nation.

While Corbett proposes slashing over a billion dollars in funding for pre-K through college, he spares the Keystone State's burgeoning billion-dollar Marcellus Shale natural gas industry from his call for "collective sacrifice' to close a $4-billion gap in the state's budget.

Corbett defended his Marcellus Shale stance calling it a source of potential wealth "not just something to tax." That industry extracting natural gas trapped in Marcellus Shale is the same industry that coincidentally provided Corbett with substantial contributions during his gubernatorial campaign last year.

Corbett refuses to do what over a dozen other oil and gas-producing states do and impose an extraction tax on the natural gas industry. Texas, the state Corbett specifically cited in his budget address as a model for PA to emulate for this natural gas "boom" imposes an extraction tax.

Such a tax could immediately provide Pennsylvania with $200-million annually, enough to cover the $48.3-million in budget cuts Corbett proposes for two state environmental protection agencies charged with overseeing the expanding Marcellus Shale industry, which is already under scrutiny for polluting drinking water wells and waterways.

While Corbett calls for massive cuts in funding for Pa's higher education system because he said the "fiscal crisis" mandates rethinking spending practices he spared the bloated Pa state legislature now under GOP control.  

Pa's two-house legislature has the nation's second highest number of members (253), the nation's largest legislative support staff and some of the sweetest perks for members like receiving lifetime health care after ten years of service.

Corbett's proposed slashing over a billion in funding from pre-K through college to close Pa's budget gap continues the onslaught on the middle-class consistent with Corbett's GOP gubernatorial colleagues in adjacent states like Ohio and New Jersey plus distant states like Wisconsin.

Pa's Corbett, like Ohio Governor John Kasich, raised the salaries of his top staff members' weeks before announcing his proposals calling for eliminating 1,550 state worker jobs and declaring no pay increases for remaining state workers.

Corbett, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, pushes cuts in basic education funding plus reductions in public school teacher salaries.

Typically, former prosecutor Corbett proposed raising the budget for Pa's nearly two-billion-dollar prison system by 11 percent.

Corbett, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, backs tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals -- revenue that could mitigate the need to balance budgets solely on the backs of public sector workers and the poor.

Corporations in Pennsylvania provide roughly ten percent of the state government tax revenue stream much lower than the 38.7 percent from personal income taxes and 31 percent from sales and use taxes.

Corbett conflated corporations with individuals when cementing his no new tax pledge on the premise that "the people have no more to give." Corbett's own budget figures show corporations paying less in taxes than "people" do via personal income taxes.

While Corbett skips in lockstep with other conservative governors there is a distinctive difference between Pennsylvania and the naked "Banana Republic' style antics employed in Ohio and Wisconsin against public sector workers.

Corbett and Pa's GOP controlled state legislature, have thus far avoided the shenanigans of their Ohio and Wisconsin cohorts where GOP legislators shredded parliamentary rules maneuvering brazenly to ram through elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

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Linn Washington is a co-founder of This Can't Be Happening.net. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and problems in the news media. He teaches multi-media urban journalism at Temple (more...)

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