Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s Record of Reforms and Improvements

           Tom Corbett, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Governor, together with his administration and the General Assembly that is controlled by his fellow Republicans, have established a record of numerous conservative reforms and improvements to the Keystone State.  I have posted many of these examples over the last four years, but have included several examples for the first time in any post in this more comprehensive list.

Fiscal and Economic Improvements
Corbett balanced the Commonwealth’s budget by cutting wasteful spending without raising taxes, despite a $4 billion deficit left over from the previous liberal Democratic Administration.  In fact, he cut business taxes, especially for small businesses.  An additional tax cut eliminated the estate tax for family farms or other small businesses.  The improved fiscal condition and tax cuts have helped reduce Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dramatically from over 8% to around five and a half percent since Corbett took office, with the creation of 185,000 new jobs.

Education reforms
            Corbett balanced the budget without cutting education, as the Commonwealth has set a record in the amount it funds public education, despite the end after Corbett took office of the temporary boost from Obama stimulus money that had been appropriated for education by the previous Governor.  Corbett also established scholarships for school choice for students in failing schools, supported good charter schools, prohibited 5-year contracts for school Superintendents and limited the amounts of their termination buyouts, increased openness and transparency in regard to Superintendents’ performance ratings and required school districts considering hiring teachers to be notified of child abuse allegations made against those candidates.  He eliminated some of the worst aspects of Common Core, such as “national” tests, imposing statewide curriculum and reading lists and data mining that would have violated students’ privacy, while avoiding Common Core’s potential reduction in academic rigor.

Legislative and Election Reform
One of Corbett’s budget cuts was also a legislative reform: the elimination of legislators’ “walking around money” they were permitted to use to give out state taxpayers money at their discretion.  At Corbett’s direction, Pennsylvania joined the interstate vote consortium to screen out voters registered in more than one state.   

Welfare and Unemployment Compensation Reform
            Corbett required drug testing for drug felons receiving welfare benefits, more co-payments for certain services, a reduction of some reimbursement rates and established an asset test.  The Corbett Administration cracked down on welfare recipients fraudulently receiving benefits in additional states by cross-checking other states’ welfare rolls with Pennsylvania’s.  Corbett also reformed unemployment compensation, which saved the Commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars, while paying off Pennsylvania’s debt to the federal government.

Environmental Improvement
            Corbett implemented reasonable regulation of the state’s natural gas industry and imposed “impact fees” for pollution mitigation, emergency response and road improvements.  Gas drilling has led to an increase in well-paying jobs and state corporate income taxes, as well as tax revenues for municipalities and earnings for landowners and economic development.  The impact fees alone have generated over $200 million a year for the Commonwealth.

Legal Reforms
            Liberty was expanded by Corbett by establishing the Castle Doctrine, which guarantees the right of Pennsylvanians to use deadly force to defend themselves wherever they are legally allowed to be and signing reciprocity agreements with other States for concealed carry permits.  He implemented tort reform by establishing proportional liability.  The former career prosecutor and Attorney General even implemented prison reform to reduce wasteful spending, such as reducing incarceration of non-violent offenders for technical probation violations for minimal matters.

Health and Safety Improvements
Corbett reduced drug abuse by banning synthetic “bath salts” and eliminating “doctor shopping,” the practice of obtaining prescription drugs from more than one doctor simultaneously, by establishing a statewide drug database.  He also banned texting while driving and improved state safety regulations for students’ concussions.

Transportation Improvements
            A major transportation program was approved by Corbett to fix roads and deficient bridges to eliminate bridge weight restrictions that forced longer routes for trucking goods, as well as increased funds for mass transit, airports and ports.  The improvements were funded by lifting a 1981 cap on gasoline taxes, which essentially adjusts the user fee for inflation while sparing motorists and consumers the increased costs associated with poor roads and bridges. 

Standing up for Federalism 
           In addition to his resistance to the federal imposition of Common Core, Corbett upheld the constitutional principle of federalism by successfully opposed the expansion of Medicaid under the federalization of health insurance, “Obamacare,” which would have cost the Commonwealth many millions of dollars.  Corbett successfully negotiated the Obama Administration’s approval of his Healthy Pennsylvania plan, which includes subsidies for the purchase of private insurance instead of expanding Medicaid, which more and more doctors refuse to accept. The plan includes some co-payments, but with voluntary incentives to reduce those payments for better health practices and for obtaining employment.     

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