Saturday, July 06, 2013

Will Tom Corbett be sunk by his own party?

Will Gov. Tom Corbett be done in by his fellow Republicans in the Pennsylvania Legislature?

The first-term Republican offered an ambitious reform agenda this year as he gears for a re-election bid in 2014, but the permanent political class in Harrisburg is only interested in maintaining the status quo, not making the lives of Pennsylvania residents any easier.

No pension reform, no liquor privatization, no transportation funding, no property tax reform. That's what Pennsylvania taxpayers got from their $300 million legislature, which adjourned for a three-month summer vacation without action on any of the priorities pushed by Corbett or the perennial issue of school property tax elimination.

Corbett came to the governor's mansion after two terms as Pennsylvania attorney general, but many political observers doubted Corbett's political acumen. He simply doesn't know how to wheel-and-deal with legislators and hasn't figured out that public relations is a big part of being governor. Corbett's job approval numbers have been low from the start and he has done little to improve his image with Pennsylvania voters. (Liberal media bias among the Harrisburg press corps does have something to do with Corbett's inability to get his message across, but he deserves some of the blame because there are many avenues to reach the public besides the Harrisburg press corps.)

Corbett needs to emulate his predecessor, Democrat Ed Rendell (aka "Fast Eddie"), who managed to get most of his agenda passed in the Legislature even though Republicans controlled both chambers for most of Rendel's eight years in office. Remember the legalization of casino gambling and passage of the second largest income tax hike in state history? Rendell made enough deals with Republicans to get both bills passed. Corbett doesn't want to play politics, so he's suffering for it.

Rendell was a master at PR and enjoyed high approval numbers despite a checkered record, which included leaving office with a $4 billion deficit. Rendell also had the dubious distinction of eight consecutive late budgets. On the other hand, Corbett has delivered three straight balanced budgets on time without a tax increase.

Corbett can't or won't cajole members of his own party to get his agenda moving in the legislature. He doesn't seem to grasp that legislative leaders are entrenched in gerrymandered districts and will remain in Harrisburg long after Corbett's tenure is up. They control the agenda, not the governor. He needs them. They don't need him.  And time is running out for Corbett. There's already a half-dozen Democrats lining up to challenge him next year.

Read more about the governor's inability to get any major initiatives passed in the Republican-controlled state legislature at PA Independent.

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