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It's Friday so it's time for another diary highlighting how awful Governor Tom Corbett (R. PA) is.  Corbett's been having a pretty lousy week, especially with this news:

Michael D’Arcy at Moody’s blamed Pennsylvania’s elimination of subsidies to districts that lost students to charter schools, and school funding cuts (by Gov. Corbett and the General Assembly), for the schools’ “financial turmoil.”

Mayor Nutter’s loan offer “is unprecedented,” D’Arcy added.

“Typically, more senior levels of government, such as the state, assume such a role,” D’Arcy added. - Keystone Politics, 8/22/13

Not only that, Salon released an article giving us the ugly details about Corbett's draconian education cuts:

The pattern has become clear: defund the schools, precipitate a crisis and use that as an excuse to further attack the schools, pushing them closer and closer to a point of no return. The $50 million to open the schools this year is just the latest and most immediate example of three years of brinkmanship.

The district was hit with a double whammy in 2011, when stimulus funds that it had idiotically been using for operating expenses dried up, and incoming Gov. Tom Corbett took office eager to prove his reactionary bona fides by enacting massive budget cuts to public education to the tune of $1 billion statewide, disproportionately hitting Philadelphia. The result was an absurd $629 million shortfall, which was filled by a mix of cuts and city tax hikes.

Last year, the district took out a $300 million bond to patch another big deficit, the very definition of a band-aid fix as it only added to what is now $280 million in annual debt payments.

This round of budget hysteria kicked off in May when the superintendent announced that the district was another $304 million in the hole for the upcoming school year and requested extra funding from the city and state as well as givebacks from the teachers union to fill the gap.

To prepare, he laid off nearly 4,000 teachers and staff members, and closed 24 schools, after the district had shut eight the year before. Empty buildings and mass layoffs — the perfect image of 21st century education.

The city and state came up with a Rube Goldberg device of funding worth about $140 million, composed of repurposed federal funds, better city tax collections, borrowing against future city taxes and a whopping $2 million thrown in by the state beyond what it had already committed.

Most of even that inadequate amount hasn’t arrived yet as the state sits on $45 million in federal money it refuses to disperse until the teachers agree to enormous salary cuts and rollback of other benefits and city officials bicker among themselves on how to deliver the money they promised.

It’s still unclear what, if anything, will be kicked in by the teachers, who already make disproportionately less money than their suburban counterparts while teaching in much more challenging environments. Their contracts expire at the end of the month. - Salon, 8/19/13

Parents and teachers have been speaking out:

Parents and students are trying to push back, but may ultimately have little traction. Thousands of students led by the Philadelphia Student Union walked out last spring to protest the doomsday budget, to no avail. Now, with the stark projections of May becoming reality in August, members are canvassing the streets to rally support. “I’m just doing it for my school because it’s the right thing to do,” one student told a local television station. “We are going to need counselors. Without counselors, it’s going to be hard to get into college.” The group is considering boycotting school entirely if the district doesn’t get the money it needs.

“It’s indescribably insane,” says Helen Gym of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Schools, who has three children in the public school system. “It’s unbelievable that it’s come to this.” The group  put out a statement Thursday reemphasizing that $50 million was far from enough to have effective schools.

“I don’t send my child to go to a shell of a building, I send my child to get an education,” Gym says. “They can’t do that with $50 million.”

The district got its $50 million, though, and will get more in dribbles and drips. That will barely, not really, suffice for inadequate schooling this year. Next year, stay tuned for a repeat. Barring an unforeseen economic renaissance in the city or thorough overhaul of the state executive and legislative branches, the district is poised for year after year of one crisis after another.

Parents and teachers are all too aware of what’s happening. “Tom Corbett, the weakest governor in the United States, is trying to stake his claim on completely dismantling and starving one of the nation’s largest school districts into dysfunction and collapse,” says Gym. - AlterNet, 8/22/13

And Pennsylvania Democrats like State Rep Brian Sims (D) have been hounding Corbett to get serious about properly funding the Philadelphia's public schools:

By blaming Philadelphia for its financial woes, Governor Corbett fails to acknowledge certain truths that have led Philadelphia into a cycle of having to beg for money year after year. Governor Corbett and his right-wing Republican allies in the legislature fail to remember that Harrisburg took control of Philadelphia Schools in 2002. After years of fiscal instability, the state wrested control of the District from the city and pledged to get the District back onto sound fiscal footing. As a recent article notes: "in a diabolical example of circular logic, the state argues that the red ink it imposed, and shoddy management it oversees, are proof that the district can't manage its finances or its mission and therefore shouldn't get more money." The state controls Philadelphia schools, refuses to properly fund them, then blames the city for the lack of funding and alleged mismanagement. Am I missing something here?

At the beginning of the state budget debate in June of this year, Philadelphia's Superintendent Dr. William Hite reported that the District faced a $304 million shortfall based on the money allocated by the state and federal governments. After the District imposed a massive layoff of teachers, assistants, nurses, vice-principals, and aides, negotiations between federal, state, and city officials resulted in a package of $140 million in additional funding for the City of Philadelphia, with the state kicking in a dismal sum of just $16 million. The rest would be made up of a hodgepodge of federal funding and increased funding from the city. Once again, Governor Corbett told Philadelphia: your schools are your problem.

Though increased federal spending on education is a necessity, the real problems lay at the state level. It's not just Philadelphia that is suffering due to these cuts. School Districts across Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County, Harrisburg, and others are on the brink of disaster due to budget cuts. Pennsylvania is just one of three states that do not use a funding formula to appropriately distribute funds among its numerous school districts. Further, the proportion of funding for public education contributed by the state is among the lowest in the nation. In Philadelphia, 83% of children go to underfunded schools. This is not only an embarrassment, but a tragedy of epidemic proportions that will impact the city and state for generations to come.

You don't have to be a statistician to see where Pennsylvania has prioritized the money we do have to spend. While our students suffer and schools are shuttered, Governor Corbett has ordered the construction of a new $400 million prison complex just outside the city. Further, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center estimates that Pennsylvania gives away nearly $3 billion annually in corporate tax cuts.

The lack of proper funding for education is not an issue of "poor finances," as Governor Corbett has claimed. It is an issue of poor priorities. So long as Governor Corbett continues to prioritize outside corporations over Pennsylvania's public education system, we'll continue to face this same funding crisis year after year. - State Rep. Brian Sims (D. PA), Huffington Post, 8/20/13

Here's the other big story this week regarding Corbett:

A few months ago, the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA) among the “Worst Governors in America” claiming he “turned Pennsylvania’s state government into a favor mill for campaign supporters.” This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Corbett has appointed one such supporter — Tea Party operative Ana Puig to be legislative liaison for his Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Puig first rose to political prominence after President Obama’s inauguration as an activist in the Tea Party movement. Speaking at numerous rallies, she became co-chair of and registered lobbyist for a local group called the Kitchen Table Patriots. At a 2009 rally, she argued that Obama was a Communist, in the mold of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Citing her own experience, as a native of Brazil, she warned of the “direct correlation between what’s happening in the United States and what has happened in Brazil and Latin America — the implementation of 21st Century Marxism. In other words, a camouflaged statement for Communism.” She went on to claim that “21st Century Marxism” would be implemented after “a liberal or progressive candidate [like Obama] is introduced to the masses as the messiah that is going to fix all problems imposed to them by evil capitalists.”

According to Keystone Politics, she defended Nazi memorabilia enthusiast in her organization as “a historian” and “an extremely smart person,” featured a blog promoting birther conspiracy theories and identifying the president as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood on her group’s website, and promoted events warning of the creeping threat of Sharia law in the United States. She was later named Pennsylvania Field Coordinator for FreedomWorks, the right-wing astroturfing group then-run nationally by former U.S. House Majority LeaderDick Armey (R-TX). - Think Progress, 8/20/13

Puig also agreed with comments that American liberals are “in alliance with radical Islam,” and called for her removal from his education committee.  The anti-tax activist is earning a government salary of $68,245 annually for Pennsylvania’s tax collection agency.  You can witness the insanity that is Ana Puig here:

And do you remember back in April when Corbett said that unemployment is still high in Pennsylvania because the unemployed are on drugs?  If you don't here's the clip:

Well that story made the news again this week:

For a politician, probably the only thing worse than making a public gaffe is making a public gaffe on a radio show when your staff has seen the questions in advance.

But that appears to be exactly what happened April 29 to Gov. Tom Corbett.

That day, Corbett was making his monthly appearance on "Ask The Governor," a monthly show produced by Radio PA, a for-profit branch of WITF-FM, the national public radio station in Harrisburg.

The show provides a platform for the governor to discuss political issues and answer questions lobbed by a pair of hosts.

As part of the show, listeners can email questions, some of which are selected by the hosts and included in the show.

During the April 29 edition, Corbett was asked to address the state's stubbornly low job growth.

After pointing out more people than ever are working in Pennsylvania and attributing slow job growth to a variety of economic factors, Corbett said part of the problem was drug use by Pennsylvanians.

"There are many employers that say, 'We are looking for people, but we can't find anybody who has passed a drug test,'" he said. - Pocono Record, 8/19/13

By the way, Pennsylvania Republicans aren't doing Corbett any favors in the press either:

"Contrary to popular opinion, poverty is not confined to one region of the state. And it is not confined to one demographic," said Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana, announcing his initiative last month in the Capitol.

Mr. Reed, who chairs the GOP-controlled House Majority Policy Committee, said he aims to assess government's role in fighting poverty, and intends to cross the state to learn what poverty looks like in urban, suburban and rural settings.

He'll be in Pittsburgh this month.

Mr. Reed will have to battle the perception that his party has a harsher approach when dealing with the poor: Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration has cut funding for adultBasic, a health care program for low-income Pennsylvanians; has instituted an asset test for anyone applying for food stamp benefits; has cut funding for human services statewide by 10 percent; and has been reluctant to expand Medicaid, which would benefit low-income adults.

Mr. Reed was behind a package of eight bills -- titled "WelFAIR" and introduced in 2011 -- that aimed to cross-reference welfare applicants through 19 different databases to confirm eligibility, enact photo identification cards, strengthen penalties for fraud and turn a program that aimed to help people transition from welfare to work into a loan recipients would have to pay back.

He promoted the legislation as aimed at weeding out fraud, but critics at the time said it would further stigmatize people receiving public assistance and create unnecessary barriers in an already complex application process. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/19/13

Oh and Corbett is still trying to make this happen:

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reported revenue near $2.2 billion for fiscal year 2012-2013, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year. In addition, contributions to various state agencies and the general fund exceeded a record-setting $660 million dollars.

Still, this news doesn’t sway Gov. Tom Corbett, who remains a proponent of privatizing the state’s liquor system.

“We proposed a plan that was revenue neutral,” said Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk, “so it would have brought in just as much, if not more money, and on top of that our plan would have brought in a billion dollars over the next four years that we proposed to use toward education.”

A plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), and supported by Corbett, calls for the state to close its more than 600 Wine & Spirits Stores and then issue 1,600 licenses to sell wine and distilled spirits.

Beer distributors would be given first crack at purchasing the licenses. The remainder would be sold to the highest bidders. That plan failed to gain any Democratic support. Still, Republicans are not giving up on the effort. - 90.5 WESA, 8/19/13

There's also this:

1.8 million in people in Pennsylvania will have their food stamp benefits cut in November when cuts made by the Obama administration and Congress take effect. Another 112,215 families have been completely denied benefits since an asset test was implemented in May 2012.

In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett instituted an asset test for people to receive food stamps. Under the plan a family is not allowed to have more than $5,500 in total assets in order to qualify. A house, retirement plans and one car are not counted, but any savings and other assets are, including 401ks, personal items such as TVs, computers and jewelry and a second car. For persons over 60 the cut-off point is $9,000.

In the first year, over 111,215 families were denied benefits—4,000 because their assets exceeded this ridiculously low amount, but the other 107,000 families because they couldn’t provide the proper paperwork to substantiate their wealth.

The assets requirement has also added a massive amount of work to already overburdened case and social workers who assist those in need.

The November cuts are part of a $5 billion national reduction in food stamps carried out by the Obama administration and Congress. Pennsylvania’s program will be cut by $183 million. - World Socialist Web Site, 8/17/13

And Corbett is still being a dick about this:

A county clerk defended his decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses in a legal brief Monday that calls Pennsylvania's marriage law "arbitrary and suspect."

About 135 same-sex couples have obtained marriage licenses in Montgomery County since Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes decided to issue them last month.

Hanes, a Democrat, argues that Pennsylvania's one-man, one-woman marriage law violates both the state and federal constitutions. He also cites the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"Pennsylvania's DOMA statute is arbitrary and suspect, and is very similar to the statute which was struck down (by the U.S. Supreme Court)," Hanes said in the brief, filed by the Montgomery County Solicitor's Office.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's administration, through the Health Department, has gone to Commonwealth Court to stop Hanes from issuing the same-sex marriage licenses. The department has argued that Hanes' actions could cause serious harm.

"There is no limit to the administrative and legal chaos that is likely to flow from the clerk's unlawful practice," the administration's lawyers wrote. - Huffington Post, 8/19/13

With all of this going on, it's no wonder Corbett is expected to lose next year.  But will Corbett take his party down with him?  The PA GOP may have one advantage:

The dynamics of reapportionment could come into play to help GOP candidates weather the storm, said G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D., who conducts the Franklin & Marshall poll.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission was created in 1971 to redraw boundaries for state House and Senate district based on population shifts in the 1970 census. In the decades since, the commission dominated by lawmakers has tended to follow the preceding election results in terms of giving one party a registration advantage in districts.

The 2010 election was a blowout for Republicans in Pennsylvania.

Even though the state Supreme Court last year forced the commission to amend its original plan to lessen the number of split municipalities, the plan taking effect in 2014 is still seen as advantageous to GOP candidates. - Citizens Voice, 8/18/13

That could help but Corbett and his party would also need a reboot for next year and it might be too little too late:

Gov. Tom Corbett executed his own version of rebooting this week by making personnel changes to some of his top staff.

But rather than delivering the political equivalent of guaranteed box office success, the move probably left some of his closest advisers wondering: “What if the governor had done it more than a year ago?”

That's when his so-called kitchen cabinet implored him to make substantive changes to his staff, the way he politicks, and the way he delivers his message to voters.

Some staff changes occurred, and Corbett did ratchet up his messaging, but by most accounts, the governor listened to his kitchen cabinet, but didn't hear them.

Steve Aichele arrived as chief of staff 2.0, and the governor set out on an impressive campaign to sell his big three agenda of liquor privatization, transportation funding, and reform of state workers' pension system.

But he also staggered through 15 months of flubs, ineffective legislative negotiations, and an image problem so challenging that the one-time grade school teacher continues to be perceived as anti-education because of his frugal budgets. - The Patriot-News, 8/15/13

2014 couldn't get here any sooner.  Meanwhile, on Team Blue, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D. PA-13) the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, has been out proving her electability to Pennsylvania Democrats:

The campaign’s survey of likely primary voters found Schwartz leading opponents Kathleen McGinty, a former Department of Environmental Protection secretary, and businessman Tom Wolf, as well as state Treasurer Rob McCord.

It found Schwartz receiving 34 percent of the vote, with McGinty at 15 percent, Wolf at 11 percent and McCord at 10 percent, according to a memo describing the results. With the primary contest not until next year, the poll found 30 percent of likely primary voters (48 percent in the Pittsburgh region) undecided.

While she strongly led the Philadelphia region -- with 61 percent, compared to 9 percent for McGinty and 6 percent for the other two -- Schwartz also came out on top in the Pittsburgh region, though the area’s high proportion of undecided voters meant she could do it with 15 percent, compared to McGinty’s 14 percent.

The survey, by Benenson Strategy Group, which polled for Kathleen Kane in 2012, tried to gauge how preferences would shift as voters learn more about the candidates by sharing with respondents a “positive profile” of each candidate. The campaign declined to share the profiles, though pollster Pete Brodnitz of Benenson Strategy said they tried to use language the other candidates use about themselves.

After hearing those profiles, the poll showed Schwartz’s share increase to 46 percent, compared to 17 percent for Wolf, 14 percent for McCord and 11 percent for McGinty.

“Nothing is set in stone, but everything I think points in the same direction, which is that she starts off with an advantage, and when the campaign unfolds her advantage should increase, not decrease,” Brodnitz said.

The primary poll was based on 800 interviews with likely 2014 Democratic primary voters from July 16 to 18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.46 percent, according to a memo from Benenson Strategy group. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 8/21/13

I can understand why Schwartz, who is a Philadelphia-based Congresswoman, would release her internal polling to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Pittsburgh is a very heavy Democratic strong hold and being that Corbett hails from Western Pennsylvania, Schwartz will need to mobilize Democratic support in both sides of the state.  Especially with failed Pittsburgh mayor candidate Jack Wagner (D) entering an already crowded primary.  The other thing that stands out in this poll is she addresses the abortion issue which has had some Democrats worried about it would effect her in the general election:

The polling, by Benenson Strategy Group, also tackled Schwartz’s record on abortion. Before her career in politics, she operated a women’s health clinic in Philadelphia that provided abortions, and has been a leading proponent of abortion rights in the state Senate and Congress.

Bottom line: 51 percent of registered voters said they preferred a characterization of Schwartz’s position on abortion, to 33 percent who agreed with the opposing position attributed to Corbett.

“The question does come up,” pollster Pete Brodnitz told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “It is something we’ve looked at internally to make sure we’re not fooling ourselves.”

Pollsters said “supporters of Tom Corbett say” that Schwartz ran an abortion clinic, opposed parental notification law and backed a former of late term abortion (known as the “partial birth” procedure by opponents).

The questioning characterized Schwartz “helped found the non-profit Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center to provide access to high-quality affordable health care. While the center did provide legal abortion services, Schwartz’s goal was to reduce the number of abortions by helping women get access to better health care and contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies.”

The latter provides a roadmap for the Schwartz campaign’s messaging on the issue. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/23/13

And here's something very important to take away from Schwartz's polling:

File photo of Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) taken on on February 6, 2013 during an event unveiling a planned SGR fix with Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) and a panel of medical groups. Schwartz announced her intention to run for Governor of Pennsylvania today. John Shinkle/POLITICO
Schwartz also drew favorable reaction from 56 percent of white Catholic voters, while 29 percent of the same demographic favored Corbett supporters, according to the survey findings. - The Patriot-News, 8/21/13
Schwartz also drew favorable reaction from 56 percent of white Catholic voters, while 29 percent of the same demographic favored Corbett supporters, according to the survey findings.

And of course Schwartz's polling still shows her beating Corbett by a good margin:

The general election poll showed Schwartz leading Corbett 49% to 41%.

It was conducted more recently, from August 6 to 8. It included 600 likely general election voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

As with any internal polls, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. Schwartz’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests by PoliticsPA to see the polls. The information released to the Post-Gazette appears to have been only a polling memo. Pollsters often craft two memoranda about a survey: one for the public, that plays up the favorable results of the poll; and one for the campaign, which paints a more nuanced picture. - Politics PA, 8/21/13

I'm looking at the other candidates in the primary as well but I am still convinced that Schwartz is the strongest candidate to take out Corbett.  She already has a big war chest and has been campaigning pretty hard.  She's been hitting Corbett on his education cuts, his handling of Pennsylvania's economy and his ongoing War On Women and efforts to suppress the vote.  I'm from Western PA (represent the 412!) but I think the nominee should be from the Philly area.  Corbett was born in Philly but raised in Western PA.  Since Philly students and teachers have some of Corbett's biggest victims, having someone who knows how to get out the vote not only in Philadelphia but also the suburbs will be helpful.  Schwartz can do that and I appreciate her efforts to win over Pittsburgh Democrats.  Not to mention Corbett polls the worst with female voters and having a strong woman like Schwartz on the ticket could be very beneficial for GOTV efforts.  Pennsylvanians would have the chance to make history next year by making Schwartz the first female Governor.  If you would like to get involved or donate to her campaign, you can do so here:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 02:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women, Pittsburgh Area Kossacks, Kossacks for Marriage Equality, Philly Kos, LGBT Kos Community, Youth Kos 2.0, DKos Pennsylvania, In Support of Labor and Unions, and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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