In Governor Vaginal Probe’s endorsement video for Governor Close Your Eye’s reelection campaign, Texas Governor Rick Perry continued to parrot Governor Tom Corbett’s talking points on balanced budgets, reducing billion dollar deficits, creating 150,000 private sector jobs and making Pennsylvania the second largest energy producer in the United States. While some of these claims seem to be true on their face, Governor Perry does a Texas two step around Governor Corbett’s gubernatorial record.
The first claim that Governor Rick Perry made in the video was that Governor Corbett “restored fiscal responsibility to government and eliminated billion dollar deficits.” Did Governor Corbett reduce the “budget deficit” in 2011 when he took office? Yes he did. The governor reduced a $4.2 billion deficit through gutting public education and higher education, over a billion when combined, by cutting corporate taxes and without increasing any revenue sources. At the time, ThinkProgress reported:
When it came time to fix his state’s $4 billion budget deficit, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) steadfastly refused to raise new revenues, even through a tax on natural gas extraction, despite the fact that Pennsylvania is the only major gas producer that does not tax its use.
But that doesn’t tell the whole entire story. Earlier this year, Charles Zogby, Governor Corbett’s budget secretary, went on the record stating that Pennsylvania would have a $20 million surplus, but since Governor Corbett’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, those surplus projections have fallen off the cliff. Badly. In May, the Allentown Morning Call reported that the deficit would hit $569 million. Then a month later, the Allentown Morning Call reported that the budget deficit is at $612 million, and could balloon to 1.3 billion or higher within a year. On Twitter, Senator President Dominic Pileggi stated “fiscal year-to-day General Fund revenue collections are $532.5 million (2.0%) below estimate” and “general fund revenue collections for May were $108 million (5.5%) below estimate.”
In the Patriot News, Republican State Senator Pat Vance stated “the fact that we have such a deficit going into it makes it that much more difficult,” and the newspaper went on to say:
She was referring to the nearly $1.4 billion revenue shortfall for next year that the state is facing and the hefty policy issues to address it, such as pension reform and liquor reform, that are expected to be part of the budget discussions that begin in earnest next week.
Governor Perry’s second claim breaks down into two parts: Governor Corbett “created a business friendly environment,” and this business friendly environment “has allowed the private sector to create 150,000 jobs.” The first part of this claim is obvious. Governor Perry is reminding everyone that Governor Corbett has cut business taxes by billions of dollars. When you cut revenues by billions of dollars without levying taxes on businesses or other sectors, these handouts to big wealthy donors will put a state into a $1.3 billion deficit, which is happening right now in Pennsylvania. The Washington Post reports:
Corbett backed cuts to the state’s capital stock and franchise tax that cost the state almost $600 million a year.
The state also made changes to its bank shares tax, which, though billed as revenue-neutral, has cost about $25 million. That’s a small amount on its face, but over time, that money adds up. All told, Corbett has signed legislation cutting taxes on businesses by about $1.2 billion since taking office.
Throughout the primary season, Governor Corbett has used “150,000” jobs claim on multiple occasions. The first time Governor Corbett used this claim, he used the the jobs claim with the term “private sector jobs.” Factcheck.Org reports:
Corbett radio ad: Finally, Tom Corbett. He’s saved us over a billion in taxes, reduced the size of state government to its lowest in 50 years, eliminated $43 million in state cars and created 150,000 new private sector jobs. Game. Set. Match.
Then when attacking Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf on his jobs claim, Governor Corbett dropped the term “private sector jobs” for “new jobs.” The ad states:
Fortunately Tom Corbett came along and cleaned up Wolf’s mess. Corbett lowered taxes and created 150,00 new jobs.
Again, FactCheck.org points out that the Governor’s reelection campaign was referring to the 150,000 total private sector jobs claim that appeared in Governor Corbett’s earlier radio ad. This time, that claim was buried the press release’s bibliography. Fact check goes on to explain that:
The ad itself, however, doesn’t make that distinction, leaving viewers with the false impression that Pennsylvania has added 150,000 jobs, when it actually has added only 94,000.
The only workers directly under Corbett’s control are state workers and, during his tenure, Pennsylvania has shed 5,400 state jobs.
Moving forward to the Rick Perry endorsement video, Governor Corbett is being praised for creating “150,000 private sector jobs,” which was the claim the Corbett Campaign made in their original radio ad. As noted above, Governor Corbett then moved away from touting his actual jobs claims, which is 50,000 fewer than what he and his surrogates have been claiming in radio, television and web ads. One group of public sector employees that have been hit the hardest in the Governor’s short tenure have been school teachers. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center reports that the $841 million cut to public education and the refusal to restore those cuts in the 2012 and 2013 budget has resulted in the loss of 20,000 teachers.
The last claim that Governor Perry made in his endorsement video was that Governor Corbett has “made Pennsylvania a leader in the energy industry,” and “helped position Pennsylvania as the second biggest producer of natural gas in the country.” Governor Perry’s claim that Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producer in the country is true. In 2012, the United States Energy Information Agency had Pennsylvania as the third largest natural gas producer, and reported “that continued Marcellus production may result in Pennsylvania becoming the second-largest producer in 2013.”
What Governor Perry, or Governor Corbett, won’t address is how Pennsylvania became the second largest natural gas producer, who has headed key environmental agencies under Governor Corbett’s tenure, and the lax enforcement from these environmental agencies.
When it comes to taxing Marcellus and Utica Shale production, Pennsylvania is the only energy producing state that does not have a drillers tax. Instead, Pennsylvania created an “impact fee” system where generated revenue only goes to the municipalities where a natural gas pad is located. Most energy producing states have a drillers tax between 5 and 8 percent, like Rick Perry’s state of Texas. Pennsylvania citizens are losing money from the impact fee because that money isn’t designated to the General Fund. In 2013, Pennsylvania collected $200 million from impact fees, whereas a 5 percent drillers tax would raise $425 million in it’s first year. According to State Senator Vincent Hughes, who is working on a severance tax legislation, a 5 percent drillers tax would $720 million in 2014 and 2015.
When it comes to regulating the Marcellus Shale Industry, Governor Corbett, a documented climate change denier, has nominated a former coal company owner to head the Pennsylvania Department Community and Economic Development and appointed two climate change deniers to head the Department of Environmental Protection. C. Allan Walker, who was nominated and appointed to Pennsylvania’s DCED, is a former coal company owner and Propublica reported that Walker’s business has “at least 15 cases in which Walker’s businesses polluted the state’s waterways.” Walker was also a wealthy contributor to Corbett, who donated at least $184,000 to Governor Corbett’s political career. When Walker took the position at the DCED, Governor Corbett granted the former coal company owner “authority to expedite and influence permits at any state agency, including the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates drilling in the Marcellus Shale, one of the nation’s most important natural gas fields.” The first climate change denier Governor Corbett appointed at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for regulating the natural gas industry, was Michael Krancer, more on him later. In February 2013, House Representative Greg Vitali pressured Krancer on his views on climate change in a House budget hearing. During the hearing, Vitali presented Krancer with a statement from the National Academy of Science report that stated:
Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for–and in many cases is already affecting–a broad range of human and natural systems.
Krancer responded with “It’s a compound statement” and “I’d have to study it and look at it myself.” After Krancer stepped down as DEP secretary, Governor Corbett nominated his second climate denier to head the agency. In December 2013, Governor Corbett nominated Christopher Abruzzo, who had no previous experience in the environmental field, to run the Department of Environmental protection, and during his senate confirmation hearing, State Senator Daylin Leach asked Abruzzo about his views on climate change. Abruzzo told the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee “I’ve not read any scientific studies that would lead me to conclude there are adverse impacts to human beings, animals, or plant life at this small level of climate change.” Leach called the statement mindblowing.
From the beginning of his tenure with the Department of Environmental Protection, Michael Krancer was seen as someone who protected the natural gas industry rather than someone who regulated the industry. Months into Corbett’s term, Michael Krancer changed how the DEP cited violations at Marcellus Shale well pads. In March 2011, the Pennsylvania DEP required all field inspectors and regional directors to seek approval from Michael Krancer office before issuing violations against natural gas companies. At the time, the DEP claimed that this was a temporary policy that would only last three months, but two months later, the DEP killed the policy. A few months later, Krancer penned a letter to the United States Congress asking them to keep coal ash regulated as municipal wasted when the Environmental Protection Agency was looking at classifying at as hazardous waste. Coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste. Keystone Politics has a list of Michael Krancer’s greatest hits, but one of his shining moments came when it was revealed that the Pennsylvania DEP was using outdated water testing methods when it came to regulating the natural gas industry. In January 2013, months before his resignation, Shale Reporter reported that Krancer’s DEP was using outdated water testing methods when it came to testing drinking water near fracking pads. The outdated codes that were used for these testing methods covered 22 fewer chemicals than other DEP testing codes. These outdated codes were used 300 times, another was used 210 times while up to date codes weren’t used at all.
As Clean Water Action noted after Krancer’s resignation, 90 percent of all Marcellus Shale companies cited for violations in 2011 did not receive a fine. This is how Pennsylvania became an energy leader. Governor Corbett was fortunate to govern a state that sat upon a large deposit of natural resources and when it came to extracting those resources, the governor placed former coal executives and climate denying lobbyists to expedite drilling permits and allow the natural gas industry to run rampant across the Commonwealth.
Governor Perry’s Texas two-step around Governor Corbett’s record is simple. Put up claims for a 30 second advertising spot and hope no one will remember what has happened over the past three years. Governor Corbett is heading into an election year with a $1.4 billion deficit while he is campaigning on balancing budgets and wiping out deficits. At the same time, he is having surrogates proclaim that creating a business friendly environment is good for the Commonwealth while $1.2 billion in corporate tax breaks has caused this deficit and the whitewashing of Pennsylvania’s rise as an energy leader can be debunked when looking at how the natural gas industry has been treated and who has been in charge of enforcing that industry.