Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett, Trailing in Polls, Says He Will “Force Action” on Pension Reform

Tom Corbett

There’s less than two months until Pennsylvania residents will decide who becomes their next governor, and incumbent Tom Corbett finds himself trailing in polls by 15 points to Democratic challenger Tom Wolf.

Pension reform has been a central facet of Corbett’s campaign, and he doubled down on that stance Wednesday when he said he would “force action” on pension reform if he is re-elected. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“If I don’t get reelected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem,” Corbett said.

If he wins a second term, Corbett said, he would call a special session of the legislature early next year to force action on pensions, including for municipal workers. He said Scranton is distressed because of unaffordable pension obligations and predicted some school districts in Pennsylvania will come “doggone close to bankruptcy” without a solution.

Pension360 has previously covered polling data suggesting Pennsylvania voters are much less engaged on pension issues than they are on other topics, such as education. Corbett acknowledged as much on Wednesday in a chat with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board:

In the governor’s view, he is hurting politically because he has taken on issues “no one else will touch.” He mentioned his efforts to cut future pension costs, to end the system of state-controlled liquor stores, and to privatize management of the state lottery. The legislature, controlled by fellow Republicans, has stymied Corbett on all three priorities.

“If I had been looking toward reelection, do you think I would have taken on pensions, when all it does is get everyone upset?” Corbett asked. He added that he hoped voters would give him credit for trying.

Tom Wolf does not support Tom Corbett’s pension reform plan. In a statement Wednesday night, a Wolf spokesman characterized Corbett’s plan as “kicking the can down the road”.

The Difference Between Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf on Pensions

Tom Corbett

Despite a lack of voter engagement on the issue, pension policy continues to play a large role in the Pennsylvania race for governor.

The candidates harbor very different views on how to handle the state’s pension system going forward, but the Associated Press did the service of clarifying where both candidates stand on the state’s pension issues:


-Corbett says the burgeoning cost of Pennsylvania’s public pensions is a crisis that requires prompt, decisive action. Wolf argues that it’s a problem that can be resolved in the years ahead.

-Corbett wants to scale back pensions for future school and state employees as a meaningful step toward savings. He says the taxpayers’ share of the pension costs for current employees — $2.1 billion this year — is crowding out funding for other programs and helping drive up local property taxes.

-Wolf contends that the pension problems are partly the result of the state contributing less than its fair share of the costs for nearly a decade and that a 2010 law reducing pension promises to future employees and refinancing existing obligations needs more time to work.

Read the rest of the article for further clarity on where each candidate stands when it comes to taxes, education funding, and more.

Pennsylvania Pension Reform Not Likely As Election Draws Closer

Governor Tom Corbett

The election for Pennsylvania governor draws closer, but pension reform seems farther away than ever.

Gov. Tom Corbett has made pension reform his campaign cry. But he remains down in the polls as the urgency to pass pension reform dwindles around him—both from inside and outside the capitol. ABC 27 reports:

A typical late-August day and all is quiet at the Capitol.

But this silence is not golden for a governor who has criss-crossed the state begging/cajoling/shaming/pleading with lawmakers to give him pension reform.

“We have a bill out there right now that I want the legislature to come back and finish,” Governor Tom Corbett said a week after the legislative exodus in early July.

The governor has poster boards calling pensions a $50 billion problem that will burden future generations of Pennsylvanians.

There is disagreement among lawmakers on how to fix pensions and disagreement as to whether there’s even a problem.

“The word crisis is being used for ideological reasons, not any mathematical reasons,” insists Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin).

Teplitz, and most Democrats, believe the problem was created by the state failing, for years, to pay what it owed toward pensions and now it’s time to pay the consequences and pay up.

“It does feel more painful,” Teplitz said. “But just like any family that delays making its credit card payment, sooner or later you gotta make that payment.”

There’s no urgency among lawmakers because there’s not urgency among voters, said one pollster. Education funding is on the mind of the electorate, not pension reform. From the Philadelphia Daily News:

[Pollster Terry] Madonna said that for voters the pension-funding increase is “not something they relate to,” while Pennsylvania school districts raise local property taxes, lay off staff and curtail programs.

Other high-level observers agree that voters aren’t as engaged on pension issues. From ABC 27:

“It’s something that the public still hasn’t been able to get its arms around,” said Lowman Henry, a conservative commentator with the Lincoln Institute. “As a result, you’re not seeing that type of collective pressure on lawmakers that is going to push them to make what are very difficult decisions in an election year.”

The latest poll shows Corbett trailing his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, by 25 points. Wolf currently holds 49 percent of the vote, while Corbett holds 24 percent. Twenty-five percent of voters remain undecided.

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