PSEA candidate forum — an attempt at live blogging

11:35. Annnnnd the last two closing statements. Thanks for following along — I’ll have a wrap-up story up here later on.

Corbett: Channels Thomas Sowell. “The great divide is not between Republican and Dem, not between women and men. It’s between talkers and doers. If you look at my career, I am a doer.”

Doherty: “If we’ve committed to changing Pennsylvania, then we have to be committed to changing  our cities and towns.”

11:31 More from closing statements:

Knox on pensions: “The only way to provide real security is through a defined benefit plan.”

Hoeffel: “I’m committed to having a town hall meeting in every county every year. I think every resident has a right to wander down to the town hall and yell at the governor.”

11:27: We’re now into closing statements.  Wagner: “If we don’t properly educate our children, if we don’t properly prepare our children for the jobs of the future, we will not have a good economy. We will not have a good commonwealth.”

Onorato: Continuing the funding formula will allow us to continue the progress we’ve made over the last several years.” Says increased state funding also limits reliance on property taxes.

11:23: Wagner — we need to make sure school districts properly funded. State gov needs to take a leadership position “in areas where we’ve never taken a leadership position.” Wants a ban on bonuses in state government, mentions recent stance on school districts dealing in swaps.  “I’ve asked for an elimination of that so local school districts can be sound.”

I had to step out during Hoeffel’s answer to deal with a progressively worsening cold, but heard him say, “I agree with my colleagues — a deal is a deal.”

11:17: Knox: “We’re never going to get taxes increased with a Republican Senate, so we need to find alternative [revenue] sources.” Promotes closing Delaware loophole, taxing natural gas extractions, smokeless tobacco.

11:13: Onorato: Next governor will be faced with three big things. The 3 to 4 billion dollar pension issue, the end of federal stimulus dollars, and the lack of one-time budget fixes. “As county executive I oversee a very large pension fund. None of our pension funds are in trouble. They’re all fully funded or in the 85 percent range. We lived up to the commitment on our side.” State needs to commit to funding system that will sustain “far beyond the next governor’s term.”

11:11: And we’re on to pensions.  Again, not many specifics from Mayor Doherty. He says state “has to follow through on its commitments. … We do have to make annual payments.” Pensions are a trust issue, he says

Corbett gets a big round of applause when he says we often forget “That YOU (educators) came through on your part of the bargain.” Says he doesn’t expect stock market to come back and make up loss between now and 2012, 2013. “We’re going to have to find other sources of income.” “The present system is unsustainable.”

11:06: Nothing strikingly different from Corbett. He’d support early childhood edu funding, wants to improve accountability, etc.

11:03: Hoeffel: “we need mentoring programs, counseling programs, to stop kids from dropping out and reengage kids who did drop out.” Wants more accountability, higher standards, in public schools. “You need a strong principal to support the teachers, support the administration, and fight for the school in the bureaucracy.” Wants to increase state share for public education funding. “38 percent is…too low. National average is 47 percent. We need to get there.” Audience applauds when he says “we need to move off the property tax” as the main source of local education funding.

11:01: Not the greatest picture — I’m in the back of the room and took it with my phone — but here’s a look at the forum:

11:00: Wagner on safety in schools. “We have persistently dangerous schools in PA. The Department of Education needs to take a leadership position on that issue.” On higher ed: wants to make it more affordable. Says PA 45 out of 50 when it comes to cost of higher ed.

10:57: Doherty didn’t give many specifics during his answer. Wagner speaking now. He also praises Governor Rendell’s education efforts.

10:53: Onorato says he’d keep funding early childhood education programs. Says making sure children engaged early helps keep them out of legal trouble when they’re older. “I’m a big supporter of continuing the funding formula. The results show it works.” Mentions federal stimulus as an “upcoming cliff” for education funding. On Keystone Exams: “If I’m governor PSEA has to have a seat at the table for implementation of that exam. You’re in the classroom. You have to make sure you’re working in lock-step with the government side.”

10:49: Knox says Rendell has done a great job improving state funding for education. “That’s going to be his most important legacy. Says he’d make pre-K funding a priority; would continue supporting Head Start and Classrooms for the Future. On PSEA report, agrees with smaller classrooms, expanded special ed funding, among other things.

10:46: Among other issues, Wagner says he’d be committed to putting more women into leadership roles within his administration. “Equal pay for equal work is also important to me.” We’re onto question number two now. Baer asks candidates what they think about PSEA’s new education paper.

10:44 Corbett and Knox both stick to their basic pitches, too. Corbett – PA has lost its bearings. I will fix that through innovation and reform. Knox – I am not a politician. I came from tough background and built myself up.

10:41: Corbett says PA was once a leader, “but in the last few years many states in the union have passed us by.” Says 7 years of late budgets is one example of a lack of accountability. On reform — “nobody knows it better here on this stage.”

10:40 Doherty: We need to invest in education. Most importantly, pre-k. Says he’s committed to towns and cities, and notes the quality of a school district is a key factor people weigh when they decide where to move.

10:38 So far all of the candidates are sticking to their basic sales pitches. Hoeffel is the liberal candidate. Doherty says the success of PA depends on its cities and small towns. Onorato and Wagner both talk up their experience — Onorato turned Pittsburgh around, and Wagner is holding government accountable as PA’s watchdog.

10:37: Onorato starts with what’s clearly going to be the main theme of his campaign.  “I believe we can do for the state what we’ve done for Allegheny County.” Says he’s committed to creating “the best-educated work force in the US.”

10:32: Wagner: “You’re living in cocoon if you don’t think government needs to be reformed.” Says 7 straight late budgets have negatively impacted education. Says he’s done 5,000 audits a year. “I’ve shown thousands of ways to improve PA government in terms of transparency and efficiency.” Mentions recent DPW audit.

10:30: First question is simple. Why do you want to be governor? Hoeffel first. “PA needs a progressive governor.” Says people like Ronald Reagan are wrong to blame government. “Government is the best institution we’ve created to fight discrimination.” Mentions gay marriage as an issue. Later: “We need a governor who actually likes legislators.”  Up next – Jack Wagner.

10:27: Wagner is the last candidate to give an opening statement. “Many of you know me because of my audits of school districts, charter schools, cyber schools….” Says both of his kids went to public school. “My message to young children is it’s never too late to go to college,” he says, telling forum he worked and served in military between high school and college.  Pushes his experience. “I’ve been taking on the tough issues in state government, and all of you know that. Audits that have never been done before. Making government more responsible.”

10:24: Onorato, too, gives a general sales pitch. “We’ve been on the front page of the New York Times five times,” he says, talking up Pittsburgh’s economic recovery. Says President Obama used it as an example of smart urban renewal during September’s G-20. Thanks the friendly folks at PSEA for everything they do.

10:21: Knox: Says he understands importance of education. Notes that he’s a high school dropout, and never went to college. Says he’s self-taught. “Reading is the most important thing in my life. I do a lot of it. I’m incessant about it.” (Note — back when Knox was on the Politics as Usual podcast he told us he “only reads for information,” and never gets to novels. The last book he had read, he said, was Rendell’s budget proposal.) Knox then gets into a general overview of his background and experience.

10:18: Hoeffel begins with a more general opening statement. Talks about infrastructure, transportation efforts he’s pushed as a county commissioner. “I’d like to take that commitment to public service, an active role in government, a willingness to invest in communities, to Harrisburg…” Says “we need fundamental change. I hope to lead that.”

10:15: From Doherty’s opening statement: You want to turn around a state? Educate people. You want people to flourish? Educate them. …If you want to make our state successful, you have to educate and you have to invest in it. ….If we’re going to separate ourselves from other states we need to invest in ourselves…and the first step is education. You invest early in live, you prevent problems at the end…and in middle of life. Mentions crime, drug abuse — says education is a way to counter that.

10:12: Corbett gives the education forum a grade school feel. “Good morning everyone.” (less than enthusiastic response from crowd.) “Come on, we can do better than that!  Good morning!!!!” (A rousing “good morning!” from attendees.)  Talks about importance of communicating with the education community. “You spend more time with our children than parents do. I think government has to understand it works with you in a partnership.” Next up: Doherty.

10:08: The forum is underway. Philly Daily News’ John Baer is moderating. We’ll have opening statements, three rounds of questions, and then closing statements. Baer says candidates got the questions beforehand, so they know what’s coming.

From left to right we’ve got Tom Corbett, Chris Doherty, Joe Hoeffel, Tom Knox, Dan Onorato and Jack Wagner. No Rohrer — will check with his camp later to see why he didn’t show.

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

4 Responses to PSEA candidate forum — an attempt at live blogging

  1. Pingback: Corbett, Doherty, Hoeffel, Knox, Onorato & Wagner make case at PSEA forum… | GrassrootsPA

  2. skatercarol says:

    Very Nice! Thank You For Giving The Voters This Information. I do wonder about Auditor General Wagner after discovering the BASD (Bethlehem Area School District) & PMSD (Pocono Mountain School District) had missing/unaccounted for Laptops….No One Has Ever Been Charged. I do admire his ability to blast any school district who loses school equipment. Maybe it was Attorney General Corbett’s position to make the charges?

  3. Bigtaxtalker says:

    True Tax Reform should be one of the leading issues that the “candidates” Should be talking about. SPTEA will give all Pennsylvanians true tax reform with the total elimination of all School Property Tax on Primary residences and keeping the 2009 levels in place on commercial and industrial real estate Funding will be met by the full expansion of the current 6% sales tax. Only items of necessity, such as food, clothing, Fuel for homes,Health care and Education will be exempt. ONLY ONE CANDIDATE has a plan and has been working on this and many issues for the past four years of his tenure in the house. Sam Rohrer will not take funding from the PSEA and will not cater to special interest. All Corbet and the others do is try to find fault in what Sam stands for. THE PEOPLE are TIRED of old school politics and we’re tired of the games that all the other candidates are playing.. WAKE UP PEOPLE SAM ROHRER FOR GOVERNOR…

  4. Joe Sears says:

    As usual, these candidates tailored their remarks to the audience and its interests. Pennsylvania has fallen behind and will continue its downward slide for many reasons: its hostile business climate (highest net profits tax in the country and dozens of nuisances taxes and fees), its provincialism (here in York County where I live there are 72 municipalities and 16 school districts “serving” a population of 420,000), and a public education system that values athletics and self-esteem over mastery of basic academic skills and critical thinking.

    Districting and dducation financing are an absolute joke. Again, using York County to illustrate: the city school district serves an impoverished demographic and receives more than half of its funding from the state. The combined property tax for city residents is 49.5 mills. That’s like paying a sales tax on your home EVERY YEAR. Thirty-seven percent of its is real estate base is tax exempt, piling even more of a burden on the remaining 63%. PSSAs in the district are horrible by any measure, even in the charter schools which add approximately 7% to the city’s tax rate.

    The 4 surrounding districts, on the other hand, receive only 10-20% of their funding from the state, placing an enormous burden on their residents as well. As “rich” districts, they are expected to cough up the lion’s share of their budgets, year after year, despite the pronouncements by the governor and others that the state is to be commended for its increased commitment of state funds to relieve the burden on local tax payers.

    Local school boards in all 5 of these “metro York” districts continue their free-for-all spending sprees with natatoriumns, artificial turf, new construction where renovation would work fine, and renovation where demolition is the best way to go.

    None of them is held accountable and Atty Gen Corbetts so-called audits are only designed to see if anyone stole money, never addressing whethe the money was spent wisely because that’s “out of scope.”

    Frankly, no one (not the PDE, not the PSEA, not the PSBA, not PASBO) can really undo the damage done by school boards throughout the commonwealth who continue to spend and raise taxes at unsustainable rates while performance stagnates or even declines.

    Sam Rohrer was absent from this meeting due to other commitments. He is the only candidate from either party who gets it. If you want to fix education and property tax at the same time, you fundamentally alter the funding mechanism. Sam’s legislative record over the past 6 years demonstrates his depth of understanding, foundational principles, consistency, and decency.

    For more information and in-depth perspectives from Sam, visit his website at http://www.samrohrer.org or the http://www.PTCC.us (the Pennsylvania Taxpayer Cyber Coalition).

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