Republican State Committee Forum=

Good evening. It’s not the Olympic Opening Ceremonies — but Pennsylvania’s Republican State Committee meets tonight and tomorrow to endorse candidates in this spring’s statewide primaries. Gubernatorial and Senate candidates will participate in a forum tonight, and I’ll be live-blogging the events.


8:19 Not too many details about that reform plan from Corbett. He says he’ll fill in the specifics later, but then spoke broadly about making lawmakers accountable for the line-item details of their per-diems.  Both Corbett and Rohrer said Pennsylvania shouldn’t have accepted federal stimulus dollars — though Corbett acknowledged that, in reality, Pennsylvania didn’t really have much say in the matter.

Rohrer knocked Corbett a bit for suggesting CareerLink should be expanded, saying the state doesn’t need any new programs.

From the “a bit off-message” department, State GOP Executive Director Luke Bernstein brushed reporters away from Corbett after two questions, saying something along the lines of, “people paid money to eat dinner with the Attorney General.”

7:52 And…that’s it! A short debate. Off to question the candidates. More updates to come.

7:52 Corbett says he and Rohrer “agree we…must cut the size of this budget.” Praises legislative Republicans for “stopping the governor…last time.” Opines fact state “can’t go back a billion dollars.”

Mentions his two-year budget cycle idea. “It would bring certainty and predictability to the people who do receive state money.” Also mentions Welfare, Education and Corrections. “If we reduce just four percent of the errors ineligibility guidelines we’d save [300+ million] dollars.”

Says he’s do “zero-based budgeting,” to ask each agency to justify its entire budget. “You have to go in with the desire to spend the money carefully.”

7:48 Question 2: What’s your plan to reign in spending? What programs would you cut?

Rohrer — “One thing you can do is this — you can reduce spending across the board.” Rohrer says he’s pledged he will not sign a tax increase bill. “The voters of this state cannot afford a tax increase.”

You have to go where you spend the most money. Welfare, Education and Corrections. “I can guarantee you there are duplicity programs. Things…we must not do and cannot do, and exceed our ability to pay.”

“Saying no to federal money and cutting strings that require us to spend federal money,” another idea, he says.

7:45 Rohrer — people don’t leave the state because they don’t like it here. They leave because there are no jobs, or because the cost of living is too high in Pennsylvania. … Why are there no jobs? Lists “a hostile business climate.” Labor climate — “fact is, more of our business has gone down south because of labor climate,” more than taxes.

Says people can’t afford to live in PA due to property taxes. “They can’t afford to live here, so they go somewhere they can live, and they generally go south.”

“The solution isn’t new programs. Frankly, if we want to reduce spending we’ve got to cut programs.”

7:42 First Youtube question — how would you keep young workers in PA?

Corbett — It’s important to me my kids stayed in Pennsylvania. (They’re in their thirties.) “We need to start looking, back in high school and college — we’re not guiding our students into [tech jobs].” Says workforce development boards could help guide students into these types of careers. “We need to look at CareerLink….we need to expand that to our college students and our high schools who are graduating.”

The most important area is the business tax climate. “We are losing 1 in 4 PAns every year. They are going to places that are competitive, like Texas, Florida….places that have a tax environment that understands business is good, that free enterprise is good.”

7:39 Now it’s Corbett’s turn. “The same message I’ve recieved — Pennsylvania has seen better times, but it’s struggling.”  Mentions decline of “stimulus money we should never have taken in the first place,” pension fund, and other financial issues.

State needs “leadership that brings results, not rhetoric. It’s time to change Harrisburg. We all know that.”

“You know when I made promises as Attorney General, I kept them. I was one of 13 Republican AGs…that told the Congress, do not make exceptions for one state to the detriment of other states” (Referencing Ben Nelson’s Medicaid “Nebraska compromise.”

His agenda? “J-O-B-S.” Fiscal discipline, limited government and free enterprise” would do that, he says.

Corbett says he’ll send a reform plan to the GA during his first week on the job. The package would “eliminate WAMs, reduce the state car fleet, reform per-diems — not just for state legislators, but for all government employees.”

“We can and we must reduce taxes.”

7:20 Rohrer’s opening statement: Washington has failed, and so has the Rendell Administration. Says they’ve left “most monumental challenges” to next governor. “The fact of the matter is, politics as normal is gone…the time that we can lead by polls is passed. The time that we can collectively…deal with issues that are convenient or deal with issues we can deal with in the next two years, before the next election…those days have got to stop.”

…”The Rendell Administration has let this state in very poor economic condition.” Calls PA’s tax structure “unfriendly,” and says state’s regulatory climate needs to change. “Instead of putting road blocks in front of small business, actually befriend them.”

Says employees shouldn’t be forced to join a union or pay union dues.

“We are insolvent. We don’t have enough money to pay our bills.”

If PA doesn’t deal with its budget problem swiftly and firmly, “we are going to be like California.” Says NO to all new taxes…”We have a property tax issue. I have led the fight to eliminate the property tax.” Elimination would be good for small businesses, home owners and farmers. “We can’t sustain the way we fund public education. It’s got to change.”

Calls for school choice — “that’s a moral issue. It’s an educational issue.”

Rendell “puts its hand out” to the federal government “at every turn.” State needs to be more financially independent.

7:25 The gubernatorial forum is about to begin. Each candidate will get one question submitted via Youtube.

7:21 Perry called up to stage to receive the GOP’s Leadership Award (it’s a Reagan bust), as well as a personal letter from former President George W. Bush.   Perry is a a Lt. Colonel in the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 28th Combat Aviation Brigade. Perry piloted helicopters and oversaw logistics during the recent tour in southern Iraq.

7:19 Shout-out for Rep. Scott Perry, who recently returned from Iraq

7:12 Renee Amoore: “Do we believe in diversity? Yes! Do we believe in a big tent? [applause] Do we believe we are inclusive of everybody?”

7:09: Proceedings underway. The MCs are doing their best to pump up the crowd. “We’re going to get this party started!”

7:01: People filing into the ballroom. A big band is jazzing up the room. Sounds like the format will be a four-minute opening statement from each candidate, followed by two rounds of questions.


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.

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