Jim Thorpe — Sitting in front of a three-story tall American flag at a mountaintop Carbon County concert venue, Tom Corbett and Sam Rohrer made their case to a group of 9/12ers tonight. As sleet and snow fell outside of Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe, about 200 conservative grassroots activists sat and listened to the two Republicans, who were joined by Hazleton Mayor and Congressional candidate Lou Barletta, as well as lieutenant governor hopeful Steve Urban.
Corbett’s anti-health care lawsuit dominated the early portion of the forum. Corbett insisted, once again, that the suit isn’t politically motivated. “What we are doing is protecting the individual’s right to choose,” he said. “The individual’s right, in this case, to do nothing. Not to engage in commerce.” Afterward, Corbett told reporters he would stop discussing the lawsuit if Democrats halt their partisan attacks on the motion.
But Corbett spent much of his opening statement talking about the matter, and he singled out the legal challenge when a questioner asked how he’d respond to overreaching by the federal government.
An unusually fiery Rohrer backed Corbett’s decision to join the effort.
Rohrer was clearly playing on his home turf tonight. (More on that tomorrow.) He received round after round of applause from the audience, especially when he laid out his signature effort to eliminate Pennsylvania’s property tax. He says the levy is simply unconstitutional.
Corbett pushed back on the issue, saying Rohrer’s plan to fund school districts with Marcellus Shale royalties, gambling revenue and a broadened sales tax base wouldn’t be able to pass the General Assembly. He also questioned whether Rohrer’s math added up. Corbett called property taxes a serious issue, and promised to look into the matter, but Rohrer said that isn’t enough.
Rohrer momentarily lost his footing at the end of the forum, when a questioner brought up the 2005 pay raise, and asked whether it was “legally or morally right” for lawmakers to vote for it and take the hike. Rohrer, who voted for the pay increase, skirted the answer. “For me, on that issue, I said the taking of it is unconstitutional and immoral,” he explained. “I think I was one of few members who didn’t take it. The court said it was ok. All the members had to deal with that appropriately.”
Corbett alluded to Rohrer’s pro-pay raise vote at the beginning of his answer, calling it “the big elephant in the middle of the room.” But he didn’t specifically tell the audience his opponent voted “yes,” or Rohrer after he failed to bring up the vote himself. Corbett did bring it up when talking to reporters after the session, though.
Rohrer has said he committed to supporting the pay raise before he realized the full scope of the measure, and that he regrets the vote.
I’ll have more on the 9/12er forum – specifically the audience’s reaction to Corbett and Rohrer – tomorrow.