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Candidates for Governors in Their Words: Part 2

May 8, 2014
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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett got a bit of good news last week when the State Supreme Court declared that Robert Guzzardi, a fellow Republican, was not eligible to run.

But even without a primary challenger, the incumbent is likely not breathing easy as he waits to see which of the four candidates emerge from the Democratic primary on May 20.

The Democratic contenders are: York County businessman Tom Wolf, who is leading the polls; U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz and state Treasurer Rob McCord, who are both Jewish; and former Environmental Protection Secretary Katie McGinty.

They have all taken Corbett to task on many issues, from education to health care.

And while they have tried to gain the Jewish community’s support with a variety of appearances, we wanted to dig deeper and get their direct responses on issues important to our readers.

To that end, the Jewish Exponent submitted a list of questions to each of the Democratic contenders. Below, you will find the responses from McCord  and McGinty. Find the words of Wolf and Schwartz here.

ROB McCORD, Age 55, Bryn Mawr, Treasurer of Pennsylvania

Gov. Corbett has been criticized for cutting funding to public schools, a charge he says is a myth. What concrete steps would you take to help fix Pennsylvania’s ailing public schools?

When it comes to education, my interest is in more than just promoting sound policy. That’s because education is a very personal issue for me and, in many ways, is at the root of my campaign for governor. Even in these tough financial times for the commonwealth, we need to make education the No. 1 budget priority — the first thing funded instead of the first thing cut.
 
As governor, I will reverse and restore Gov. Corbett’s cuts AND find funds for full-day kindergarten, robust early childhood education, and additional summer programs and afterschool programs, as well as full employer-side contributions for pensions.

My education plan will invest $1.3 billion in public education, including an additional $220 million for early childhood education and pre-K, which are critically important investments for improving achievement and success later in life.

To fund my plan, I’ve called for a 10 percent drillers’ tax on the net value of natural gas after extraction and allowing for certain production-related expenses. At that rate, my plan could generate $1.63 billion in Year One, the most revenue of any plan under consideration.
Lastly, we must dramatically revise and reform the state funding formula for public education. We need to ensure financial resources are being allocated fairly and efficiently. Too many poor and disadvantaged districts are suffering too great a share of Gov. Corbett’s cuts. As governor, I will demand a funding formula that ensures our public dollars are fairly and effectively delivered to school districts in a way that takes into account student needs, as well as the local tax base and tax effort of each district based on what is needed to fund education.

The affordability of Jewish day schools is a major issue for some in the Jewish community. Would you maintain, increase or decrease the current Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs to help middle- and low-income families who wish to send their children to private schools. Do you have others ideas for helping such families?

I support both programs as they provide a means through which the private sector can offer students —particularly disadvantaged, low-income students in struggling school districts — the opportunity to pursue their academic success in the environment that best fits their needs. As such, I would preserve both programs at current levels.

Holocaust education advocates are divided over whether to support legislation mandating that the subject be taught in Pennsylvania public schools. Some say there is little chance of such legislation passing and thus they are in favor of a bill with no mandate, which they say would still lead to more students learning about the Holocaust. Would you as governor approve legislation with a Holocaust education mandate and would you also sign a bill that provides money but no mandate for such education?
I understand the concerns of both sides on this issue, but ultimately believe teaching students about the Holocaust and genocide is important for raising awareness of the atrocities in our history — hopefully so that we don’t repeat them. In this campaign, I've laid out the most ambitious plan for investing in public education. I wants to be sure school districts have the resources they need to not only serve our children, but also to meet the mandates Harrisburg passes down rather than forcing schools to divert resources from the classroom to do so.

This is also a deeply personal issue for me. My stepmother, who was of Japanese ancestry, was interned as a little girl in a camp in California during World War II. I've heard stories of what it’s like to be ripped from your home, confined and isolated because you’re the target of misplaced anger, fear and prejudice, or simply because you’re perceived as being different. No innocent person or family should be made to suffer that injustice, which is why I support teaching these lessons in our classrooms.

Do you feel there are sufficient environmental and safety protections and that the state is receiving enough tax benefits from energy companies that are fracking in the state? If not, what would you do differently?

Frankly, I do not think the commonwealth is doing enough to protect the environment from industrial natural gas development. A great deal of the natural gas law Gov. Corbett touted as “historic” (Act 13) has been ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court. It is telling that the court in its decision cited the environmental protection clause of Pennsylvania’s constitution. That clause effectively says that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the commonwealth’s natural resources for current and future generations. Act 13 has failed to live up to that standard.

As part of my “Fair Deal for Pennsylvania Families” plan, I will repeal and replace Act 13 with a law that not only levies a responsible drillers tax, but also one that protects the environment. Specifically, my plan will:

• Prohibit any further leasing of state lands for drilling;
• Rescind the power of eminent domain by private gas companies;
• Give the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection more oversight and inspectors;
• Increase well permit fees and bond payments;
• Ban any discharge of drilling wastewater into Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams that is not treated to the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act; and
• Improve public access to drilling information to improve transparency and accountability.

Furthermore, I will require drillers to use best practices that are environmentally friendly, such as recycling and tracking wastewater, and a ban flaring. Additionally, I would require the use of technology and systems to cut air emissions and prevent gas from escaping from the well or from any point along the transmission pipeline.

This last piece is critically important because the methane in natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas, which is at the root cause of climate change. Natural gas, when developed and used right, offers a tremendous opportunity to cut Pennsylvania’s contribution climate change (we emit 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases) because it emits half of the carbon pollution of coal. We undermine that potential benefit when drillers allow methane to escape into the air — either from the well or from any point along the transmission and distribution infrastructure.
 
Lastly, my concern over methane migration is part of a broader concern over natural gas conservation. For the reasons I stated above, I believe we should do more to encourage natural gas use — but in a smart manner that uses the resource efficiently. Given the persistent low prices for natural gas, there is little incentive for developers, utilities or consumers to conserve this fuel. Thus, there has been little incentive to promote the efficient use of natural gas or to prevent methane migration. Prior to Gov. Corbett, Pennsylvania made itself a national leader in electricity efficiency and conservation policy. I believe that same approach should be applied to natural gas.

The governors of some states, including Maryland and Delaware, have worked to cultivate strong relationships with the Jewish state. Should Pennsylvania do more culturally, economically or otherwise to build a relationship with Israel?

Absolutely, yes! Israel is obviously an important international ally and a strategically important business partner. When it was suggested that Israel may close its Philadelphia consulate, I wrote to Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the case for why it should remain open. We need to preserve that link between our state and Israel. Now that the consulate is off the chopping block, we need to take full advantage of it. As governor, a major component of my economic development platform is restoring funding to the state’s World Trade PA program to strengthen Pennsylvania’s business development presence overseas and open new markets to products produced right here in the commonwealth. The consulate is a bridge between our state and Israel.

KATIE McGINTY, Age 50, Wayne, Former head of state Department of Environmental Protection; partner in Element Partners, a clean-technology investment firm

Gov. Corbett has been criticized for cutting funding to public schools, a charge he says is a myth. What concrete steps would you take to help fix Pennsylvania’s ailing public schools?

As governor, I will reverse Tom Corbett’s $1 billion cuts in education. Under my plan, we will implement a severance tax on natural gas development and dedicate 100 percent of revenues to education. I would also implement a fair funding formula that would take into account the number of students served, special needs of the student body, and other factors.

I oppose vouchers but believe charter schools can play a role in education. We must reform how charters are funded. Under my plan, we fund charter schools based on auditable costs, which frees up approximately $300 million annually to be reinvested in public schools.

Higher education costs are skyrocketing due to Corbett’s cuts. I would restore cuts to public higher education but would require that the institution not increase tuition by more than the rate of inflation. I also proposed a grant program and dream scholarship to help 45,000 additional families.

The affordability of Jewish day schools is a major issue for some in the Jewish community. Would you maintain, increase or decrease the current Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs to help middle- and low-income families who wish to send their children to private schools. Do you have others ideas for helping such families?

As governor, I believe that we need to provide as many opportunities and tools to provide opportunities for Pennsylvania’s hardworking families to get ahead and afford their children the top-notch education they strive for and deserve. As such, we need to review programs like the EITC and OSTC and improve and enhance these programs to ensure they are helping and reaching as many of Pennsylvania’s families as possible, in both rural and urban areas.

Holocaust education advocates are divided over whether to support legislation mandating that the subject be taught in Pennsylvania public schools. Some say there is little chance of such legislation passing and thus they are in favor of a bill with no mandate, which they say would still lead to more students learning about the Holocaust. Would you as governor approve legislation with a Holocaust education mandate and would you also sign a bill that provides money but no mandate for such education?

Yes.

Do you feel there are sufficient environmental and safety protections and that the state is receiving enough tax benefits from energy companies that are fracking in the state? If not, what would you do differently?

I support a moratorium in state parks and forests and believe that we need more stringent environmental regulations that protect our air and water. I support the right of local communities to enact zoning that is the best fit for them. I would repeal the “gag rule” that prevents medical professionals from sharing critical medical information about patients who are exposed to chemicals from gas drilling.
Tom Corbett has it wrong when it comes to natural gas drilling. Under his leadership, enforcement is down despite growth in drilling activity. I would reverse that. I would ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection has the resources to monitor drilling activities and enforce regulations.
As governor, I will fight to ensure that natural gas companies pay their fair share to adequately fund our schools and I will make sure that the environmental cop is back on the beat to protect our environment.

The governors of some states, including Maryland and Delaware, have worked to cultivate strong relationships with the Jewish state. Should Pennsylvania do more culturally, economically or otherwise to build a relationship with Israel. If so, what?

I believe that we as a society can always do more and do better working with all cultures that make up our vast and diverse history. As governor, it would be my duty and responsibility to further cultivate stronger and more meaningful ties with the Jewish state. The first step to building any relationship is to request a comprehensive review of what has been done during the past decade to forge these relationships. My administration would bring together stakeholders from across the state to create a plan to align our priorities regarding our cultural and economic relationship with the Jewish state. I would direct my administration to immediately begin discussions and create an aggressive plan to further promote a stronger relationship and ties between the commonwealth and the Jewish state.

Find the responses from Tom Wolf and Allyson Schwartz here.

 

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