Tuesday, October 21, 2014 Tishri 27, 5775

Candidates for Governor In Their Words: Part 1

May 7, 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 Wolf and Schwartz. Find the words of McCord and McGinty here.


TOM WOLF, Age 65, York County, CEO of Wolf Organization 

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?
I support our state’s public education system, and I know that Pennsylvania is home to some of the best public schools in the country. My two daughters attended York County public schools, where they developed a strong academic foundation that prepared them to go on to top-notch colleges and build successful careers. But i also know that there is still a lot of work to be done.

I will make education a priority. I believe we have not only a constitutional obligation to provide for a thorough and efficient public education system but also have a rational self-interest to ensure our youngest residents receive an education that will allow them to reach their full potential. Building a good public education system is not just the right thing to do, it is what drives a healthy, vibrant economy – something that’s good for all of us in Pennsylvania.

As governor, I will restore Gov. Corbett’s $1 billion in cuts to education, implement a fair funding formula, and institute reforms to help local school districts innovate and improve student performance. I will fight every day to build a strong public education system so that we can keep, create and attract good jobs right here in Pennsylvania.

The affordability of Jewish day schools is a major issue for some in the Jewish community. Would you maintain, increase or decrease the current EITC and OSTC 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 will take a look at all of the state’s tax credits to ensure we are not just rewarding special interests. I do not think that public tax dollars should be diverted from our public schools to create a back-door voucher system. I will take a close look at both of these programs and examine how they impact public education funding.

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 that 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 believe we must raise our youngest residents to be compassionate, tolerant and knowledgeable about the world outside of their community, outside of Pennsylvania and outside of the United States. I know from my work with the York Jewish Community Center that organizations are doing an exemplary job of partnering with schools and community organizations to ensure that future generations continue to learn about the Holocaust.

I know that our schools also need to provide developmentally appropriate lessons about such atrocities as the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and the human rights abuses currently happening throughout the world. As governor, I will work with key stakeholders to evaluate what lessons are already being taught in our schools and what steps we need to take to ensure we are doing a responsible job of covering these issues. Additionally, I will explore the costs associated with Senate Bill 1523 as I believe we cannot continue to pass unfunded mandates.

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?

No, I do not. With Pennsylvania sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, I believe the Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s energy future. We must ensure that we take advantage of this resource and opportunity in a way that benefits all Pennsylvanians and protects our water and environment.

I know we have an obligation to get this new energy era right. The urgent challenge facing our state leaders, now and into the future, is how to manage this remarkable natural resource so that its benefits are broadly shared by the residents of Pennsylvania for many years to come.

I will take a responsible approach to natural gas development that includes enacting a 5 percent extraction tax so that we make gas companies pay their fair share and have the resources to fund schools and other key priorities. If done right, natural gas development can be a bridge to a clean energy future and create good=paying energy jobs.

In addition to a 5 percent extraction tax, I will protect our environment and hold drillers accountable by enacting practical regulatory actions, and increasing funding for the Department of Environmental Protection so that it is sufficiently staffed and able to provide proper oversight of drillers. I will work to bring greater transparency to the fracking process by requiring drillers to publicly disclose chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, and lifting the current gag order on physicians.

Additionally, I will support an increase in the annual permit application fee as well as an increase in the fee for drilling on state lands. Lastly, I will continue to support drilling moratoriums on public lands and the Delaware Valley River Basin, and respect the right of local communities to say when and here drilling takes place.

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 it is to our advantage to build a strong relationships with business leaders all over the world — including those in Israel. The country has one of the strongest high-tech sectors in the world, and, as we work to strengthen ours, I know we can learn a lot from Israeli business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Buildings strong relationships with Israel and countries all over the world will allow us to develop new partnerships, explore new trade opportunities, capitalize on the innovative products being developed outside of the United States, and attract new entrepreneurs and good paying, middle-class jobs to Pennsylvania. As governor, I will collaborate and work to strengthen our ties with Israel through trade missions and the creation of a high-tech exchange program, and by promoting cultural exchanges between Pennsylvania’s and Israel’s arts and culture communities.
 

ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Age 65, Jenkintown, U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania's 13th District

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?

It is not a "myth" that Governor Corbett cut funding for public schools. Corbett cut the amount of funding that Pennsylvania school districts received from Harrisburg by almost $1 billion in his first budget for 2011-12, and those cuts have been replicated in every budget since then. This is indisputable.
Nothing that state government does is more important than providing quality public education. As the mother of two Philadelphia public school graduates, I know how important public education is to our families. I’m the only candidate with a proven record of leadership in education, including having served for nearly a decade as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Education Committee. I worked on two fair funding formulas, pushed for increased investment in education, and traveled the state to meet with teachers, parents and other educational stakeholders.

As a longtime champion of early education, I also introduced state Senate legislation to provide state reimbursement for full-day kindergarten. In Congress, I am working closely with Sen. Bob Casey, on the Prepare All Kids Act which creates a Prekindergarten Incentive Fund to award grants to states to establish, expand or enhance voluntary high-quality pre-K programs.

Pennsylvania’s future depends upon our determination to recommit ourselves to public education. I know that economic success begins in the classroom, and as governor, I will be committed to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to quality public education, regardless of where they live. In my first term, I will reverse Gov. Corbett’s nearly $1 billion of extreme cuts by growing the economy, reprioritizing the existing budget, and drawing upon new resources from the natural gas tax.

Secondly, to ensure that students start school ready to learn, I will make a transformational commitment to early education by establishing universal, quality preschool for 4-year-olds, expanding access to full-day kindergarten and reducing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Thirdly, the quality of a student’s education should not depend on where the student lives in our state. As governor, I will partner with all stakeholders to determine the necessary level of state support, to ensure that all students receive a quality education. I will establish a transparent funding formula that recognizes student and school district characteristics, considers local effort, and provides sustained, adequate and fair funding to every school in the commonwealth.

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 program to help middle- and low-income families who wish to send their children to private schools.
I will maintain the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and ensure that it benefits the greatest number of students and improves student performance. I will also review the impact of the newer Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program.
As a former senior member of the House Budget Committee, I know that budgets are statements of our priorities and principles. As governor, I will ensure that my budgets include the necessary investments to provide greater opportunity to our children and families.

Advocates of Holocaust education 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 favor a bill with no mandate that 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 am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. My mother, Rene Perl, came to America to find hope, opportunity and security, so this issue is deeply personal for me. I feel strongly that we must educate all of our children about the Holocaust and genocide. As governor, I will push for and sign legislation that requires Holocaust education in public schools from sixth through 12th grade. The Department of Education should provide guidance for schools in setting curriculum. The state should not make this an unfunded mandate, but should provide budgetary support.

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?

It is unacceptable to me that Pennsylvania does not have a severance tax on shale drilling. These resources belong to the people of Pennsylvania, who deserve a fair deal and a lasting positive legacy of world-class schools, a 21st century transportation network, clean and cheap energy, and new jobs that can power our economy for the future.
As governor, I would push for a 5 percent gas severance tax, which would generate an estimated $737 million in 2014-15. Over a decade, this tax would generate $13.2 billion in revenue for Pennsylvania to support transformational investments in education, infrastructure and clean energy.

As governor, I would also:

• Enact the strongest possible protections, based on the best science, to reduce air pollution, limit methane leakage and protect drinking water.
• Ensure these protections are enforced by restoring funding to the Department of Environmental Protection, increasing the size of the oversight staff, increasing penalties for violations and closing the revolving door between industry and regulators.
• Sustain the moratorium on gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin until we can be confident, through rigorous scientific testing, that drilling can be done without harmful ramifications.
• Protect our natural treasures by establishing a permanent moratorium on leasing additional land in our state forests for gas drilling and preventing drilling in state parks.
 Defend the rights of Pennsylvanians by creating an independent oversight office, ensuring local control, protecting royalty holders and ending forced pooling.
 

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?

Yes. As the only Jewish member of the 20- member congressional delegation, I have led and supported many efforts to strengthen Pennsylvania’s relationship with Israel. I am proud to be very active in Congress on efforts to deepen America’s partnership with Israel, including serving as a member of the Democratic Israel Working Group and the U.S. Israel Security Caucus.

As a member of Congress, I have traveled to Israel and met directly with high-ranking Israeli elected officials and business leaders to promote increased economic ties between the United States and Israel. I directly encouraged President Barck Obama to travel to Israel, including signing a letter encouraging him on his visit to make clear his commitment to maintaining aid to Israel and its Qualitative Military Edge.

I have co-sponsored the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act, which calls for enhanced cooperation between the United States and Israel and designates Israel as a “major strategic partner.” I have supported strongly and advocated for the Visa Waiver for Israel Act to strengthen U.S.-Israel business, travel and tourism ties. The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals from certain countries to enter the United States as temporary visitors for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa from a U.S. consulate abroad.

Regionally, I am very proud to have a strong relationship with the Israeli consulate general and the staff of the Israeli consulate and recognize first-hand the important role it plays in our region. Last November I spoke out and worked actively to ensure that Israel keep open the consulate, including contacting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge him to not to close the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia. It was an important win for our region’s Jewish community and broader community that Israel choose to keep the consulate open.

As governor, I would take a very active role in promoting and strengthening economic ties between Pennsylvania and Israel. I would specifically look at trade opportunities to promote the products produced by Pennsylvanian manufacturers, as well as ways to promote best-practice sharing in sectors we have in common, including shale drilling and life sciences. And, I would work with leaders in Pennsylvania’s business and Jewish community for their ideas, thoughts and participation in efforts to strengthen economic ties.

Find the responses of Rob McCord and Katie McGinty here.
 

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