Pa. Governor's Guide: What You Need to Know

PW breaks down Dan Onorato's and Tom Corbett's platforms.

By Randy LoBasso
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Oct. 26, 2010

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Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato has been losing the governor’s race since day one.

After all, 2010 is looking to be a good year for Republicans, with poll projections showing a takeover of the House and the retention of 30 governor’s seats. But while Attorney General Tom Corbett’s large lead may not be surprising, his lack of a majority is.

Since September, only one independent polling company, Rasmussen, has found 50 percent or more Pennsylvanians in support of Corbett’s candidacy. Rasmussen factors in what’s called “leaners”—undecided voters pushed by pollsters to pick the candidate they are leaning toward—in figuring out its totals. It’s painfully obvious that Pennsylvanians don’t care about this thing.

But we should.

The two Western Pa. men have greatly differing views on key issues that will have a huge impact on the coming years, especially as federal stimulus funds dry up, national health-care reform standards are enacted and Pennsylvania is forced to go at its state budget alone. Our collective apathy to the race doesn’t make the issues less important.

Marcellus Shale

Corbett: Drill Freely
Onorato: Drill and Tax

“People in Philadelphia think [natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale] isn’t going to affect us because it’s far away,” says Sean Scully, deputy policy director of the Committee of Seventy. “They think we’re not going to get any money from the drilling, we’re not going to lease any land, it’s not going to give us any more jobs. But there are a few ways it’s going to affect us.”

Scully says drilling means a cheaper and more reliable source of natural gas for Philly. Right now, gas is pumped all around the country, which is expensive. “I don’t know if gas prices will go down,” he says, “but it will certainly keep them from going up.”

But it might also decrease the quality of our drinking water. “Philadelphia has good drinking water right now,” Scully says. “Sixty percent of it comes from watersheds in Northeast Pennsylvania. If industrial chemicals start leaking out of these wells into the Delaware River, it’s going to be more difficult for us to get clean drinking water.” To say the least.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has concluded that, after analyzing wastewater findings, drilling the Shale presents serious risks to public health. If fracking fluids, which contain diesel fuel-spiked chemicals that’d do a number to your internal organs, leak into the Delaware Water Gap, no Brita filter will save you.

Corbett, a small-government conservative, has signed a “No New Taxes” pledge, which includes refusing to place a severance tax on the Marcellus Shale gas fields in Pennsylvania. Once the reserves are tapped and the gas is sucked, this would make Pennsylvania the only state in the country that doesn’t tax natural-gas drilling. Corbett has received $707,220 in gas-industry contributions—more than every other candidate for office in Pennsylvania, combined—over the last nine years, according to Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and Common Cause PA.

Onorato, who did not sign a pledge, calls Corbett’s position “extreme” and believes there are places the tax money can go in addition to a general state fund, like the state Department of Environmental Protection. Doing so would give the agency resources to monitor the drilling.

State Senate Republicans blocked a final effort by Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate Democrats to place a severance tax on the Shale last Thursday. Republicans, after denying a tax altogether, finally said they’d agree on a 1.5 percent tax after Rendell asked for 5 percent. House Democrats raised the stakes to 10 percent and we ended up with— surprise!—nothing. If Corbett is elected on Tuesday, we can forget about mandated government oversight of natural-gas drilling.

“We can’t allow the industry to self-regulate here,” Onorato says. “We need to do what every state has done, which is put regulations in place and use the severance tax to fund it. This affects every single county regardless of where the drilling is.”

The 500 trillion-cubic-foot elephant in the race is the fact that neither candidate has any, ahem, reserves about actually extracting the gas through the environmentally hazardous process of fracking, which could release chemicals into our drinking water that would wreak havoc on our livers, kidneys, central nervous systems and bones.

Education

Corbett: Expand early childhood education, school choice, pull funding from Costing Out
Onorato: Expand early childhood education, limited vouchers, continue Costing Out

Onorato received the endorsement of the Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that focuses on public education. “We think [Onorato’s] made education a priority and gets the connection between a strong education system and economic prosperity,” says Susan Gobreski, director of the Education Voters of Pennsylvania, “and that’s important.”

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1. SLAVIN said... on Oct 28, 2010 at 03:33PM

“perhaps the best suited for power are those that, without seeking it, have it thrust upon them and find that they wear it well...”

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