#PAGov: Why Tom Wolf is About to Break PA’s “8-Year Rule”

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A recent editorial by Franklin & Marshall College faculty members Terry Madonna and Michael Young argued Tom Wolf’s “real” opponent in the upcoming general election is Pennsylvania’s infamous “8 year rule” – the idea being that Tom Corbett, unpopular as he is, might squeak through purely due to inertia and PA voters’ storied loyalty to incumbents.

While Dr. Madonna does manage to touch on a neat little facet of PA politics, I think the “8 year cycle” is little more than an interesting Snapple Cap fact that sounds cool at a dinner party. People love superstition, but gubernatorial elections are driven by the fundamentals – the records and personal proclivities of the candidates – not some electoral voodoo spell.

Maybe a more apt question would be what is Governor Corbett’s “real” opponent? Is it Tom Wolf? The fact that every single Democratic candidate for governor polled ahead of the incumbent to varying degrees at the time of the democratic primary might suggest Tom Corbett’s real opponent is himself. Well, not so much himself as the $1 billion cut from public education, his abandonment of Adult Basic, his resistance to Medicaid expansion, his resistance to marriage equality, his failure to act on pension reform, liquor reform, government reform, or any number of his own legislative priorities. Those failures among so many others will dog the Governor right up until Election Day, and he knows it.

What Governor Corbett fears, and what Tom Wolf knows, is that this election isn’t like the others. As of June 4th a Quinnipiac University poll has Corbett’s disapproval at 55%. Even more than that (58%) say he does not deserve a second term. But hey, you don’t have to like the guy, right? It’s the economy, stupid!

Well, according to that same Quinnipiac poll, 60% of PA voters consider the economy “not so good,” and only a measly 23% of respondents feel as though they are more economically secure than before Corbett took office.

And even if the Governor’s approval rating were closer to the 50% mark, the cracks in the political foundation are deep. Older Pennsylvanians helped carry Corbett to the Governors Mansion in 2010, but seem poised to help sweep him out come November. Corbett’s approval with voters over 65 rests at only 33%. When asked whom they would vote for if the election were held today (on June 4th) in a Corbett vs. Wolf, race, only 32% of voters 65 and over say they’d vote for Corbett, and it drops to 30% among voters aged 50-64.

Governor Corbett’s vulnerability is real despite the negative national environment for democrats. Voters might be tempted to think that President Obama’s unpopularity within PA will help perpetuate the 8-year rule, but Barack Obama is not running for Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf is. As the adage goes, “all politics is local,” and as we can see, this locality is soundly displeased with its Governor.

This entry was posted in Elections, Governor.

17 Responses to #PAGov: Why Tom Wolf is About to Break PA’s “8-Year Rule”

  1. Albert Brooks says:

    A bit off topic but it is mentioned in the above story. Can anybody show actual budget numbers where Corbett cut a billion of state money from education?..In the first year of Federal stimulus $673 million of what was given to PA HAD to be applied to education but the PA education budget did not go up $673 million, it stayed about the same. Can’t it be said that Rendell cut $600+ million from education and used Federal money? How do you explain that not replacing Federal money, which was temporary, and well known to be temporary, is the same as cutting the education budget? I mean it is a great talking point but I’d like to see some proof that a billion of state money was cut because I certainly don’t see it when looking at the budgets that are posted on line. Point me in the right direction.

  2. Faye north says:

    Tom Corbett has no personality no plans to get pa back on track speaking of pa. This state desperately needs political reform in Harrisburg. We have way too many overpaid reps. Pa is the most expensive state government in the country. We need someone new and that is tom wolf

  3. lkaneshiki says:

    Why are you lying about the governor cutting a billion dollars from education? It’s a lie.

    • Mark says:

      No sir it is not a lie, and neither is Governor Corbett’s abandonment of Governor Rendell’s fair education funding formula, and resistance to putting anything even resembling a reasonable substitute in place. As a result urban schools have been left out in the cold, while districts are picked via political-favor machine for extra cash.

      • Albert Brooks says:

        As I asked in the first post, please show me where in the budget that $1B of state money was cut out by the Corbett administration. The last decade of budgets are online and all you have to do is tell me the year, page and heading.

        Changing the formula is a different subject, so lets do just one thing at a time.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          It’s not $1 billion of state money, it’s $1 billion in total funding below FY2010-2011. About 76% of the stimulus money was to be used for basic education, to support the continued increase in state’s share of education funding set out late in Rendell’s term. 21% was for one-time expenses, and 3% for higher ed. We got one year of the planned “costing out” funding increase. It was supposed to keep increasing each year for the next four years, but it didn’t. The Republicans let education spending fall by $1 billion relative to FY2010-2011. To avoid the accusation that they cut $1 billion from education, they would have had to at least level-fund basic education at 2010-2011 levels. They didn’t do that. It’s even down 5.9% compared to 2008. K-12

          • Albert Brooks says:

            In the 09-10 budget, $1.26B of Federal Stimulus money was received. Of that about 61% or $773 million was required to be spent on education. Of that number $654.7 million was spent on K-12 education.

            Now the total state funds budgeted for education for FY 2008-2009 was $10,766,016,000 (Rendell budget) The total state funds spent on education for FY 2009-2010 was $10,161,925,000 (6% decrease Rendell Budget which is just about the amount of the stimulus for K-12).

            The FY 2010-2011 state funded education total was $10,319,457,000 (1% increase Corbett budget)..For FY 2011-2012 the total was $10,122,235,000 (2% decrease)

            Now for FY 2012-2013 the total spent on Education is $10,537,067,000 which is a 4.1% increase over the year before and lastly the proposed education budget for 2013-2014 is $10,885,971,000.another 3.3% increase

            Now in my math $10.88B is more than $10.76B. However, the graph you show is for spending per student and accounts for inflation which may be true depending on how much the student population grew and what the total amount of inflation there was. The graph does not show that $1B was cut from education nor do the actual numbers from the Office of the Budget back up your claim of “…1 billion in total funding below FY2010-2011.”

            If you have different official budget numbers I’d love to see them as I know the government isn’t adverse to putting things in multiple places

            Everything I posted is available here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=4571&mode=2#2009-10

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Here’s the controversy in one chart. Democrats think that the education spending levels should not have dipped down from the red bar. They think that because the “costing out” plan established near the end of the Rendell years was for the state’s share of the education funding to keep increasing, and for the local share of educating funding to keep decreasing. The Republicans threw that plan out when they came to power.

            Education Spending

          • Albert Brooks says:

            But Jon, it was the Democrats budget for 2009-2010 that made the gap in the first place. How can you say it was the other party?

            Also the chart doesn’t show total education spending but just whatever they consider “basic education” which is not defined. Total education spending are the numbers that I listed previously according to the Budget Office.

            Pretty much you are saying that taxes should have been raised to maintain an artificial level of spending that was not controlled by the state but by the level of stimulus money that was given for a limited time and known it was going to be for a limited time. It is like saying that you found $50 on the ground this week and because you didn’t find that $50 any other week your yearly budget has to be cut $2600. Ludicrous in the extreme.

            Proposed spending is not real spending and not legally obligated spending and never has been.

            Let’s not even talk about the recession or balanced budgets as they obviously have nothing to do with the situation either.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            The whole point of the stimulus money was to prevent a net drop in state spending. Leveling down to where revenues were, or hiking taxes in a recession would have been a disaster, which is why the federal government did state aid. They should have tied the state aid to the unemployment rate, rather than let it expire too early, but that’s our Congress! Rendell did what he was supposed to do with the stimulus money – cut the state contribution, and backfill it in with the federal money. The state level of outlays wasn’t random – it was in line with the planned spending trajectory of “costing out.” So yes, that’s the argument – we should have kept going with the costing out plan, raising the state’s share of education spending and reducing the local share.

            The “total education” spending numbers are misleading, and the conservative PA Independent site had the good sense not to use them. You can’t do an apples-to-apples comparison using total because in 2011-2012 the Republicans started counting pension payments as education spending for the first time.

          • Albert Brooks says:

            True about the pension spending which is why it was not included in my numbers. Same orchard, same tree.

            You say we should have kept going with “costing out” and before that say “hiking taxes in a recession would have been a disaster,” Now how do you propose the state paid for this plan (not law, not obligation but plan) without raising taxes?

            Unless real money was spent and then less real money wasn’t spent you can’t say anything was cut. Proposed, planned, expected et al are not real.

            The House planned to sell the state stores. Did the Senate, and specifically the Senate Democrats, cut $1B from the state budget because they didn’t go along with the plan? Same difference.

            I’ll grant that IF the recession didn’t happen then there might have been more spending on education and more taxes to go along with that spending which in turn drives people out of their homes. Things do not stay the same and to expect otherwise is foolish..

          • Jon Geeting says:

            There are plenty of weak claims on the budget we could have cut. The $200+ million that goes to fancy racing horse owners each year, for instance. There’s also about $3 billion worth of fossil fuel subsidies in the tax code. Many of these are producer subsidies that, if eliminated, won’t be passed through to consumers dollar for dollar. The bottom line is, there are lots of ways to raise the money if that’s what your political priorities are. The Corbett administration level-funded the prisons budget in exactly the same way that education advocates wanted him to do for education. He somehow “found the money” (actually he didn’t, he just didn’t pay for it) for $1.2 billion worth of business tax cuts. Those were his priorities. If education had been his priority, he would have found a way to fund it.

          • Albert Brooks says:

            You need an IMO after the last statement. In any case, not providing for something that he wasn’t bound by law or statute to provide for is not the same as cutting. The whole statement of cutting a billion form education is disingenuous at best and an outright lie at worst.

            You are now arguing if he could or if he should which is not the same as a factual did he. The big difference here is you are taking “proposed” as gospel as if what is proposed is what it should be while I’m looking at real world of what is spent then compared to what is spent now.

            If you decide to go with the Corbett didn’t follow Rendell’s proposed $1B education increase that would be a factual statement but you can’t cut something that was never in the budget to begin with.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Word salad. We were funding basic education at 2010-11 levels. After the first Republican budget when Corbett got elected, the levels were about a billion less than that. Ergo, we cut education by ~$1 billion.

          • Albert Brooks says:

            You keep saying that but the numbers don’t agree. You can’t hold the state or the governor or anyone else accountable for money they have no control over.

            We, the State of Pennsylvania, funding went down under Rendell which is fine because of the Stimulus. Take the Stimulus away and State spending went up higher than at any point in history (FY 2011-2012). Your own graph shows that.

            Using your logic you can say that anything that varies from any given year is a cut or a boost across time. That Corbett’s budget is $1B higher in his first 4 years than Rendell’s first 4 years. It may be true but is meaningless. Did Rendell cut $1B because he didn’t fund at Corbetts levels for those 4 years?

            On top of it all you have no proof whatsoever that even Rendell would have been able to fund at what he said. Politicians are so well know for keeping promises after all. Your woulda coulda shoulda is just another way to complain against the governor that you don’t like and that is fine. There are many things to choose from but this is a red herring.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            LOL what?? Obviously only future-looking budget changes can be described as cuts or increases.

  4. JEFF WHITE says: