Down in Polls, Pa. Gov. Corbett Pushes Healthcare Plan

Image: Down in Polls, Pa. Gov. Corbett Pushes Healthcare Plan

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 11:35 AM

By John Gizzi

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Trailing every major Democratic candidate in the polls, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett explained how he hopes to defy the odds against being re-elected and spelled out why he was an underdog in spite of a record of accomplishment.

The Republican governor, in an exclusive interview during the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Harrisburg last week, said he is offering a unique reform proposal instead of having his state join the expanded federal Medicaid exchange.

"We have submitted a waiver explaining to [the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] that we want to reform all of Medicaid, which now one-sixth of Pennsylvanians are on," Corbett said.

"I don't think that's a good way toward a real good quality of healthcare and instead of just taking what is available, we have a plan to reform it."

Under Corbett's plan, both for-profit and nonprofit funding would be involved, there would be more options for coverage, and individuals would be more invested and involved in their healthcare plans.

"If we accept the way the president wants to go, one-fourth of Pennsylvania will be on Medicaid," Corbett, a former state attorney general, said.

Since he assumed the governor's office three years ago, Corbett, along with Republican majorities in the state Senate and state House of Representatives, have made significant accomplishments.

Inheriting a $4.2 billion deficit, Corbett oversaw an end to his state's "death tax" on family-owned farms and a phase-out of its Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, and eliminated the deficit without a tax increase.

So why, Newsmax asked, unlike other inventive GOP governors such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, is Corbett now an underdog for re-election?

"Every state's voting population is different," Corbett said, noting that Pennsylvania has been turning more Democratic in recent years.

"And almost as soon as I became governor, the teachers' union launched a $3 million attack in the media against me. The public employees' unions have also been after me. It isn't easy."

Corbett said he found the assault from teachers' unions odd since, thanks to his reducing state spending for the first time in 40 years, he was able to increase state funding for education to $11.63 billion in the budget he signed last year.

"And this was after school districts had raised their operating budgets after the one-time [federal] stimulus money ran out," said the governor.

Corbett has also been under fire from all potential Democratic opponents for opposing a tax on the Marcellus oil shale that is fast making Pennsylvania an energy mecca.

"[Former Democratic Gov. Ed] Rendell said if we had a tax on Marcellus shale, it would bring in an additional $100 million a year," Corbett said. "Well, we already have an impact fee and it brought in $204 million in its first year, $202 million in its second, and $224 million in its third. And the money we're bringing in does not go into the general fund but back to communities for schools, county roads, and health needs."

On the day that Corbett spoke to Newsmax, The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page story raising fresh questions about the business career of Democratic frontrunner Tom Wolf, with the headline: "Wolf's Success: A mixed picture."

"His last public position was secretary of revenue under an administration that left us with a $4.2 billion deficit," Corbett said, "I wouldn't mind debating that."

Corbett said he wouldn't "be too sure" that Wolf will win the Democratic primary May 20.

Contrary to widespread reports that Wolf had used $10 million to finance his campaign, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that less than half of that sum wasn't a loan from his own money, but a loan from M&T Bank that he will have to repay.

This has raised some fresh questions as to whether Wolf has followed state campaign finance rules.

Underestimated and written off in his 2004 attorney general race, Corbett pulled off a squeaker. In 2008, as Barack Obama was sweeping Pennsylvania, Corbett won re-election by a record margin.

Working in his favor this year is history: Since state law was changed and governors were permitted to seek second consecutive terms, no governor of Pennsylvania has lost re-election. In 2014, Tom Corbett will either end that history, or be re-elected governor.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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