Week in Review: Pennsylvania governor’s race heats up summer months

By PA Independent Staff

The political fight between Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger, York County businessman Tom Wolf, has pepped up the normally sleepy summer months.

That was no more evident than this week, as Corbett tried to make a dent in a Wolf’s lead in the polls. The incumbent released a new TV ad on Thursday that accuses Wolf of hiding information about his company.

But the back-and-forth between the two Toms has gone on all week. Here’s a look back at and more of our coverage from this week:

Cawley blasts education cut criticism as a ‘damned lie’

The week started with Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley calling claims that Corbett cut $1 billion from education a “damned lie.” A third-party ad from a union-backed PAC prompted his ire.

“For three-and-a-half years, they have lied through their teeth. And shame on us for not being louder calling it exactly what it is: a damned lie,” Cawley said, while calling on Wolf to denounce the ad.

LOOKING BACK: The political fight between Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and his Democratic challenger, York County businessman Tom Wolf, has pepped up the normally sleepy summer months.

But sorting out the truth over education funding isn’t exactly a cut-and-dried process. That’s because both political parties have measured school funding in different ways to fit their own narratives.

The inclusion of pension costs in some funding figures and the federal stimulus funding that pumped up education spending for two years before expiring has also distorted the picture.

While Corbett’s numbers, which indicate more state spending on education than ever, might technically be accurate, the administration has lost in the court of public opinion when it comes to the issue of school funding cuts, said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster at Franklin & Marshall.

“I’m not saying the governor’s people are right or wrong. I’m merely saying, politically, they’ve lost the narrative with the voters,” he said.

Wolf’s PAC calls on Corbett to can adviser

The political tussle continued through the week, with Wolf seizing upon a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report that found one of Corbett’s advisers is collecting a salary of about $140,000 a year, despite a paper trail that shows little evidence of work.

The Campaign for a Fresh Start, a PAC created by Wolf, sent out an email Wednesday morning that posed a simple question: “When will Tom Corbett fire Ron Tomalis?”

“Tom Corbett’s cuts to education resulted in the layoffs of 20,000 educators, but he made sure Ron Tomalis kept his job,” said Mike Mikus, a PAC spokesman. “After drastically cutting our children’s education, it’s no surprise that Corbett’s oversight of the Department of Education has been severely lacking. If Tom Corbett wants to maintain any shred of credibility on the issue of fiscal responsibility, he will fire Ron Tomalis immediately.”

Corbett’s administration defended Tomalis’ work, while the governor’s campaign accused Wolf of trying to “distract” from issues.

The Tomalis situation could become more than a campaign issue, though, after activist Gene Stilp filed a complaint about it with the state Ethics Commission.

Survey says: Pennsylvania needs to treat small business better

The gubernatorial campaign apparently isn’t the only instance of unfriendly activity in Pennsylvania this week.

Pennsylvania scored abysmally in the Thumbtack.com Small Business Friendliness Survey that was conducted in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation and released this week. The Keystone State received a D, and scored no better than a D+ in every categories, including ease of starting a new business (D+), tax code (D) and ease of hiring (F).

“After a two-month survey of thousands of small business owners nationwide, we’ve heard directly from Pennsylvania’s small businesses that the state could do more to support them,” Jon Lieber, the chief economist of Thumbtack, said in a news release. “Creating a business climate that is welcoming to small, dynamic businesses is more important than ever, and Pennsylvania’s small businesses think the state could do a better job.”

Thumbtack did not provide the survey’s methodology when asked.

Lawmaker wants more transparency in liquor advertising

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board controls the flow of wine and spirits to customers across the state.

But it’s also a business. And like most businesses, it advertises. That creates an odd paradox where the same agency charged with controlling alcohol in the name of safety is also promoting the purchase, and thus the consumption, of alcohol.

One Republican lawmaker isn’t comfortable with that arrangement.

“Using tax dollars on ads to glamorize and encourage alcohol consumption, while at the same time using other tax dollars on ads to curb alcohol abuse is not only contradictory, it’s wrongheaded and inefficient,” state Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-Cumberland, said in a statement this week.

Bloom has introduced a bill to require all PLCB advertising efforts to include a statement reading “this advertising was paid for by you, the taxpayers of PA.”

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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