Gov. Tom Corbett has a chance right now. Usually he doesnâ€™t really even pretend to care about the little guy. Heâ€™s a serial stroker of fat cats. He knows it. We know it. Thereâ€™s not much point in anybody pretending otherwise.
But he can at least mitigate that reputation with one well-timed move: Veto a bill aimed at bringing software maker Oracle to Penn State University.
Why would he veto a bill aimed at bringing more than 250 jobs to the state? Because itâ€™s a bad bill that sets a bad precedent: In exchange for moving here, Oracleâ€”and all other big companies that move to the stateâ€”would get to keep almost all the state taxes it withholds from its Pennsylvania employees.
Or, as City Paperâ€™s Dan Denvir characterized it: The bill would make Oracle workers here pay taxes to their boss for the privilege of having a job.
Whatâ€™s interesting about the GOP-backed bill is how it so clearly contradicts the free-market principles being espoused by the Republican Party and its candidates at the national level. â€śGovernment doesnâ€™t create jobs,â€ť Mitt Romney repeatedly says. â€śGovernment shouldnâ€™t pick winners and losers,â€ť he says at other times. And it sounds great, until you realize Pennsylvania Republicans are attempting to do bothâ€”not by improving the general business climate in the state, nor by lowering corporate tax rates, but by essentially bribing specific, very large companies to locate here.
Whatâ€™s more, Republican-controlled statehouses across the country have been passing laws freeing businesses from the requirement of withholding union dues from their employee paychecks. Apparently, however, itâ€™s OK to tap a paycheck directly if itâ€™s in the service of Big Business, however.
So whereâ€™s Corbett on all of this? We donâ€™t know. A spokesman said the bill was still â€śunder review.â€ť
But given his historyâ€”and even his recent historyâ€”thereâ€™s not much reason to believe that Corbett will do the right thing here.
In the midst of a budget austerity push that has deeply sliced programs for the poorâ€”and disproportionately affected Philadelphiaâ€”we found out last week that Corbett has given $10,000 raises to four members of his senior staff, people who were already making far above $100,000 anyway. Belt-tightening is for the plebes.
Again, Republicans nationally have sought to rein in budget costs by suggesting that government employees are overcompensated and cracking down on employee unions. Corbett hasnâ€™t taken quite that route, to be fair, but heâ€™s overseen cuts to so many sectors of state government that the huge raises for the people at the top of the pyramid is more than a little unseemly.
Corbettâ€™s spokesman, Kevin Harley, justified the raises by saying those top employees work really hard. “These are not people who are punching the clock. They work nights, they work weekends, they are basically on call 24/7. They are not 9-to-5 jobs.”
Sounds like they work almost as hard as teachers. Pennsylvania teachers are not getting $10,000 raises.
So Corbettâ€™s overall M.O. is to be heedless of the poor and middle class while pampering the top folks. Itâ€™s a pattern that suggests heâ€™ll sign the Oracle bill. But nobody should be happy about it.