Protesters confront Corbett in Fox Chase

  • About 50 people gathered to protest cuts to public education and welfare programs. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

  • Read the signs: Gov. Tom Corbett kicked off his re-election bid at Corp. John Loudenslager American Legion Post 366 in Fox Chase last week. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Pas­sions were high last week as Gov. Tom Corbett ar­rived at Corp. John Loudensla­ger Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 366 in Fox Chase to kick off his re-elec­tion bid.

Out­side, about 50 pro­test­ers held signs and chanted in op­pos­i­tion to what they see as Corbett’s cuts to pub­lic edu­ca­tion and wel­fare pro­grams.

In­side, sup­port­ers eagerly waited for the gov­ernor, first lady Sue Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Caw­ley to take the po­di­um, where a sign read, “More Jobs, Less Taxes.”

When pro­test­ers saw Corbett’s cam­paign bus turn off Rhawn Street onto Ox­ford Av­en­ue, they booed and chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Gov­ernor Corbett’s got to go.”

The group in­cluded mem­bers of the Phil­adelphia Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, Ac­tion United and the Pennsylvania Co­ali­tion Ad­voc­at­ing for Pub­lic Schools.

In the Loudensla­ger hall, a pro­test­er slipped in and began chant­ing “One-term Tom” be­fore sup­port­ers drowned him out with calls for “Four more years.”

Sue Corbett cred­ited the pro­test­ers with chant­ing in a nice rhyme, jok­ing that her hus­band’s back­ers should do a conga line.

The GOP faith­ful in­cluded former City Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly and party bosses John Taylor, Joe De­Fe­lice and Mike Mee­han. Taylor, a state rep­res­ent­at­ive and the Re­pub­lic­an City Com­mit­tee chair­man, cred­ited Corbett with eras­ing a budget de­fi­cit without rais­ing taxes.

“It’s our job to keep re­mind­ing people of that,” he said. “We have an un­told story, and we’re go­ing to start telling it today.”

Caw­ley, a former Bucks County com­mis­sion­er, noted that former Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Mark Sch­weiker left a budget sur­plus in 2003, only to see spend­ing in­crease un­der the next Demo­crat­ic ad­min­is­tra­tion. He called Corbett a “strong, prin­cipled man” who has ended the state’s former tax-and-spend ways.

“I be­lieve that Tom Corbett has earned a second term,” he said.

Corbett stood in front of a ban­ner that read, “Prom­ises Kept.” He re­called be­ing born in Phil­adelphia, though his fam­ily moved when he was 1. He is a long­time res­id­ent of west­ern Pennsylvania.

The gov­ernor spent two terms as state at­tor­ney gen­er­al be­fore be­ing elec­ted in 2010.

“We have got­ten a lot done in 2½ years,” he said.

Opin­ion polls tell a dif­fer­ent story. Corbett’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ings are low, and a bunch of Demo­crats have entered the race to deny him a second term.

Corbett, though, said he was faced with a $4.2 bil­lion budget de­fi­cit when he came in­to of­fice. Un­like the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, he poin­ted out, Pennsylvania has a re­quire­ment to bal­ance its budget.

“We could not af­ford to raise taxes on the people of Pennsylvania,” he said.

The oth­er op­tion, of course, was to re­duce spend­ing. Corbett’s ini­tial budget was the first one to spend less than the year be­fore in four dec­ades.

The gov­ernor re­duced the size of the state auto­mobile fleet by 20 per­cent, sav­ing $43 mil­lion. Also, the state re­fin­anced its debt to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

The over­all size of gov­ern­ment was re­duced to its low­est level in a half-cen­tury.

“I had brown hair 50 years ago, that’s how long ago it was,” said the 64-year-old, white-haired gov­ernor.

Corbett said a high­light of his first term is great­er in­vest­ment in Aker Phil­adelphia Shipyard, where there are or­ders for ships to be built bey­ond 2020.

Also, the gov­ernor’s of­fice worked in a bi­par­tis­an man­ner with the may­or’s of­fice and White House to pre­serve jobs at the Sun­oco oil re­finery in South Phil­adelphia. It’s now be­ing op­er­ated ef­fi­ciently, Corbett said, by Phil­adelphia En­ergy Solu­tions.

Corbett thanked the le­gis­lature for work­ing with him to spend $40 mil­lion to re­duce the wait­ing list for phys­ic­ally and men­tally dis­abled people to re­ceive ser­vices.

The gov­ernor, a former teach­er along with his wife, chal­lenged his crit­ics on pub­lic edu­ca­tion.

“We spend more money on edu­ca­tion than at any time in the his­tory of Pennsylvania,” he said.

Corbett said that the state is fund­ing most of the $1.3 bil­lion the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia is re­ceiv­ing this year. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has also con­trib­uted, and the gov­ernor said that Phil­adelphia isn’t the only school dis­trict in need.

“We have 499 oth­er school dis­tricts,” he said.

Corbett said he de­serves re-elec­tion for bal­an­cing the budget, con­tend­ing that Pennsylvania’s eco­nomy will con­tin­ue to grow in the near fu­ture.

“Our fisc­al house is in or­der,” he said. “Our best days are ahead.” ••

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