Corbett speaks with members of Blue Bell Rotary Club
WHITPAIN — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett made a stop in Blue Bell to speak with Rotarians about issues f acing t he Commonwealth.
The governor attended the Rotary Leadership dinner, at the Manor House, Prophecy Creek, 205 W. Skippack Pike, Jan. 29. The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Blue Bell.
Twenty Rotary clubs, representing two Rotary districts from southeastern Pennsylvania, attended the dinner, which ran from 5:30 to 9 p.m., to share their key local, regional, and international projects, and learn about the key issues that Corbett faces and his efforts to identify solutions that positively impact Pennsylvania communities.
“Your motto ‘service about self’ is one that many of us could use,” Corbett told the crowd. “It’s a direct motto and it’s very simple. Yet when you think about it it’s very profound. When you consider the impact that Rotary has had, that each of you has had, that’s a result of the service you give back to your community.”
He said Rotarians “honor the definition of service” through the various projects they undertake.
“You understand that providing solutions to the problems that we face is the ultimate goal of service,” he said. “Doing what is best for your communities and taking on the challenges that we face as a state, even as hard as they are, your ideas from your membership inspire people to volunteer, become involved and maybe even to run for office.”
Corbett then began to address some of the current issues facing the state, including the $4.2 billion deficit.
“Anybody want to give me $4.2 billion to fix the deficit?” he joked. “We didn’t ask you for it. I think that’s the important thing, we did not raise taxes to make up that difference. We made tough decisions and we did not raise taxes — in fact, we reduced taxes.”
Corbett said while there is still high unemployment, in the last month the country’s unemployment rate had the biggest drop since 1983.
“[Pennsylvania] is down to 6.9 [percent], a little higher than the national average,” Corbett said. “But we’re continuing to grow jobs in Pennsylvania in the private sector.”
He said the state has reduced the size of state employees to the lowest level in 50 years while trying to find ways to encourage the private sector to grow.
To promote the economy, Corbett said the state eliminated the inheritance tax for family farmers and small businesses in order to pass a business to the next generation.
Corbett then asked the crowd how many of them pay tax unemployment compensation.
“You can all put your hands up,” he said to a laugh. “And all of you that are employed actually pay money into unemployment compensation… What we did though is we said, ‘we owe $4 billion to the federal government for unemployment compensation money that was borrowed over the years.’ What did we do? We refinanced. We floated our bond, because we were paying over 4 percent interest. We floated our bond, we now pay 1.2 percent. We got the government to say, ‘ here, go away.’ We saved everyone here money because every year the reduction in those few taxes is $385 million to you, the tax payers in Pennsylvania, every year for the next 20 years. That’s saving money.”
Corbett said during his time in office he worked to reduce government spending, which he compared to pruning a rose bush for the first time in how “ugly” it looks at first. He said reducing spending was necessary given the amount of revenue coming in.
“I will not spend more money than the revenue that comes into Pennsylvania, I will not do it,” he said. “I can tell you that didn’t make me real popular with a lot of people. You may notice that. I’m not real popular with the school union in the city of Philadelphia, because I said, ‘we don’t have that money.’ We had to cut, we had to prune. But I have to tell you, things are coming back better than ever. Our economy is growing.”
Corbett mentioned drilling for natural gas as a revenue source “we didn’t know we had,” that provides thousands of jobs in the state,
Several area fire departments from Chester and Montgomery counties are benefitting from more than $90,000 in state grants.
Rep . Warren Kampf ( R— 157th D ist .) announced the awards Monday and said he is happy to add state support to these local organizations.
The Friendship Diving Rescue Unit, Phoenix Hose Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 and West End Fire Company/EMS of Phoenixville were awarded more than including those from this area who are connected to those drilling projects like lawyers, insurance sales people and welders to name a few.
The biggest problem the state faces at the moment is the pension system, Corbett said.
“Anybody got an extra $610 million they want to give us?” he joked again. “Because that’s what we have to add to the budget this year just for the pensions. And $610 million next year, and next year and the next year. By 2017-18 $3.8 billion is going to be going to the pension system in Pennsylvania.”
Corbett said 62 cents of every new dollar goes towards pensions, making it difficult to pay for things like education and other investments.
“If you think we don’t want to invest in that, we do” he said. “But you heard that word investment. We want to see a return on that investment. K through 12, higher ed. and more than higher ed., post secondary education… but we can’t do that until we get the pension system solved.”
Corbett also said he’d also like to invest $22.4 million for people with mental and physical disability, who are currently on a waiting list of 15,000 to receive services from the state.
“If the pension system is fixed,” he said. “I’d like to eliminate that waiting list.”
Corbett said he thinks the state can tackle the pension system this year, and hopes to see businesses grow, in order for taxes to decrease.
“I look forward to come back in my second term,” he ended by saying.
Also in attendance for the event was state Rep. Kate Harper, R-61, who said Rotary is an organization that has helped move the state forward.
“[It’s] great to be in a room full of people who value service above self,” she said. “Rotary clubs are important because they build communities and sustain communities.”
Harper said the community needed Rotarians more than ever because “they help keep communities strong, and that keeps our commonwealth strong and that keeps America strong.”
Follow Eric Devlin on Twitter @Eric_Devlin.