Tom Corbett needs help from seven Democrat state senators to even sniff at a second four-year governor’s term next year.
Corbett claims he personally was not aware Republican State Senator Jane Orie should be investigated for using state workers for campaign purposes. His attorney general office, however, snubbed a claim of such conduct by one of the workers.
His subordinates kicking the case launched a series of events.
While Corbett campaigned for governor on his crusade against political corruption, he never met a PA senator who aroused his suspicion. Even before Jane Orie’s case, the Feds nailed two Democrat Senators. Critics believe Corbett could not open the Senate door without entrapping close Republican allies.
The Jane Orie case got kicked over to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr., an apolitical Democrat known for lack of ambition for higher office and content to keep on keeping on. Zappala’s office not only successfully prosecuted Jane Orie, but evidence also linked two of her sisters to the corrupt practices.
Eventually Joan Orie Melvin, a Supreme Court Justice, and Janine Orie, Melvin’s chief aide, were also convicted. Melvin will resign in early May, a week before she is sentenced, leaving the PA Supreme Court split at three Republicans and three Democrats.
Herein might be Gov. Corbett’s Waterloo.
Corbett needs important programs to survive likely challenges to the Supreme Court. At least one vote is necessary get his next fiscal year budget, beginning July 1, into balance.
Ever since Corbett took office in 2011 he has cracked the fiscal whip on the public school system. The first term governor took office in January of that year and a month later introduced his first budget that had public education advocates howling. His story is that in his first two budgets (2011-12 and 2012-13) he actually provided very modest increases in school funding. However, Corbett declined to replace Federal stimulus funds and other declining sources from Washington.
For acting like a true Republican, Gov. Corbett’s approval ratings have sunk lower than a sailboat in the Bermuda Triangle. According to the New York Times, polls about Corbett’s satisfaction show 14 more percent of voters disapprove than approve.
Corbett wants to privatize both the PA lottery and the selling of liquor and wine. There has been significant public interest in getting the state out of the booze business, but the lottery proposal looks like a hi-jacking.
In the lottery jacking, Corbett tried to sign a 20-year $34 billion no-bid contract with an English firm that has hired former Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, to perform unspecified duties. New Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, rejected the contract citing violation of three sections of the state Constitution.
Corbett’s staff is trying to re-work the deal with the English. Kane claims the lottery is a creature of the legislature and the contract end runs competitive bidding.
With the Brits running his lottery, Corbett will introduce Keno on every street corner in every town. Casino revenues were off a tad this past calendar year, meaning that industry may be maturing in the Keystone State. Corbett’s projections indicate Keno will increase lottery profits, used for programs for old people.
Replacing state operated booze stores by selling licenses in the private market will raise some one-time, non-renewable cash. Corbett has promised to hand those funds out to school districts in the form of competitive grants. The state employees union will obviously challenge this attempt in court to fire more workers.
Without funds from these privatization efforts Corbett’s budget for 2013-14 is not balanced.
Finally, Corbett hopes to bring funding pensions under control by essentially re-writing basic contract law, a sure-fire trip to the Supreme Court.
Melvin’s successor is to be appointed by Corbett, but subject to two-thirds confirmation by the State Senate. Republicans can only provide 27 of the 34 votes needed.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille thinks the remaining six Supremes could appoint a seventh judge to fill the balance of Melvin’s term on their own, if Corbett stumbles or Democrats show backbone.