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Corbett cites business in blasting top Democrat

Corbett opposes plan to alter state university system

Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he opposes a plan that would allow some state-owned universities to leave the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to become quasi-public schools such as Pitt or Penn State.

“It's a mistake,” Corbett said after speaking at a Downtown breakfast hosted by NAIOP Pittsburgh, a commercial real estate development group.

Sens. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks County, and Andy Dinniman, D-Chester County, introduced the legislation Tuesday. It would allow financially healthier schools to leave the 14-member state system, in which several universities are plagued by fiscal problems, program cuts and declining enrollment.

Both lawmakers have pointed to growing West Chester University in Chester County, saying they fear it could suffer as the system directs more money to struggling schools.

“If there are complaints about the functioning of the state system, let's deal with them. That's what we're trying to deal with,” Corbett said.

Corbett said he is encouraged by leadership changes in the state system, including new Chancellor Frank Brogan and several new additions to its board of governors, members of which are appointed by the governor. Corbett called Brogan a “visionary.”

Brogan told the Tribune-Review last week that he'd like to see the state system's universities develop unique programs, such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania's professional master's degree in applied and industrial chemistry. He asked lawmakers to boost funding for system schools next year by 8.4 percent, to $447.3 million.

“The strength of the state system is in all 14 members, not in people going off on their own,” Corbett said.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 11:33 a.m.
 

Gov. Tom Corbett appeared to be in full campaign mode during stops Wednesday in the Pittsburgh area.

The Shaler Republican took swipes at his leading Democratic opponent and mugged for photos with rescued puppies.

He described the $2.3 billion transportation bill passed last year as a “watershed mark for the next 10 years in Pennsylvania,” and predicted big things if he is elected to second term — including development of not one, but two, ethane “cracker” plants across the state. Royal Dutch Shell plc is considering whether to build a multibillion-dollar plant in Beaver County

“We're in full-scale, high-level campaign season. Corbett has got to make a move in the polls, and now is the time. You're going to see a lot of events like this,” said pollster G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

An F&M poll released late last month showed York County businessman Tom Wolf leading a crowded field of Democrats. A survey by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University said Wolf and five other candidates outpolled Corbett.

Corbett took a shot at Wolf while speaking to about 200 people at a Downtown breakfast hosted by NAIOP Pittsburgh, a commercial real estate development group.

Although Democrats want to impose a severance tax on gas extracted from wells, Corbett said, “No one business should have a special tax. Or maybe we should have a special excise tax on cabinet makers,” alluding to Wolf's family business.

“Every state in the nation, even Texas and Oklahoma, have an extraction tax,” Wolf campaign spokesman Mark Nicastre said.

The primary election is May 20.

Corbett said he remains optimistic that oil and gas giant Shell will build a petrochemical plant in Beaver County to convert ethane from natural gas into chemicals for plastics, antifreeze and other products. He noted that Shell agreed to pay for demolition and remediation work on the site.

“There will be probably be more developments between now and the second quarter,” Corbett said, declining to elaborate.

Beaver County Commissioners Joe Spanik and Dennis Nichols said they and a working group of officials who have met periodically about the plant were invited by Shell officials to hear an update on March 20. They said Shell didn't elaborate. Commissioners said Dan Carlson, general manager for new business development at Shell Chemicals, will attend.

Also at the breakfast, Corbett said he opposes legislation to allow some state-owned universities to leave the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to become quasi-public schools such as Pitt or Penn State.

“It's a mistake,” Corbett said.

Wednesday afternoon, Corbett appeared at Animal Friends in Ohio Township to urge dog owners to get their pets licensed.

David Conti contributed. Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


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