After working with two Governors in two statewide offices for more than 7 years, after compiling a record of major accomplishments, and after 28 years of working from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to improve Pennsylvania's economy, energy resources, and the environment, I today announce that I am a candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania.
This campaign will be about the 100%, the Commonwealth, all of us. When elected in 2014, I will be a Governor for all Pennsylvanians.
My commitment to all Pennsylvanians, my experience, and record of real accomplishments, as well as my plans to improve education, create jobs, develop energy resources, and protect the environment--the four Es--are why I am running for Governor. I am also running to win and to make Governor Corbett a one-term governor. My website--www.hangerforgovernor.com—provides my approach and policies on key issues facing us. Please visit www.hangerforgovernor.com and join our campaign.
Indeed, I bring to this race a strong record of public service and real accomplishments that have made Pennsylvania better and that began in Philadelphia, when I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1984. Like many Pennsylvanians, I have had a helping hand up. I attended public schools in New Jersey after I arrived in America from Ireland in 1970. My attendance and graduation at the University of Pennsylvania was made possible by federal student loans that became essential when my father died during my first year of law school
As a young attorney, I joined Community Legal Services in the City of Philadelphia, where I represented people who worked hard in low wage jobs, had disabilities, suffered from illness, and senior citizens living on fixed incomes. Many people struggled to pay all of their gas, electricity, water, sewer, and telephone bills. Some families even experienced shut-offs of essential utility services and desperately resorted to dangerous heating and lighting substitutes like kerosene heaters and candles.
My experience in Philadelphia showed me the struggles of millions of people to pay the bills and find better paying jobs. My time here also taught me that, while government can make things better or worse, smart policies and empowering citizens were essential for improving the conditions of people's lives.
For example, when I began working in Philadelphia, the customers of the Philadelphia Gas Works and the Philadelphia Water Department had no official consumer advocate to represent their interests in major cases like those that set gas and water rates or determined the rights and responsibilities of customers.
In response, I was successful in advocating for the creation of the Public Advocate and served as the first appointed Public Advocate. The Public Advocate to this day represents customers in rate cases and has saved consumers over the years hundreds of millions of dollars by making utility service more efficient.
When Governor Casey nominated me in 1993 to be a Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, I moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania, where I live today. At the PUC, I was determined to make more efficient and better electricity, gas, telephone, water and sewer services--the basic infrastructure of our economy and communities.
In those days, the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan regions had residential electricity rates that were frequently among America's top 15, or even ten highest. Those high electricity rates hurt working families and job creation.
As a Commissioner, I led historic reforms that ended state sanctioned, electricity generation monopolies that had created the high electricity rates. In 1996, the General Assembly passed the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act that made it legal for all electricity generation providers to compete for all customers and for all customers to choose their electricity generation provider.
Implementation of this law included a 14-year period of rate caps for customers in the PECO service territory, 13 years in the PPL service territory and multi-year rate caps across the state. Today electricity generation rates are down in real terms 40% or more in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas compared to what they were in 1996. That's real progress made possible by smart reforms that both Republicans and Democrats supported.
Indeed, my successful work on electricity reform alone saved consumers billions and billions of dollars, made Pennsylvania's economy more competitive and, directly and indirectly, created thousands of new jobs.
One of the features of the electricity competition law is that any generator, including wind, solar and renewable energy projects and companies, could connect to the grid and sell to all consumers. This law ended generation monopolies, further opened the grid to all companies and customers, and played a role in making possible a burst of renewable energy investment.
After my term at the Public Utility Commission, my work focused substantially on growing renewable energy, energy conservation, included playing leading roles in enacting Pennsylvania's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards law, Act 129 (our major energy conservation law), and other vital legislation that attracted more than $4 billion of private investment to Pennsylvania to build 25 wind farms and more than 6,000 solar projects. These projects created thousands of jobs in construction, manufacturing, and in other fields.
During this time, I also led, with others, the successful passage of the Growing Greener II bond program that conserved land, cleaned water, improved parks, and preserved parks all across Pennsylvania.
In 2008, Governor Rendell, who has a sterling energy, environmental, education and economic record, asked me to serve as the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, exactly when the Marcellus shale gas boom was underway. I immediately strengthened and modernized Pennsylvania's oversight of the gas industry, while also making sure new jobs were created in the gas industry and huge amounts of new gas were produced that lowered gas prices and that saved many gas heat and electricity consumers about $1,500 per year, compared to 2008 prices.
To strengthen and modernize gas regulation, we enacted five new regulatory packages, regulating the withdrawal of water, the disposal of drilling wastewater, and other items. The DEP gas enforcement staff was more than doubled and paid for by a major fee paid by gas drillers. And our enforcement staff actively enforced the rules, issuing 1,200 notices of violation to gas drillers in 2010.
Gas drilling is an industrial activity that must be strongly regulated and reasonably taxed. Maximizing the benefits and minimizing the impacts of gas production requires constant work and attention.
The gas industry has created jobs, and more gas production lowers gas and electricity bills here and across Pennsylvania. Though the gas industry boosts our economy, we must not have unrealistic expectations built on a false understanding of what gas development alone can do. Simply, gas alone will never be enough to make Pennsylvania prosperous.
Here are some highlights of my plans for building a better future for all Pennsylvanians.
I will make education the first priority for state funding; not the last. I will honor and encourage Pennsylvania's teachers, for an excellent education begins with excellent teachers and with the amount of time spent learning. Verbally beating and attacking teachers is now common in some quarters and is incredibly destructive to attracting top talent to teaching and improving education.
I will invest in our state universities and colleges, all of which are powerful educational and economic forces. I also support Auditor General Wagner's recent recommendation that no governor serve on Penn State's board of trustees.
I will insure that charter schools are accountable and transparent, and they are neither now. Charter schools must offer a better education to children and will be supported, if they do. But they must not be a means for enriching those that run them. I also oppose school vouchers.
I will develop all our energy resources, including wind, solar, and energy efficiency. Saving energy remains the cheapest and cleanest energy resource available.
I will implement a reasonable, rational tax on natural gas production and dedicate funds to local communities where gas drilling is done, environmental improvement, and education. Pennsylvania should soon rank third among the states in producing total energy, behind only Texas and Wyoming. Both of those states have no income taxes but do tax energy.
Governor Corbett signed the notorious Grover Norquist tax pledge and so tied himself and this state in knots on the issue of establishing a reasonable drilling tax. In 2014, voters will decide whether or not Pennsylvania will join Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alaska, and every major gas producing state with a drilling tax. As voters consider this issue, I will make sure that they know that Pennsylvania's Marcellus gas resource is the highest profit shale gas production in the USA, according to Standards and Poor.
I will accelerate the deployment of alternative fueling stations for natural gas, electricity, and biofuels so that Pennsylvanians within 10 years could be free of expensive oil, gasoline and diesel, and free to buy for their business and families the vehicles that make sense for them.
I will initiate a full inquiry into what changes to the grid should be made to reduce damages from increasingly damaging storms that plunge millions of Pennsylvanians into the dark and cold repeatedly for days.
I will implement the recommendations of Pennsylvania's Climate Action Plan that was reported to the General Assembly in 2010 that save money, reduce pollution, and create jobs.
I will have a broad economic development strategy that invests in transportation, water lines, sewer systems and that partners with the private sectors in medicine, agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. This policy will increase the rate of job creation in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is where America's freedom and liberty started. The struggle to extend liberty to all Pennsylvanians continues.
I support the right of any couple, gay or straight, to get married and equally support the right of any religious institution to marry only those that they wish to marry. I also support the enactment of a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in vital things like employment and housing.
On the issue of reproductive rights, I support Roe v. Wade and the right of women to make difficult, private decisions about pregnancies. I also strongly support access to contraception and sex education because they are the best ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions.
And I do support allowing persons suffering from illness to receive medical marijuana with the prescription of a physician. Withholding an effective medicine for patients is cruel and an assault on liberty.
Again more detail on issues can be found at my website, www.hangerforgovernor.com.
I am also running for Governor because Tom Corbett's policies are damaging Pennsylvania's schools, our economy, and our future. The Governor is sincere in his beliefs, but he must be a one-term governor for the good of the Commonwealth.
In just two years, Corbett has devastated education and has mismanaged the opportunities presented by all of Pennsylvania's energy resources, including natural gas. He even refused to defend jobs in the Pennsylvania wind industry by refusing to sign a bi-partisan letter to Congress urging the timely extension of the wind production tax credit. Unlike Governor Corbett, I will defend every job that exists in Pennsylvania and work tirelessly to create new, good paying positions.
The Governor does not have a viable economic development strategy that builds on our strengths in education, medicine, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, recreation and tourism. Corbett's plan for the economy rests on relying exclusively on gas alone, when gas alone will never create prosperity across Pennsylvania.
The result of Tom Corbett's mistakes is that Pennsylvania's unemployment rate is now above the national unemployment rate for the first time in years. Indeed, in the last year, Pennsylvania has fallen further down the job creation state rankings, going from a leader in 2010 to a laggard.
Most disturbingly, since 2011, Pennsylvania has struggled, even as the national unemployment rate fell, and even though we have one of the world's biggest energy booms.
The Governor's failed economic development strategy and his education policies are at the root of Pennsylvania's recent troubles. The Governor has proposed and implemented devastating cuts to our public schools and state colleges and universities. The $1 billion in education cuts that the Governor insisted be part of the 2011-2012 state budget were his choice and not an unavoidable necessity. As the Governor axed our public schools and public universities and colleges, he put hundreds of millions of dollars in the Rainy Day Fund and implemented business tax cuts in excess of $200 million.
Tom Corbett's budget choices and his education cuts have led to rising school taxes in many communities and have caused the destruction of 19,000 education jobs, rising class sizes, cancelling of courses and tutoring.
Many Pennsylvanians are now paying more for education and getting less. And it should shock none of us that Pennsylvania's school test scores are getting worse under Governor Corbett.
While the Governor has slashed funding for public schools and colleges, state funding continues without any accountability or transparency for private schools and charter schools, including $250 million per year to 14 cyber charter schools. The lack of accountability and transparency is so bad that a few charter schools have had public funds stolen and have kept their charters, and 13 of the 14 cyber charter schools have test scores below the average of Pennsylvania's public schools.
Though I believe charter schools can be a good option for students in a failing public school, and I will support good charter schools, Governor Corbett's failure to make charter schools accountable puts at risk our children and wastes precious taxpayer funds. The absence of accountability and transparency must end.
In that spirit, I also fully support Attorney General Kane's commitment to investigate the handling of the horrific Sandusky case. Pennsylvanians want answers to some basic questions. Why was Sandusky's home not searched for more than 2 years after the case reached the Attorney General's office? Why was Sandusky left free without continuous law enforcement surveillance for more than 2 years after the case reached the Attorney General's office? Does the Attorney General's office need more staff to insure offenders that threaten public safety, like Sandusky, are quickly investigated and arrested? Are changes to the law necessary to speed vital investigations and better protect public safety?
In the coming months, I look forward to listening to and talking with citizens across this Commonwealth. I am sure more good ideas will come forward.
This campaign begins today. Together we can save our public schools and universities, create good jobs faster, develop all our energy resources, and clean our environment. Please join this campaign by getting involved.
With your help, Tom Corbett will be a one-term Governor, and I will be a Governor for all Pennsylvanians.