I disagree. Corbett gets the problems, but he, along with governors who have balanced budgets without tax increases from New Jersey to Indiana to Minnesota, also understands the reality of taxpayers.
Simply put, they are already responsibly shouldering their share of the load, and they aren't inclined to send more to lawmakers who behave irresponsibly.
According to the fiscal watchdogs at the Commonwealth Foundation, since 2003, when Rendell took office, the annual budget has grown from $20 billion to $28 billion. Inflation was under 20 percent, but spending increased 47 percent. Commonwealth president Matthew Brouillette wrote in July: "If spending had been held to inflation over the past eight years . . . we'd have ended the fiscal year with a surplus rather than a deficit."
The Tax Foundation in Washington says Pennsylvanians' state and local tax burden is slightly above the national average, at 10.2 percent, amounting to $4,463 per capita. That's up more than $1,100 from 2003, in part because of the personal income-tax increase Rendell and the legislature passed early in his tenure. The gas tax here - 32.3 cents per gallon - is the 10th highest in the country. The corporate tax rate of 9.99 percent is the second highest nationally.
Casinos didn't exist in Pennsylvania before Rendell took office, but now the state leads the nation in its take from gaming. Gamblers funneled nearly $1.1 billion through the casinos to Harrisburg last year, and this year table games and Philadelphia's SugarHouse have sweetened the pot. The Gaming Control Board already reports $954 million in revenue by the end of September.
Other revenue sources are down because of the recession, but it's hard to argue that there's not enough money flowing into Harrisburg. And lawmakers are hardly seen as good stewards of the bounty.
A Rasmussen Reports poll released last weekend showed that:
70 percent of adults say the government does not spend taxpayer money wisely or fairly; 16 percent say it does.
61 percent say the federal government has too much power and money; 14 percent say it has too little.
Granted, the "power and money" question singles out the federal government, but no culprit was specified when it came to spending "wisely or fairly." So, do adults in Pennsylvania have reason to trust the wisdom and fairness of their elected officials?
The land of the midnight pay raise?
The land of Bonusgate, with lawmakers, Republican and Democratic, as well as staffers, being indicted or convicted for the use of taxpayer money in campaigns?
The land of last year's 137-count corruption conviction of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo for using employees for personal and political work on state time - and where fresh subpoenas were served just Wednesday in the federal investigation of Robert J. Mellow, the highest-ranking Senate Democrat?
Even the non-criminal fiscal activity hardly inspires confidence:
Budgeting $470 million for state transportation needs based on the hope that the federal government would go along with the scheme to toll Interstate 80.
The $200 million legislative slush fund.
So there's a strong case for no new taxes, but is a pledge too extreme?
No, or Corbett's opponent, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, wouldn't have his own version. He dismisses Corbett's promise, but says he won't increase taxes until, at a minimum, lawmakers give up their slush fund. I like the idea, but doubt lawmakers will go along. In effect, then, you have a no-new-taxes pledge easily as binding as Corbett's.
The other problem is that Onorato only addresses the trust part of the equation.
He opens the door to the legislature's regaining the public's confidence - if it does the right thing. But why should taxpayers have to bargain for their own money back? And why use higher taxes as a bargaining chip?
Corbett's pledge will be tough to implement. But at least he puts the focus where it belongs, on fiscal and taxpayer realities that have been ignored for too long in Harrisburg.
Contact Kevin Ferris at email@example.com or 215-854-5305.