Dems join Corbett as he signs roads bill in Montco

Gov. Corbett greets visitors before signing a Pennsylvania transportation funding bill. Key Democrats joined him for the ceremony.
Gov. Corbett greets visitors before signing a Pennsylvania transportation funding bill. Key Democrats joined him for the ceremony. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 27, 2013

Gov. Corbett signed a landmark transportation bill Monday in the parking lot of a Montgomery County Catholic church, surrounded by a large and diverse cast of officials - Democratic and Republican - along with representatives of labor, business, and mass transit.

"I know where my bread is buttered," said Corbett, a clear reference to the votes he needs from the Philadelphia suburbs to win reelection in 2014.

The stop was one of three - the others were in Centre County and Pittsburgh - as the governor hopscotched the state to deliver the word that the first of his priority policy initiatives was signed, sealed, and delivered.

The legislation, which cleared the General Assembly last week with bipartisan support, will funnel $2.3 billion to repair roads, bridge, and mass transit infrastructure.

Republicans are asking if it can also fix Corbett's record low poll numbers as he heads into an election year.

"Ultimately, when voters look at Tom Corbett, they see a governor who is unafraid of tackling tough challenges and getting things done," said Valerie Caras, spokeswoman for the state Republican Party. "This historic transportation bill is indicative of that."

With his approval rating hovering around 20 percent, Corbett needed a solid legislative victory. In the most recent Franklin and Marshall poll of registered voters, released last month, just one in five respondents said they believed Corbett was doing an "excellent" or "good" job as governor, and 44 percent of Republicans wanted him to step aside.

"There is no question about it - the governor was looking for any lift he could get," said Chris Borick, a political science professor and pollster at Muhlenberg College. "Spearheading a signature piece of legislation like the transportation bill helps fill that void."

Corbett seized on the transportation achievement, which is projected to create 50,000 jobs, to bring together a broad coalition of supporters in his cross-state tour.

Speaking in the parking lot of St. Teresa of Avila Church in West Norriton Township, Corbett said the bill "has connected us across party lines and across interest groups, from business to labor."

The site represented a strategic location - near the bottlenecked intersection of Routes 363 and 422, scheduled for $16.8 million in improvements under the bill.

Among those attending were the county's two Democratic commissioners, Leslie S. Richards and Josh Shapiro, who offered glowing praise for the Republican governor.

"You inked the deal on the most important job-creation bill in a decade here in Pennsylvania," said Shapiro, a former state representative.

Corbett may feel pushback in coming months from conservative Republicans angry about the increases in fees and taxes needed to pay for the bill.

Rep. Stephen Bloom (R., Cumberland), who voted against the bill, said he feared this move may help Democrats by depressing GOP turnout next November.

"I am disappointed that with Republican control in House and Senate and governor's office, we weren't able to address transportation needs through reallocation and reauthorization of existing revenue rather than simply going back to the taxpayers and job-creators and asking for a higher tax," Bloom said.

Borick said that "no matter which way you parse it," lifting the cap on the oil franchise tax and increasing costs for driver's licenses, registration, and moving violations constitute a tax increase, and that will generate blowback from fiscal conservatives.

"This is a blow," Borick said. "But the general public won't feel costs till after 2014, so he has insulated himself from immediate backlash."

But he said it was a risk Corbett had to take.

"The broad coalition he assembled was pretty impressive for a governor who has been criticized for having very little political capital," Borick said. "He put his neck on line and was able to see it through."


aworden@phillynews.com

717-783-2584 @inkyamy

www.inquirer.com/phillydawg

www.inquirer.com/commonwealthconfidential

|
|
|
|
|