Voters can be a fickle bunch. Tom Corbett ran his 2010 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign on a platform of slashing state spending, and won by nine points. But now that he’s released his budget, nearly 80 percent of voters oppose his spending reductions for school districts, and nearly 70 percent are against cuts for colleges and universities. That’s from a new Franklin and Marshall College survey.
In a brief state Capitol interview, Governor Corbett said he doesn’t pay attention to polls. “This is very early on. We’ve got to see what the final budget is. We’re not going to worry about the polls,” he said. “If I start worrying about the polls right now, I’ll never govern the right way. The people elected me to cut spending, to get the budget in control, and we’re going to get it there.” Corbett added he’ll continue to travel the state, making his argument for the $27.3 billion spending plan. “There’s an education process here. We’ve been out there. We’ve been talking to people. There is a process where some people, they want you to cut, but they don’t want you to cut their project. Who’s ox is being gored, to a certain extent.”
Pollster Terry Madonna thinks voters feel like education takes a disproportionate hit in Corbett’s budget, which cuts more than $500 million from both basic education subsidies to school districts, and support for state-related universities and the State System of Higher Education. “It’s not that the voters are opposed to cuts. In fact, they would support reductions in personnel in state government. But I think it was the size of the cuts that stunned Pennsylvanians.”
The political scientist summed up the mood shift this way: “What residents of Pennsylvania told us was, number one: we don’t want taxes. Do some cuts. But oh, by the way, depending on what you cut we’re not going to be happy with the results.” Corbett’s final take: “This is a long-term process. We’ll see what they think about what I’ve done four years from now.”