THIS IS OUR MONEY: LIE NO. 3: The prison budget increase is due to criminals, not poor policy. “In 1993, Pennsylvania had 24,000 men and women in its prisons. Today that number is over 50,000. This number speaks to a failure. Sometimes it’s a failure in our schools, or in our society, but ultimately in the personal character of the criminal.” – Tom Corbett Corbett’s budget includes a $186 million increase for the state Department of Corrections. That’s an 11 percent jump, part of a long trend of skyrocketing state prison costs. Corbett attributes this trend to the personal failings of the people filling the prisons. But that’s not true, either. Pennsylvania’s prison population has grown by 500 percent since 1980 despite few changes in crime patterns. According to the state Commission on Sentencing, a bipartisan panel created by the legislature, the huge jump is due mostly to mandatory sentences for petty drug crimes. Throwing the book at minor offenders is a policy choice made by state lawmakers. If Corbett were serious about cutting all costs, including prisons, he’d identify the problem as our drug-sentencing laws. Instead, he’s throwing money at a broken system and claiming it’s out of his control. MORE
DEENEY: If Philly schools suffer 25% of the public education cuts, despite only having 10% of the state’s students and 85% of those students are minorities how are Gov. Corbett’s cuts not racially biased?
RELATED: A three-story brownstone where former Gov. Tom Ridge has offices for his lobbying firm became ground zero Wednesday in the fight over Pennsylvania’s proposed new budget. About 250 advocates from organized labor, environmental groups, and social services carried out a surprise ambush on Ridge’s firm, which represents companies drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale. They delivered this message: If the proposed budget will slice education funding, then it should also make big drilling companies pay taxes on the natural gas they extract. Clutching signs and chanting slogans, most of the activists swarmed into the Ridge Policy Group, just a block from the Capitol, shortly after 2 p.m. They poured through the unlocked doors and began packing rooms on the first and second floors, demanding that someone from the lobbying firm come speak to them. MORE
RELATED: Pennsylvania has come under fire lately as pollution from drilling in the Marcellus Shale threatens water resources across the state. But instead of ratcheting up oversight, Gov. Tom Corbett wants to hand authority over some of the state’s most critical environmental decisions to C. Alan Walker, a Pennsylvania energy executive with his own track record of running up against the state’s environmental regulations. Walker, who has contributed $184,000 to Corbett’s campaign efforts since 2004, is CEO and owner of Bradford Energy Company and Bradford Coal, which was once among Pennsylvania’s largest coal mining companies. He also owns or has an interest in 12 other companies, including a trucking business and a central Pennsylvania oil and gas company. Walker was Corbett’s first appointee—he chose him to lead the Department of Community and Economic Development in December, before taking office. Now, as Corbett stakes much of the state’s economy on Marcellus Shale gas drilling, a paragraph tucked into the 1,184-page budget gives Walker unprecedented authority to “expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.” That includes, presumably, coal, oil, gas and trucking. MORE