Voicing sharp criticisms of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's record on education and energy policy, Democrat John Hanger today launched his gubernatorial bid for 2014.
The former Public Utility Commission commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection secretary and founding president of the PennFuture environmental group outlined the themes of his campaign at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol in Harrisburg, sandwiched between an appearance in Philadelphia this morning and another planned for Thursday in Pittsburgh.
As PUC commissioner, Hanger, 55, said he helped open the energy marketplace to competition, leading to a 40-percent reduction in electricity rates. As DEP secretary, he said he more than doubled the number of staffers overseeing natural gas drilling.
“We were enforcing the rules,” he said.
He pledged to reverse Corbett’s $1 billion education cuts and enact a “reasonable” tax on shale gas drilling.
He said Corbett’s cuts led to 19,000 lost jobs in education and are undermining Pennsylvania’s future competitiveness. He said the governor’s fealty to small-government activist Grover Norquist’s no-tax-hike pledge “tied the state into knots” on the natural gas severance tax issue, and called the failure to enact a robust severance tax “an incredible blooper … a disaster.”
The Marcellus Shale has not kept Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate from creeping above the national average, he said. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in October, compared with 8.1 percent in Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hanger called for improving the state’s electricity grid and creating refueling stations for natural gas and electric vehicles. On social issues, he said he supported marriage equality, medical marijuana and abortion rights.
Hanger’s campaign manager is CEO Doug Neidich of Harrisburg-based GreenWorks Development. Introducing the candidate, Neidich said Hanger’s policies have attracted billions of dollars in business investment to Pennsylvania and are “exactly the types of programs that Pennsylvania business needs.”
Making the environment safer and strengthening the economy are complementary goals, not contrary ones, Neidich said.
Asked why he is announcing his campaign so early, Hanger said, “Time is precious,” and said Corbett already is raising money.
In a statement, Pennsylvania GOP spokeswoman Valerie Caras said the Corbettt administration has helped create more than 100,000 private sector jobs, increased state education spending, developed the energy sector and balanced two on-time budgets without raising taxes.
“The Corbett record of responsibility and success is a stark contrast from the broken, bloated and unsustainable state government that tax-and-spend politicians like Ed Rendell and John Hanger helped to create,” she said.