Gov. Tom Corbett visited Erie on Friday and served as the keynote speaker at the Erie County Republican Party’s annual spring dinner at the Bel-Aire Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.
During an interview with the Erie Times-News, Corbett said that as governor, he was disappointed to hear of GE Transportation’s plans to eliminate 950 union jobs and 100 management positions at the Lawrence Park Township plant.
“I know there are discussions going on between union and management,” he said. “Hopefully, those discussions will be fruitful and reduce or prevent that from happening.”
During the interview, Corbett also weighed in on his proposal to privatize the state’s liquor stores — he said he’s hopeful the state Senate will address the legislation and have a bill for him to sign by the end of June — as well as his lawsuit against the NCAA and his own prospects for re-election.
Q Do you plan to discuss the layoff situation with GE officials?
Those talks are between management and the union. I encourage them to work this out, and we’re prepared, if that goes forward, to help the workers if they’re laid off through our rapid response team that we have at the Department of Labor and Industry.
We’re trying to create an environment of lowering the cost of doing business in Pennsylvania through more energy, through lowering taxes so we make it attractive for companies like GE to stay here. I talked to the president of GE Transportation Systems when this was first announced and encouraged him to see what he could do to keep them here as much as he possibly could. But they are competing with another site that has a newer layout. But I also reminded him that it wasn’t that long ago before they put an investment in GE here and said it was state-of-the-art at that time. I continue to encourage them to stay here in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Q Could the privatization of the state liquor system lead to job losses of 4,000 state workers and $500 million a year in general fund tax revenue from alcohol sales, as some opponents of the plan suggest?
First, there are people who are going to be selling the alcohol somewhere. Will there be union jobs to do that if this system goes through? No. But there will be jobs. Second, this is what the people of Pennsylvania want. It’s 70-30 that the people of Pennsylvania want to see the choice and convenience. We should give them that. Third, we’re losing approximately $80 million a year for people who go across the borders into other states where they can get that choice and convenience. It is 2013 and it is time for us to move into the 21st century.
Q Your lawsuit against the NCAA regarding the Pennsylvania State University child sex-abuse scandal alleges the governing body of college athletics broke antitrust laws. Are you confident you can build a strong case even though the university accepted the NCAA penalties?
The university did not accept the sanctions. The board of trustees never signed off on that. That is a misstatement by many, many people out there because they didn’t understand the facts. They were not given a choice. The president had to accept it, and he did accept it. We brought this lawsuit, and I would never bring a lawsuit that I don’t think that we have a legitimate reason to bring the lawsuit, cause of action and ability to get past motions to dismiss and win in the long run. What in my opinion the NCAA did was violate their own rules. There was no infractions committee or investigation committee that was conducted. It was the president saying this is what is going to happen to Penn State, and forced it on Penn State. The collateral damage, which is considerable, is to the people of Pennsylvania, the workers of Pennsylvania, the economy of Pennsylvania, particularly in central Pennsylvania and around State College. That in our opinion, in reading the law, is a violation of the antitrust act. What I am doing is protecting the interests of Pennsylvania.
Q You recently returned from a trade mission to South America. Are there any possibilities from that trip that could lead to business and job growth in Erie?
Erie wasn’t specifically talked about other than with the port, but Pennsylvania was talked about. There’s a great interest in Pennsylvania by a number of different companies in Chile and Brazil. I feel very good we will see some of those companies coming to Pennsylvania to establish a greater presence.
Q With low poll numbers, how concerned are you about your 2014 re-election prospects?
Keep in mind, I went in and took over at a time when the state was in a $4.2 billion deficit. I had to bring in strong, fiscal measures, telling people ‘no, we can’t spend money we don’t have,’ bringing down the size of the budget by $1.7 (billion) or $1.8 billion and having to tell people ‘no’ when they had been told for eight years ‘yes.’ Does that make you unpopular? Yes, but it was exactly what I told people we were going to have to do — live within our means. That’s what I was elected to do, and I believe when we get to 2014, that’s one of the reasons they’re going to elect me.
Read more: http://www.goerie.com/corbett-weighs-in-on-ge-campaign