Pa. treasurer criticizes pledges of no new taxes

Associated Press


State Treasurer Rob McCord on Monday criticized no-new-tax pledges like the one Gov. Tom Corbett has signed, saying such vows are built on “fancy-pants words” that can unnecessarily complicate negotiations over public spending and policy.

McCord, a Democrat, also confirmed that he is tentatively planning to seek a second four-year term in 2012, but said he has not decided whether he might seek higher office later on.

Referring alternately to the increasingly polarized negotiations in Washington over the federal debt limit and to the Republican governor who took office in January, McCord told a business luncheon audience that the pledge promoted by the Americans for Tax Reform constrains elected leaders and can foster an atmosphere of distrust.

“I think this kind of policy by rent-a-pledge is a really bad idea,” he said at the event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Press Club.

Corbett signed the group’s pledge during his 2010 campaign, but has said he is willing to consider levying “fees” on certain activities such as natural-gas drilling.

Without mentioning the governor by name, McCord noted that Corbett’s transportation funding commission last week recommended lifting the cap on the oil-company franchise tax to generate hundreds of millions dollars a year for repairs and maintenance on roads, bridges and mass transit. McCord said he supports the plan, but that its advocates should acknowledge up front that it is a tax increase.

“Call a spade a spade,” he said. “That is not an illegitimate conversation to be had. .... Real business leaders understand that resources need to be allocated to where they yield the highest returns.”

Assuming McCord seeks a second four-year term as treasurer, he would be the only one of the state’s three elected row officers on next year’s ballot. Prospective Republican and Democratic successors to Attorney General Linda Kelly and Auditor General Jack Wagner already are beginning to surface as those offices become open for the first time in eight years.

“I haven’t finished the dinner conversation with my wife, but that’s my plan,” McCord said. “I love the job. We’re making a measurable difference.”

Kelly, whom Corbett appointed to succeed him as attorney general, has said she won’t seek a full term after she completes the year and-a-half left in his term. Wagner must step down after completing the maximum two terms permitted by law.

McCord said he has not made plans for 2014, when Corbett will be up for re-election.

“I’m very much a one-cycle-at-a-time person,” he said.