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DN Editorial: Slogan's Run

Corbett says he lowered taxes. For business, yes. For the rest of us, no.

WHEN he kicked off his re-election campaign last week, it took Gov. Corbett only four words to totally misstate his record. The sign that bedecked the lectern carried the Corbett slogan "Less Taxes. More Jobs."

You'll be hearing that slogan a lot in the months ahead as the governor spends millions on campaign advertising to revive his chances of re-election.

When it comes to "More Jobs," it is literally true that there are more jobs in Pennsylvania. Nearly 5.9 million Pennsylvanians were employed when Corbett took office in January 2011. Today, there are a shade over 6 million people working, an increase of 117,000.

What is also true, though, is that Pennsylvania lags behind its neighbors in the rate of job creation, and there are still about 100,000 fewer jobs in the state today than in prerecession 2008.

Taking credit for the state moving out of recession is like taking credit for the sunshine.

The "Less Taxes" part of the slogan would be laughable if the truth weren't so painful.

Corbett has not lowered taxes, except for business - and he's been extraordinarily generous in those cuts. As for the rest of us, we are paying the same rate on the income, sales and other state taxes as during the pre-Corbett era.

In fact, if you add together state and local taxes, the tax burden has increased for most Pennsylvanians because of Corbett's policies, especially when it comes to education.

The governor spent his first two years in office whacking at state aid to basic and higher education. The cuts in basic education, in particular, hit local school districts hard.

In Philadelphia, we are still trying to climb out of the $300 million hole created by those reductions in state aid. Local property taxes have been raised three times to help the school district. Mayor Nutter is trying to get a $2-a-pack cigarette tax passed for the schools. At least part of the one point added to the local sales tax when the recession hit, which was due to expire next year, will stay on - permanently - to help the schools.

The city may be the most dramatic example, but hundreds of districts across the state had to cut programs and raise taxes as well to make up for the decline in state aid. In the suburbs, most districts raised taxes once, some twice, to raise the money. They also cut programs.

Tom Corbett hasn't lowered taxes. What he did was redistribute the burden of paying for the public education from the state to local governments. He did the same with social programs.

The governor is singing a different tune today than when he first proposed those cuts. He now says that he made them with regret, but had no choice because the federal stimulus money used to prop up education funding ran out.

He didn't sound regretful in his first budget address in 2011. "This budget sorts the must-haves from the nice-to-haves," he said. His actions made it clear that education was a nice-to-have in Corbett's book.

Over the next year, Corbett will spend millions on advertising; voters will ultimately get to decide if his tax policies are a "must-have," or a "must get rid of."