Pa. Dems link Corbett comments to policies; governor dismisses claims

    A week has passed since Gov. Tom Corbett’s comment tying Pennsylvania’s 7.9 percent unemployment rate to job applicants unable to pass drug tests.

    Monday, lawmakers sought to bring the focus back to policies — while the governor insists it’s much ado about words.

    The Senate’s top Democrat says clumsy statements by the governor are significant not because they make easy hay for political opponents, but because of what they reveal about Corbett himself.

    Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa says he links the comments to policies the governor has enacted — including last year’s 10 percent cut to county-run human services programs, reinstating a means test for food stamp recipients, and enacting business tax cuts.

    “When you frame all of those things against what he’s given to the corporate community, that’s what’s offensive, and that’s what people see,” Costa said. “That’s what people are not happy about.”

    The drug use comment and others show a leader not just given to easily misconstrued statements, but a leader hostile to some of the programs on which Pennsylvanians rely, said Costa, D-Allegheny.

    “There’s a direct connection to what I call the mindset and the statements, from the statements, directly related to policy issues,” he said.

    Corbett says reporters are partly to blame if people take umbrage at his comments, which he says are being misconstrued by Democrats.

    “I make statements that they take out of context and you guys don’t question them on it, when it’s out of context,” he said to reporters Monday.

    The governor’s comments did generate several sensational headlines last week.

    But Costa says his Democratic caucus is frustrated with the substance — such as the governor’s unwillingness to accept a Medicaid expansion.

    Just last week, Corbett said he thinks the Affordable Care Act authorizing the expansion may have been designed to fail as part of a conspiracy to pave the way for a single-payer health system supported by Democrats. 

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