tom corbett
  1. Government transparency has been a buzzword in politics for the past few years. Do you believe that Pennsylvania’s administrative agencies, including the Office of the Governor, are transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?

    I have long held that moving toward 100% transparency is the most effective way to maintain accountability and responsiveness in state government.  Unfortunately, in previous years lack of transparency in state government led to out-of-control spending, unsustainable WAMs leading to taxpayers footing the bill for pet projects and spiraling public debt.  This kind of mismanagement and lack of concern for the voice of the taxpayers resulted in budgets that included a drop in state education funding that was back filled with one-time federal stimulus spending and left Pennsylvania facing a $4.2 billion budget deficit.  This lack of accountability contributed to high unemployment and a stagnant economy.

    As governor, my administration has made significant strides toward increasing transparency through actions such as signing the Pennsylvania Web Accountability and Transparency Act into law and overhauling the campaign finance database within the Department of State.  Through greater transparency and efficiency, we have saved more than half a billion taxpayer dollars.  While I am proud of these accomplishments, the Commonwealth has an ongoing obligation to continually evaluate our progress and make improvements in our accessibility.   
  2. How do you as Governor foster government transparency and accountability?

    As mentioned I had the honor of signing the Pennsylvania Web Accountability and Transparency Act and then creating the PennWATCH website which gave an unprecedented window into the spending of state agencies.  The new website provides a new level of transparency into how public money is spent, including state contracts, employee salaries and more.  Also, earlier this year at my direction, the Department of State launched a more user-friendly campaign finance website which allows the public to better hold their elected officials and candidates for office to a higher standard of accountability.  The site provides a more accessible interface to information on who is contributing to candidates and how those contributions are being spent.  Also, the Department of State has created a new FTP site for campaign finance so that the news media and others can have instantaneous access to submitted reports without the need to either physically retrieve a hard copy or wait until the reports are processed into searchable form.  These efforts have resulted in more responsive, accessible public information employing available technology and innovation.  I look forward to building on these efforts in the coming years.
  3. Are you familiar with the “open data” movement? Do you believe that government agencies should put most documents/information online, so that interested citizens don’t have to make requests for public records?

    Yes, I am familiar with the movement.  I believe that the PennWATCH database and the enhancements to our campaign finance interface have been significant strides in making our state government more open, and I intend to build upon these efforts.  I also believe that state government can (and has) seen impactful benefits from open data in other sources as we improve evidence-based practices in delivery of human services and corrections. 
  4. Do you believe that Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (open records) and Sunshine Act (open meetings) go far enough in ensuring that government’s records and meetings are open to the public?

    We have made many steps in the right direction, but throughout the remainder of my first term and into my second term, it will continue to be our priority to examine the laws on the books such as the Right to Know Law and Sunshine Act, as well as new avenues that better include and inform the public in the decision making process of how their tax dollars are being spent.  I would be open to a conversation with interested parties as to whether enhancements are needed.
  5. Are there any new exemptions to the Open Meetings or Open Records laws that you believe should be created? Would you eliminate or narrow any of the existing exemptions?

    No.  The only clarification I would entertain is an instance in which a redundant system of access currently exists, and the duplicate process is an unnecessary use of taxpayer resources.  Specifically, incarcerated individuals in our correctional institutions have a system created solely to provide access to information, so streamlining those processes is worth considering. 
  6. In 2008, the Governor and the General Assembly created the Office of Open Records to help citizens use the public records law and to help public officials follow the law. Will you support ongoing funding for that office at adequate levels?

    Yes.  I am pleased that the budget I signed for the current fiscal year increased the OOR’s budget by more than $300,000, and was happy to propose another nearly $300,000 increase for the upcoming fiscal year.  If my current budget proposal is signed into law, this will be an increase of more than half a million dollars in annual funding in less than two years. 
  7. Do you support the printing of public notices in newspapers as a means to inform the public and make a permanent record of government actions and proposed actions?

    Yes.  While legislation has been floated in recent years to move toward more online delivery, I am committed to finding a balance to maximizing digital media with the need to preserve access for those who are users of traditional print media. 
  8. Although many counties permit the media to enter polling places to view and record election activities, some do not. Do you believe that the media should be able to access polling places?

    Generally speaking, yes; however, counties should reserve the ability to determine the appropriate protocol for media to access polling locations. 
  9. New technologies, such as drones, present issues and opportunities for law enforcement, the news media, and many others. What is your position on the use of drones by government agencies? By the news media?

    Evolving 21st Century technology has created new opportunities to enhance public safety and gather public information. It also raises legitimate concerns about the type of information that is collected and the way it is gathered.  I am open to a meaningful dialogue with the public stakeholders and interested parties in the media to inform any decisions with regard to policy at the state level that affects the gathering and use of information related to this technology.
  10. Are there any other comments or plans that you wish to share on government openness and transparency?

    I continue to believe that transparency remains the key to accountability and responsiveness at all levels of government.  I am proud of the accomplishments my administration has made in enhancing transparency in the previous three years, and look forward to working with the PNA to build on these efforts in the coming years. 

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