Head of Pennsylvania Business Council offers talk on politics, policy

Pennsylvania Business Council President and CEO David Patti speaks at the Chamber of Business and Industry luncheon held at Toftrees Resort, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014.
Pennsylvania Business Council President and CEO David Patti speaks at the Chamber of Business and Industry luncheon held at Toftrees Resort, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. CDT photo

With election time drawing near, business owners have a real opportunity to effect change in the state. That’s the message Pennsylvania Business Council President and CEO David Patti delivered to local business people Monday.

And the change, he said, can only come by paying attention to the issues.

Politics and policy go hand in hand, Patti told members of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County at a luncheon at Toftrees Conference Center.

“Hopefully you’re electing people who have the best capacity to support the business community and the private sector,” he said, saying it will then be easier to work in a civil way about public policy.

Although 2014 is the “short ballot” the state encounters every 12 years, Patti said, meaning there is no race for president, senator or state row office, Pennsylvanians will vote in elections for governor, Congress, state Senate and state House.

Pennsylvania is a difficult state to campaign in, he said, with divisions not only of east, west and central but also north and south.

A person in Philadelphia can wake up and say, ‘I know exactly what Pennsylvania needs,’ ” Patti said, and within the region, that person would be right. Conversely, a person in Pittsburgh could come up with an idea that’s the complete opposite, but that idea would also be right for that region.

The difficult thing, he said, is finding policies that are politically acceptable and that work.

“When we think of central Pennsylvanians as being conservative,” he said, “it’s been my experience ... that I would classify central Pennsylvania as libertarian.” There may be activities in the state they may not like, but they also don’t want the government getting involved, reflecting both conservative and liberal values.

“This is a state that’s very much a purple state in the sense of policy,” he said.

Pennsylvania is facing a very different kind of governor’s race, he said, with a well-funded challenger, Tom Wolf, versus the incumbent, Gov. Tom Corbett.

Polling has shown Corbett down as much as 25 points, he said, but the difference is certainly closing. The real numbers are probably closer to a 10-point difference now, especially after — in Patti’s opinion — Corbett won the Sept. 22 debate in Hershey.

“If you go by the polls alone, it’s Mr. Wolf’s to lose,” he said. “I wouldn’t say he’ll do that though.”

Corbett isn’t in the best position either, he said.

“The bottom line for Gov. Corbett is he’s weak with Republicans,” he said. “If Republicans, the business communities and other constituents that like the policies of the Corbett administration don’t get out and vote and don’t drive their friends and families to vote, he loses.”

It’s important for people to look beyond party lines and commercials to understand politics, policy and how they interplay, Patti said after the luncheon.

“If you don’t like negative ads and don’t like getting bombarded for all the things you might care about — environment, taxes, education — these are the people who are going to make those decisions,” he said. “If you’re not going to pay attention to politics, it’s hard to have an impact on the policy.”