CAMPAIGN 2014: Paul Corbin
Raised on his family’s dairy farm, Paul Corbin was Jefferson County’s treasurer before he became that county’s commissioner in 2004 and was re-elected twice.
Moving up to legislator seems logical, he said.
“I’ve always taken an active role in either the community or at the county level,” he said. “I just felt that since we’re losing a valuable person in Sam Smith, it was my obligation to step up and see if I could help the 66th District in any way possible.”
Corbin cites his experience in job creation as a commissioner as a qualification to be a legislator.
Schlumberger, a natural gas and oil drilling support company, moved into Brookville a few years ago.
“We worked very closely with the Department of (Community and Economic) Development and other organizations to get them to come in,” Corbin said. “They indicated at the time they felt we were the most friendly to offer them the opportunity to be in the county.”
Sintergy Inc., a powder metal products manufacturer, moved into an industrial park in Reynoldsville.
“We were able to facilitate some state grants for them,” and the company plans to add more workers, he said.
The commissioners also helped recruit Orion Drilling and Cactus Well Service to the industrial park at the Jefferson County Airport.
“We are very hands-on when it comes to industry and meeting with them,” he said.
He said the commissioners, too, took the lead is getting a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone designation for the Brookville Industrial Park.
“We had to have the school board, the township and the county involved in that KOEZ designation,” Corbin said.
After it was approved, school district officials thanked the commissioners “for stepping up to the plate” and being proactive on the issue, he said.
When Corbin was elected a commissioner, the previous board had left office without creating a budget.
“I didn’t realize how bad things were until we got into office” as commissioners, he said. “We campaigned on the promise to try to turn this around and get things in a more businesslike financial program. We got a budget put together … and discovered we were about $2.5 million in deficit.
“We started with a program of trying to reduce staff in the county” and then raised the assessed value rate on county property which lowered the tax millage rate and allowed the commissioners within a few years to approve “minimal tax increases.”
“The bond rating at that time was … pretty low,” Corbin said. “We’re now double-A rated because we’ve eliminated that debt. … We’ve also worked with DCED and they provided a grant to the county to do a long-range, five-year financial plan. … By ’08 we had that deficit reduced, and since that time we’ve been operating with a positive cash flow. … This year is the first year that I ever remember that we didn’t take out a tax anticipation note.”
Corbin represents the County Commissioners’ Association on the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System, which has about 950 members from counties, townships, boroughs, authorities and fire and police departments.
“We are just under $2 billion in that fund. And this past February I was fortunate enough to be elected chairman of the board of that organization,” he said. “It is a very conservative organization. A lot of pension plans pay 7, 8 or 9 percent interest. We are right now at 5 1/2 ... and we’re almost 100 percent funded. A lot of funds can’t say that. That’s given me great insight in managing budgets, working with financial consultants and advisers.”
Corbin also led a restoration of the county’s courthouse, the first since the 1930s.
“It was a $3 1/2 to $4 million project. We completely emptied the courthouse” and moved the staff to nearby leased buildings. “It took about a year and a half” and installed air conditioning in the courthouse for the first time.
Corbin’s campaign platform also includes property tax reform.
“I think there needs to be some sort of sales tax or a flat tax put in place and that money then be used to offset property tax dollar for dollar,” he said.
He’s satisfied that the state currently is getting all the revenue it should from the Marcellus shale natural gas drilling.
“I feel that the benefit that Pennsylvania has received so far from the Marcellus industry has been tremendous. I know, just in Jefferson County, landowners that have leases got significant amounts of money and they pay taxes on that and they put it back into the economy or they paid off debt. All that funding wasn’t lost to the state.”
Corbin said that, if elected, he’ll decline the perks of being a legislator.
“To expect taxpayers of Pennsylvania to pay for a pension, a car, the per diem, I just don’t feel it’s right. People talk about tax savings. … I know it’s very minute in the grand scheme of things, but I think it has to start somewhere.”
Corbin was asked which of his life experiences will best serve him as a legislator.
All will, he said, but especially “the lifetime of creating budgets and working within budgets, whether it was on the farm or in the treasurer’s office or the commissioners’ office. I feel that was a strong point of teaching me that responsibility.”
As for district offices, Corbin said he would keep the one in Punxsutawney and perhaps have an office staffer spend a day in Brockway, Reynoldsville, Plumville and other communities on a rotating basis so his services are more accessible to constituents.
Corbin describes himself as a very conservative person.
“As a dairy farmer all those years, you learn to live within your means,” he said. “The biggest thing, I feel, is personal responsibility. … We can’t be constantly looking for the government to bail us out.
“What’s very important to me is honesty and integrity. My father taught me a long time ago that when your last day on earth is here, the only thing you have is your good name.”
Paul Corbin, at a glance
Home: Washington Township, Jefferson County.
Education: Brockway High School
Occupation: Jefferson County commissioner
Family: Corbin and his wife, Paula, have seven children and eight grandchildren.
Fast fact: Corbin has been endorsed by state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana.