Across the country, Republican governors, many of them elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, have undermined women’s health, crushed workers’ right to negotiate collectively, made it tougher to vote and imposed ideologically informed slash-and-burn policies on their populations, often with little attention from the mainstream media. Where are they now? Culling voter rolls, beating up on unions, trying to sneakily ban abortion—but also, in some cases, having their power checked by a determined opposition and being forced to concede some defeats. And in a couple of cases, they’re under investigation. Here’s our 2012 list of the worst GOP governors.
10. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania
Corbett didn’t make our list last time around, but this year, the Pennsylvania governor has made up for lost time. His attacks on public education alone make him worthy of our Hall of Shame, but coupled with a massive tax break for Shell Oil—$1.7 billion in subsidies for the oil giant—his comments about taking responsibility for future generations ring awfully hollow.
"The governor’s proposal violates his own belief that the free market, and not government, should pick winners and losers," George Jugovic Jr., president of PennFuture, told The Morning Call. “
9. Nikki Haley, South Carolina
Fresh from campaigning in Wisconsin for her fellow union-buster Scott Walker, Nikki Haley is headed home, triumphant—to an ethics investigation.
Corey Hutchins at the Columbia Free Times writes:
Subpoenas could be fluttering all over Columbia this week as an ethics panel investigating whether Gov. Nikki Haley illegally lobbied as a lawmaker decides who to call as witnesses in the case.
On May 30, the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to reopen an investigation into the governor. The six-member panel had previously voted that there was probable cause to investigate, but then immediately dismissed the charges. After further consideration, and new information from GOP activist John Rainey, who filed the complaint, they’re giving it a deeper look.
She’s also been rebuked by her state’s Supreme Court chief justice over a plan, approved by her appointees at the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, to dredge the Savannah River to make it bigger for bigger ships.
8. Jan Brewer, Arizona
Jan Brewer made her name attacking immigrants, but she’s got plenty of other moves under her belt. In recent months, she cheerfully signed a bill cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood, and topped that off with possibly the worst anti-abortion bill in the country. Opponents call it the “Life Begins at Menstruation” bill because it bans abortions after 20 weeks, but claims that those 20 weeks start at the woman’s last menstrual period.
Brewer also joined the club of GOP governors who like kicking around public employees. She moved to offer public workers their first raise in years—but only if they agreed to trade in all their job security and let her fire them on a whim. She also signed a bill expanding school vouchers for Arizona students, giving public funds to parents to pay for private schools.
In a bit of good news, a judge did reject Brewer’s bid to dismiss legal challenges to the state’s infamous anti-immigrant law.
Oh, and she wants a third term.
7. Paul LePage, Maine
"To all you able-bodied people out there: Get off the couch and get yourself a job," Maine Governor Paul LePage told the Republican State Convention in May.
The governor wants to impose his own form of welfare “reform” on the state in the middle of an ongoing jobs crisis—and he’s even willing to make up stories and fudge numbers to get his way. And what does he consider “welfare”? Everything from disability benefits to MaineCare (the state’s version of Medicaid — healthcare for low-income people). His Medicaid cuts alone could hit 65,000 people.
6. Chris Christie, New Jersey
Chris Christie likes to bluster and swagger – it’s sort of his calling card. He’s frequently caught saying awful things—like a comment he made this winter on a marriage equality referendum. Christie said, “The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.”
But what’s he really up to? Well, he’s getting sued, for one thing, for unilaterally pulling New Jersey out of a 10-state initiative aimed at curbing air pollution from power plants. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey filed a lawsuit, claiming the move violates a state law that required Christie to notify the public of his intent to pull out and allow for a public comment period
And teachers, who Christie famously called “political thugs,” are still on his hit list, though so far, his education agenda has been stalled. He’s trying to get rid of teacher tenure, making it easier to fire teachers and cut down on state aid for public schools, as well as push charter schools.
One teacher, however, has taken her fight to another level—Marie Corfield, the teacher in the famous YouTube video sparring with Christie over his education policies, just won a Democratic primary for a state assembly seat. Should she win, she’ll have a lot more opportunities to fight Christie’s attacks on teachers.
5. Rick Perry, Texas
Everyone knows where Rick Perry was for most of the last year, right? Failing in his attempt to capture the GOP presidential nomination. At least he provided us with some much-needed comic relief.
But a few things he got up to– when he wasn’t making headlines with ridiculous statements – flew somewhat under the national media’s radar.
Last year, Perry slashed $4 billion from schools, and protests against continued education cuts are ongoing. A Texas schoolteacher told AlterNet that after budget cuts, more kids are being squeezed into classrooms: “Pre-K is up to 26 now that they can have in a classroom, it went up from 22. It’s a different ratio for different grade levels. It’s 30-something for high school, it’s approaching 30 at the elementary level, which is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to be expected to teach that many little people.”
4. John Kasich, Ohio
Governor Kasich took a big hit when voters decisively overturned his signature piece of legislation, an anti-public-union bill even nastier than Scott Walker’s, by 313,000 more votes than the governor himself had gotten the year before. And now there are investigations underway into whether he’s misused his power to consolidate control over his state’s Republican party.
But what else has Kasich been up to?
He also backed down on a contentious voter suppression law that would have narrowed early voting and made it harder for voters to get absentee ballots, signing a repeal of the law in an attempt to prevent it becoming a ballot measure that could drive progressive voters in November.
And he’s looking forward to a new law that would allow fracking in Ohio—one that might be the nation’s worst.
3. Rick Snyder, Michigan
Rick Snyder may be facing his own recall election—or at least, a group of determined voters who’d like to challenge the Michigan governor. Perhaps that’s why he’s allowed a tiny increase in the state’s education budget this year. But there’s a catch: those budget increases are tied to performance.
Snyder is best known for his state’s “emergency manager” law, which grants him the power to appoint a manager over towns he deems in need of an overhaul. Revamped under Snyder, the law gives the managers unilateral authority to fire officials, close schools, void union contracts (an apparent violation of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause), and hand schools over to private charter companies.
He’s still defending the law—and almost brought it to bear on Detroit. (The city’s public school system has been under emergency management for a while, but not the city itself.)
2. Scott Walker, Wisconsin
We know you’re sick of hearing about Scott Walker. Yes, he won his recall election and gets to stay in power—though it appears he won’t have the state senate to do his bidding anymore, if election results in Racine hold.
1. Rick Scott, Florida
Governor Scott, who reigns over the state synonymous with voter suppression and rigged elections in the minds of many Americans, is doing his best to live up to Florida tradition.
AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld explained:
Progressive voting rights groups and even county election supervisors from Scott’s own party are saying the businessman-turned-governor’s latest gambit—claiming there are as many as 182,000 non-citizens among the state’s 11.2 million registered voters and having his appointed Secretary of State send out an initial list of 2,600 names to be purged—has crossed a line in the Florida sand, topping previous voter suppression efforts, and may violate two federal voting right laws.
The Justice Department told Scott to stop purging voters, and several voters have been reinstated, but the GOP has no plans to actually give up its purge — Steve Rosenfeld reports that Florida is making all sorts of bizarre accusations against DoJ officials who are simply trying to uphold the law.