Raymond Shafer dies at 89

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Raymond Shafer dies at 89

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:41 pm

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote:Dec 12, 7:17 PM EST

Former Pa. Gov. Raymond Shafer dies at 89

Associated Press Writer
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg width=300 src=bin/shafer_raymond.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcap>This file photo from April 24, 1968, shows former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond P. Shafer as he claps his hands in a victory gesture. The Republican who transformed the mechanics of Pennsylvania's government but couldn't solve its huge financial woes as governor from 1967 to 1971, died Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006, a hospital spokesman said. (AP Photo, File)</td></tr></table>PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Former Gov. Raymond P. Shafer, a Republican who oversaw tax increases to finance social programs and later pushed for the decriminalization of marijuana, died Tuesday, He was 89.

Shafer died of complications from congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Diane Graham. He died at Meadville Medical Center.

Graham said her father was left partially paralyzed by a stroke in 2003 and had been diagnosed with diabetes.

"It was just a combinations of things," she said. "He really went through a lot."

Shafer served as Pennsylvania's governor from 1967 to 1971 and was the last limited to a single term. He later led a federal commission that urged the decriminalization of marijuana.

As its chief executive, he led an overhaul of the state constitution that had grown outdated, winning several constitutional changes from the Republican-controlled Legislature and voters.

Gov. Ed Rendell described Shafer as "one of the most dedicated public servants in the commonwealth's history.

"Pennsylvania has lost one of its finest sons," Rendell said in a statement.

By the time Shafer's term ended in 1971, the state's finances were in shambles, partly because of massive spending increases he pushed through. It was estimated that by the time Shafer left office, Pennsylvania was spending $2 million more per day than it brought in.

Spending grew as the state government began giving more to education and public assistance. Under his watch, basic education funding increased by 71 percent, higher education by 47 percent and public assistance by 187 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

To try to bridge the gap, many state taxes increased. The sales tax went from 5 percent to 6 percent in 1968, the highest in the nation at the time; the cigarette tax was raised; and numerous business taxes went up.

Shafer's popularity sank in 1969 when he proposed a state income tax, an idea so disliked that Shafer was once hung in effigy by 250 people in Boston, Pa., who said they were holding a "second Boston Tea Party." Shafer said he needed the tax to finance a 25 percent increase in the state budget to pay for education and welfare, but he was met with hostility when he tried to sell the idea at town meetings.

The income tax proposal cost Shafer's lieutenant governor, Raymond J. Broderick, the 1970 gubernatorial election and helped propel Democrats to control the governor's office and both houses in the General Assembly. The tax was enacted soon after by the new governor, Milton J. Shapp.

Shafer also oversaw big changes to the state constitution and how the administration functioned.

Among other things, the changes enacted during his term included extending the term-limit for governor to two four-year terms; making General Assembly sessions last two years; allowing audits of the state's finances; and creating a unified state judicial system.

He also signed legislation to create the Department of Environmental Resources, which oversaw environmental programs, state park management and mining regulation, and a law that consolidated four separate agencies into the new Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Shafer called out the National Guard in 1967 to try to halt violence during a bitter strike by 15,000 steel-hauling truck drivers. The strike paralyzed the steel industry for nearly two months as thousands of steelworkers were laid off because shipping was disrupted.

The drivers, who were independent contractors, wanted higher payments for deliveries and to be paid for their time spent waiting at steel mills. Shafer helped broker a deal that ended the strike, which was marked by firebombs, rifle fire and fights.

Shafer's administration was embarrassed in early 1968 when the state commissioner for the blind fabricated a story that six college students were blinded by the sun after taking LSD. Shafer at first said he was convinced the report was true, but held a news conference the next say to announce that it was a hoax.

Shafer reluctantly signed legislation in 1970 that made Pennsylvania the first state in the nation to permit its public employees to join unions and strike. He also oversaw the enactment of the Corrupt Organizations Act, which sought to keep organized crime out of Pennsylvania businesses.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, Shafer went into law practice and was elected as Crawford County District Attorney - a position he held from 1948 to 1956. He won a 1958 state senate election and became lieutenant governor under William W. Scranton in 1963.

Shafer won the 1966 gubernatorial election by defeating Shapp, a Philadelphian who made millions in the cable TV industry, by more than 240,000 votes.

President Nixon appointed Shafer chair of the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse in 1971, around the time Shafer was named chairman and chief executive officer of Teleprompter Corp.

The Shafer Commission, as it was known, in 1972 recommended that the state and federal governments decriminalize the personal use of marijuana, but continue to declare it an illegal substance.

"We unanimously agree that marijuana use is not a desirable behavior, and we agree that society should discourage its use," Shafer said in announcing the panel's results. "Nevertheless, we feel that placed in proper perspective with other social problems, citizens should not be criminalized or jailed merely for private possession or use."

Nixon, who appointed nine of the 13 commission members, rejected the report, saying he would not follow any recommendation to legalize marijuana.

Shafer was a close ally of Nelson Rockefeller and served as counselor to him when he was vice president.

Raymond Philip Shafer, the youngest of five children, was born in 1917 in New Castle. The family moved to Meadville in 1933 when his father, a minister, was appointed pastor of First Christian Church.

Shafer was a high school valedictorian, got his political science degree at Allegheny College and earned a law degree at Yale.

Following law school, Shafer served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, where he received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while serving as a P.T. boat captain and in intelligence.

Shafer, a gifted basketball and soccer player, met his wife, Jane, at Allegheny College.

He was elected to the college's board of trustees and served as the school's president from 1985 to 1986.

"Ray dearly loved this region and his alma mater, and served both until his death," Allegheny College President Richard Cook said.

Shaffer is survived by his wife, Jane, and a son, Phil.

A funeral service will be held Sunday at Ford Chapel, Allegheny College. Internment will be at St. John's Cemetery, Union Township, Crawford County, with military honors provided by the Pennsylvania State Police Honor Guard.

<hr class=postrule>
<small>Associated Press writer Jonathan Poet in Philadelphia and Dan Nephin in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.</small>

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