Budget exercise frustrating
Neither Gov. Tom Corbett nor state lawmakers came out of Pennsylvania’s 2014-15 budget-preparation exercise looking good.
Corbett has ended up looking weak and lacking persuasiveness. Lawmakers again displayed their ineffectiveness at solving nagging state issues.
Unfortunately, Blair County’s legislators don’t deserve any plaudits amid all of that. They failed to distinguish themselves as problem-solvers as state government wrestled with a massive budget deficit, the latest figure being $1.5 billion.
The $29.1 billion budget that will guide state spending over the next 12 months merely “kicks the can down the road,” in terms of the important issues that should have been resolved during the just-completed budget process.
Less than a month ago, Corbett promised not to sign any budget until the General Assembly passed legislation overhauling public pensions and the sale of alcoholic beverages. Ten days into the new budget year – Thursday – Corbett affixed his signature to the new spending package while getting results for neither of those demands.
He tried to exude toughness by vetoing $65 million from the Legislature’s operating budget, but that move is a hollow gesture amid the reality of what the governor failed to achieve.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly again is the epitome of do-nothingness on the important-legislation front.
The pension issue isn’t new; it’s been dogging the state as well as payers of school property taxes for much of the past decade. And it remains unresolved.
Pennsylvania continues to be shortchanged by the gas-drilling industry because of lawmakers’ failure to tax that industry like other states are doing. Corbett and the Republican-controlled Legislature are partners in that continuing sweetheart treatment that works against the best interests of commonwealth taxpayers and the state’s fiscal health.
The liquor issue has been languishing for decades. Not only has the General Assembly again been unable to decide whether to sell the State Store system, it hasn’t even been able to chart a definitive course on modernizing the sale of liquor, like other states have done.
During the rest of the summer, lawmakers will pound their chests in exuberance over having averted an increase in the state income tax, but their unwillingness to seriously consider such a preposterous move has merely postponed the Keystone State’s day of financial reckoning.
The kind of financial shuffling that took place in recent days is going to be less of an option going forward.
Corbett’s veto of a big chunk of legislative money has further weakened his already shaky relationship with lawmakers. However, a bigger concern is that the budget is but a sham in addressing the commonwealth’s needs.
Corbett would have shown more leadership by vetoing the entire budget and keeping lawmakers in Harrisburg longer. Maybe then we’d see progress.
The troubling details of this budget exercise can leave no one in involved feeling particularly proud.