New Castle News


July 3, 2013

Our Opinion: Corbett will take much of blame for thwarted agenda

NEW CASTLE — With a new state budget, the Corbett administration is celebrating the fact Pennsylvania again met the July 1 deadline.

A measure of congratulations is in order. But unfortunately for Corbett, there isn’t much attention being paid to the budget deal. Instead, political observers of all stripes are noting the uncomfortable fact the ambitious agenda the governor carved out for himself and the Legislature this year appears to be in tatters.

That includes pension reform, a program of increased transportation funding and privatization of the state liquor system. Corbett was looking for meaningful action in all three areas by now. Instead, he has nothing.

Of course, that does not mean these proposals are dead, at least not officially. But with a budget in place, much of the pressure to act fades dramatically. That’s particularly true when it comes to pension reform, which was strongly tied to the state budget.

Whenever big efforts fail in politics, there is the inevitable finger pointing and assessment of blame. There’s plenty of that in Harrisburg these days.

Despite holding the majority in the House and Senate, Republicans lead by slender margins in both chambers. With Democrats showing unity on major issues, the result is that Republicans also need all their members to stand firm to pass legislation.

Pension reform fell short, not only because it was unpopular in certain political circles, but also out of real concern about the constitutionality of some of Corbett’s proposals. Any changes to the pension plans of existing employees was perceived (probably correctly) as a violation of existing labor contracts.

On transportation funding, many Republicans chafed at what was seen as a potential 25-cent-per-gallon hike in gasoline prices as a result of the governor’s transportation plan.

We expect some new transportation funding eventually will be approved, but as we have said in the past, we would like it to include real efforts at cost control on the part of Harrisburg.

And Pennsylvania also may see changes to its liquor laws, but apparently nothing as bold as Corbett’s privatization proposal. Perhaps residents will be able to buy beer more easily in grocery stores and see other liberalizations. But there does not appear to be enough support in the Senate for the notion of getting the state out of the liquor business.

So who’s at fault here? Well, blame can be spread around, but Corbett will get most of the heat, and perhaps deservedly so.

Lawmakers say the governor failed to aggressively sell his ideas to them and to the public. And we would add that by waiting until his third year in office to tackle all of these issues at once, Corbett may have missed an opportunity fresh governors enjoy to make big changes.

Now, with an election year fast approaching, Corbett has some explaining to do.

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