New Castle News

John K. Manna

February 2, 2013

John K. Manna: Governor shows there are consequences to elections

NEW CASTLE — Elections matter.

Perhaps the most evident proof of that these days is the man who was elected governor of Pennsylvania in 2010 — Tom Corbett.

Pennsylvania’s governors, as I noted in a previous piece, have a tremendous amount of power granted to them by the state’s constitution. And Corbett is certainly taking advantage, even if he may face legal challenges in some instances.

In one of his campaign pledges in 2010, Corbett said he wanted to privatize the state’s liquor stores. So, when he announced his plan this week to privatize the stores and auction off licenses to sell wine and liquor, it should not have come as a surprise.

While Corbett appears to have the majority of voters on his side, any privatization plan must be approved by the Legislature. However, some Republican legislators, most notably Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, aren’t in favor of the idea. Scarnati, for example, would rather see modernization reforms to the current system.

Even though legislators would have to approve any change, any major undertaking such as this gets nowhere if a governor isn’t behind it.

Corbett earlier used his position to award a contract to a British firm to run Pennsylvania’s lottery. This time, he didn’t seek legislative approval primarily because he doesn’t believe he has to.

The move, though, does face some legal challenges from Democratic legislators and a union representing lottery employees.

Although Corbett didn’t mention his lottery plan when he ran, it’s in line with his belief that some things are better handled by the private sector.

Had Corbett’s Democratic opponent been elected governor, the odds are that we wouldn’t be talking about either of these proposals. Democrats, for the most part, oppose privatization of the liquor stores.

If Corbett is successful with his plans for one or both of these proposals, they may save and make money for the commonwealth. The question, however, is whether it turns out to be good policy in the long run.

At the very least, Corbett has placed these two issues on the table for legislators to either agree or come up with alternatives. And only the governor who has the bully pulpit can do that.

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