Cor­bett agenda a tough sell

News-Herald (Perkasie, PA) - - OPINION -

Ground Con­trol to Ma­jor Tom. What, is Tom Cor­bett run­ning for re-elec­tion or some­thing? Af­ter mak­ing like Punx­sutawney Phil for two years, pop­ping out from the gov­er­nor’s man­sion time to time to push his agenda, the Repub­li­can is now fu­ri­ously mak­ing up for lost time.

Feb. 5 he rolled out a $28.4 bil­lion bud­get plan that con­tin­ues — in the­ory — to stay true to his no-tax-hike pledge, while do­ing some­thing he has been roundly skew­ered for not do­ing the past two years: in­creas­ing aid for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

But what is most no­tice­able in Cor­bett’s spend­ing blue­print is the breadth of the changes he is look­ing to spark.

Who­ever said the devil is in the de­tails had it half right. The devil ac­tu­ally is in the num­bers. And a lot of what Cor­bett wants to do — in­clud­ing that spend­ing boost for ed­u­ca­tion — is con­tin­gent on him get­ting his way.

One of the big­gest crit­i­cisms of the gov­er­nor — some from in­side the GOP — is that he lacks the po­lit­i­cal nu­ance to sell his ideas, let alone guide them through Harrisburg pol­i­tics, even while en­joy­ing Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in the Se­nate and House.

If so, with­out an en­gaged, plugged-in chief ex­ec­u­tive push­ing this agenda, it has about as much chance as Punx­sutawney be­ing hired by the Weather Chan­nel. Con­sider three ma­jor planks in the gov­er­nor’s fis­cal plan: • rn­like his first two bud­gets, Cor­bett is not call­ing for any more steep cuts — so long as the Leg­is­la­ture acts to tame the $41 bil­lion in un­funded li­a­bil­i­ties in the state’s two ma­jor pub­lic em­ployee pen­sion plans. Cor­bett wants to con­vert all fu­ture hires to a 401(k)-style con­tri­bu­tion plan, as op­posed to the cur­rent de­fined ben­e­fit. And while he says he will not change cur­rent re­tirees’ ben­e­fits, he wants to re­duce the “mul­ti­plier” — in ef­fect cut­ting their ben­e­fits. Cor­bett is ask­ing leg­is­la­tors to take money out of their own pocket. And the Penn­syl­va­nia State bd­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, rep­re­sent­ing state teach­ers, has vowed to take the mat­ter to court.

• Cor­bett has said the ex­tra rev­enue for ed­u­ca­tion — $90 mil­lion — is tied to get­ting his way on the pen­sion cri­sis. With­out that, he’s hinted he again will be look­ing for cuts. It’s not hard to fig­ure out where. He also has in­tro­duced a new wrin­kle to ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing, ty­ing it to pri­va­ti­za­tion of the state’s sys­tem of sell­ing al­co­hol. Cor­bett wants to sell the state stores and auc­tion 1,200 li­censes to su­per­mar­kets and pri­vate re­tail­ers. He says the move would raise an ad­di­tional $1 bil­lion that he would use for block grants to pub­lic schools.

• The gov­er­nor also is play­ing a bit of se­man­tics in a bid to raise mil­lions for in­fra­struc­ture and trans­porta­tion, ar­eas in dire need. Cor­bett would lift the Oil Com­pany Fran­chise Tax cap to fi­nance a five-year, $5 bil­lion plan tar­get­ing roads, bridges and mass tran­sit. The move would cause an­other spike in gas prices. bx­perts in­di­cate lift­ing the cap could cost a nickel a year, or about a quar­ter a gal­lon in­crease over the five-year du­ra­tion.

Cor­bett de­serves ini­tial ku­dos for coming out of his shell and de­liv­er­ing an am­bi­tious bud­get plan. But now comes the hard part. To sell his plan, the gov­er­nor will need to sum­mon traits he has not dis­played in his first two years.

Oth­er­wise, it will be one more bud­get ren­di­tion of “Ground­hog Day.” The floor is your gov­er­nor. All you have to do is close the deal.

-Jour­nal Reg­is­ter News Ser­vice

Photo courtesy of Sellersville Mu­seum

JA­COBY & SON ... In honor of Sellersville’s 275th An­niver­sary this year, the News-Her­ald will be run­ning a his­toric photo show­ing a piece of the bor­ough’s past each week. This week, we see a post­card im­age circa 1906 from Sellersville printer and pub­lisher Charles Berke­meyer. The pho­tog­ra­pher was Daniel F. Zei­gler, of Soud­er­ton. The photo shows the Enos S. Ja­coby & Son Gen­eral Store at the cor­ner of North Main Street and West Tem­ple Av­enue. Built around 1890, the build­ing would later house sev­eral an­tique shops, gro­cery stores, a bar­ber shop and many other busi­nesses. The sec­ond and third floors were con­verted to apart­ments in 1931 and func­tion as such to­day. Cur­rently, the first floor is oc­cu­pied by Stella’s House Blend Café.

Submitted photo

FU­TURE LEAD­ERS ... Pearl S. Buck In­ter­na­tional re­cently grad­u­ated 10 lo­cal stu­dents from its In­ter­na­tional High School Lead­er­ship Pro­gram. The 10 stu­dents who com­pleted the pro­gram are: front from left, Ethan Nguyen, An­gela Kim, Olivia Hur­tado, He­len Chal­houb and Tianna Pin­kett; back from left, Jes­sica Kerr, Sa­man­tha Hor­ton, Olivia Toler, Sa­man­tha Ernst and Wid­chard Faustin. The stu­dents spent nine weeks de­vel­op­ing lead­er­ship skills and a fun­da­men­tal un­der­stand­ing of how to ap­ply those skills for per­sonal devel­op­ment and ser­vice projects. The stu­dents ini­ti­ated a ser­vice project to pro­mote Pearl S. Buck In­ter­na­tional’s child spon­sor­ship pro­gram, Op­por­tu­nity House. The stu­dents in­vited the com­mu­nity to an event filled with in­spi­ra­tional sto­ries of child spon­sor­ship and the success sto­ries of many of the spon­sored chil­dren. For more in­for­ma­tion on the spring 2013 Pearl S. Buck In­ter­na­tional High School Lead­er­ship Pro­gram, which runs from March 6 to May 10, visit www.pearls­buck. org/lead­er­ship.

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