Corbett agenda a tough sell
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
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.
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.