Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his proposed 2013-14 state budget in a speech to a joint session of the state House and Senate in Harrisburg. This was my seventh budget speech, and the response was by far the most unenthusiastic I’ve ever seen—there were times you could hear a pin drop in the House chamber as the governor delivered his speech.
The lack of enthusiasm was bipartisan in that both Democrats and Republicans were clearly reluctant to embrace Corbett’s agenda, and when you break down the numbers of his plan, it isn’t difficult to see why. Here are five of the many reasons the budget proposal is a bad plan for Pennsylvania.
Lottery Privatization Is a Disaster
There is just nothing to like about Governor Corbett’s plan to privatize the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery by signing a contract with Camelot, a company based in Great Britain.
The lottery posted record revenue last year and only spent 2 percent on administrative costs, which is much less than the estimated 5 percent Camelot will charge through big bonuses and management fees to their foreign executives. Every dollar that goes to Camelot is a dollar coming out of the pockets of senior citizens for essential programs such as PACE and the Property Tax/Rent Rebate.
No Medicaid Expansion
If you want Pennsylvania to spend less money on Public Welfare programs, you should be furious with Corbett for refusing to opt-in to the Medicaid Expansion through the federal government. Whether any of us like ‘Obamacare’ or not, it’s the law of the land and we can’t let ideology blind us from reality. Not only would we be able to provide health coverage for more than 500,000 Pennsylvanians, which would lower costs and premiums for the private sector, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years. By refusing to take advantage of the Medicaid Expansion, our federal tax dollars will be going to other states instead, and we will be forced to spend more money through the Department of Public Welfare to fill the void. This also hurts our hospitals and the people who work there very badly.
He’s Playing Word Games With Transportation
Corbett is playing word games here, which is unfortunate considering the importance of addressing our crumbling transportation infrastructure. His proposal is to uncap the gas tax paid by wholesalers such as gas stations, which will surely be passed on at the pump. This works out to an estimated 28 cents per gallon increase for gasoline, which is real money. The governor then got cute with the wording by proposing a “17 percent cut in the gas tax”, which is actually only a two-cent cut over two years and hardly offsets the big increase. Instead of playing cute word games over whether this is a tax increase or not, we need the governor to bring everyone together and have a real discussion about how to fix our infrastructure.
He’s Promoting Corporate Welfare at the Expense of Real People
Corbett’s budget proposal includes hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate welfare, which helps out-of-state corporations but doesn’t help true local small business owners and people who go to work in Pennsylvania every day. By giving them a free ride, Corbett is demanding you pay more, and that isn’t right.
It Means Higher Local Taxes and Reduced Services
By continuing to underfund education and human services at the state level, we are stuck with the reality of paying higher property taxes with less to show for it. This isn’t about more government spending—it’s about not pushing everything down on the people in an unfair and dishonest way.
These are just a few reasons you heard more crickets chirping than applause during Corbett’s budget speech. Hopefully, my colleagues in the Legislature will demand some real changes in these proposals over the next few months so we can have a fair state budget that helps the people of Pennsylvania and not a few big corporate interests on the other side of the globe.