Corbett unveils bold $28.4 billion budget - abc27 WHTM

Corbett unveils bold $28.4 billion budget

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Governor Tom Corbett unveiled an aggressive $28.4 budget, and challenged lawmakers to get it passed.

"Now is not the time to be timid in our ideas and our approach," Corbett told a joint session of the House and Senate. "Now is not the time to cling to old ideas and the status quo."

Corbett certainly challenges the status quo in his spending plan. There are bold and sweeping changes like privatizing liquor stores. Corbett estimates a windfall of $1 billion over four years that he would earmark for education.

"Selling liquor is not a core function of government. Education is," Corbett said to a just better than lukewarm applause that may have been the best of his speech.

It certainly got a less than lukewarm reception from Democrats who hate the idea of booze for books.

"That's inappropriate," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. "We should not be tying our kids education to wine and spirits shops explosion across the Commonwealth."

The governor's transportation plan includes increasing fees for vehicle registration and drivers license but also increases the years between renewals: registration every two years and licenses every six years.

More significantly, the governor wants to uncap the Oil Company Franchise Tax. Currently only the first $1.25 per gallon is taxed even though the price has zoomed to triple that. Removing the cap will generate $1.8 billion over five years, money that would fund fixes for roads, bridges and mass transit.

The governor says next year it will raise $500 million.

The Republican governor then unleashed a bold and un-Republican sounding quote.

"It is time for oil and gas companies to pay their fair share of the infrastructure supporting their industry."

But critics, some in his own party, call $500 million a tepid response to a massive transportation problem.

Daylin Leach is not in the governor's party and is not shy about blasting the plan.

"The Senate Republicans, their number is $3 billion dollars. 500 million? That's one-sixth of what his own party's calling for. I would want even more for better roads and bridges."

Senate Transportation Chair John Rafferty was also quoted as saying $500 million is too little and he promised to work for more money.

The governor and some Republicans are insisting it's not a new tax, but rather an extension of an existing tax. It's likely to lead to higher prices at the pump, but Lancaster Senator Mike Brubaker says his constituents approve.

"If all that money goes to improving our roads, bridges and mass transit my people back home say, 'mike that's ok.' "

Pennsylvania is facing a pension crisis and to curtail it Corbett wants to reduce benefits for state workers and public school teachers. He re-iterated that retirees benefits will not be touched.

He wants new hires to be put into a defined contribution plan, like private sector 401k's.

The big fight will occur over an attempt to decrease the multiplier for current employees. Many say it's unconstitutional to change their contract after it's been agreed to. But Corbett will try anyway. Unions and pro-labor lawmakers will fight him and they won't fight nice.

Wendell Young of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents thousands of liquor store employees says Corbett's just pandering to bolster sagging poll numbers. "The things he's doing this past week are really a distraction from the real problem and that is why didn't he stop a predator when he had a chance?" Young is referring to what many feel is a botched investigation of serial child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky. So yes, unions will go there and they'll go farther as they continue to feel threatened.

Other budget highlights include an increase in welfare money for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities.

The governor wants to fund three new classes of sate police cadets.

He also wants to eliminate the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax and reduce the corporate net income tax.

Privatizing the lottery would generate $50 million dollars this year for senior programs.

There's heavy lifting for lawmakers.

"I think we can get a lot of it done," said Representative Stan Saylor (R-York). "Will it be exactly as the governor proposed it? Not necessarily."

Lawmakers also reminded Corbett that his work doesn't end with Tuesday's speech. "It's up to him now to go out and make his case to the people of Pennsylvania and members of the General Assembly to get the votes," said Senator Jake Corman (R-Appropriations Chair).

But the governor also challenged lawmakers. "Nobody displayed a campaign bumper sticker that read, 'Vote for me, I want to keep Harrisburg the same.'"

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