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Governor Corbett delivers his fourth budget - abc27 WHTM

Governor Corbett delivers his fourth budget

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Governor Corbett broke the $29 billion barrier.

In his 2014-15 budget address to the General Assembly Tuesday morning, Corbett proposed a 3.3 percent increase in spending to $29.4 billion.

He'd like to steer nearly $400 million additional to education. He'd spend more on seniors and Pennsylvanians with disabilities.

"We need to create a Pennsylvania where people with disabilities, and their families, will never be forced to wait for services again," Corbett said.

The governor would reduce business taxes by continuing the phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.

He's also generate revenue but increasing gas drilling beneath state owned forests and parks. 

"It's very simple: energy equals jobs."

But state Treasurer Rob McCord, a Democrat running for governor and hoping to deliver next year's budget address, challenged Corbett's reasoning.

"He said, 'we're gonna continue with a few corporate tax cuts because we know that leads to job creation' but it's like well we've been dropping in job creation like a stone," McCord said.

Public employee pensions are near crisis and nearly $50 billion in debt, according to Corbett, who pleaded with lawmakers to give him a pension reform plan sooner rather than later.

"We MUST fix this," Corbett said with emotion and emphasis. "Those who say there is no pension problem are misinformed or in denial."

Senator Mike Brubaker - (R) Lancaster - agrees and says at the very least future hires must be put into a defined contribution (401k) style pension plan instead of the current defined benefit plans enjoyed by public employees.

"The hole keeps growing deeper and that's unacceptable," Brubaker said.

But can lawmakers, in an election year, tackle a complex problem like pensions?

Senator Pat Vance - (R) Cumberland County - has her doubts. "Last year we did it (pension reform) just for new employees and couldn't get that to move," Vance said. "That's pretty sad commentary on the legislature."

The governor would expand the lottery to include Keno and he almost half-heartedly renewed his call to privatize liquor.

"Pennsylvania loses about $80 million a year (in liquor sales to neighboring states) that would otherwise be spent here. So here's a thought, let's make 2014 'last call' for state-controlled liquor in Pennsylvania."

Unions, which are not fans of Corbett's attempt to privatize and feel targeted by the governor, didn't think much of his address. They want to raise revenues through higher taxes on Marcellus Shale and smokeless tobacco.

"He didn't talk about the minimum wage and raising it," said Kathy Jellison of the Service Employees International Union. "He didn't talk about Pennsylvania being 48th in job creation. He kind of talked about creating jobs but where are they?"

It was perhaps the kindest and gentlest of Corbett's four budgets and critics say that's expected in an election year.

"Seemed like a campaign year budget," said Representative Mike Sturla - (D) Lancaster. "He claimed he was making increases to programs that he has consistently cut in the last three years."

There was election-year feel good moments. He promised to fight the US Army's plan to remove Apache helicopter training from the Midstate.

He acknowledged new mayors in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Eric Papenfuse stood up and waved.

But opponents are also feeling good. They're confident this will be Corbett's final budget address.

Union members hung a sign over the rotunda railing outside the chamber where the governor gave his address. It said "Corbett Corporate."

They also repeatedly and loudly chanted "One-Term Tom" and sung a familiar chant to the governor.

"Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey, goodbye."

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