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Corbett issues ultimatum, says late budget possible - abc27 WHTM

Corbett issues ultimatum, says late budget possible

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Governor Tom Corbett has boasted of on-time budgets for three consecutive years, but Tuesday at a hastily called news conference he cautioned it may not be four in row.

"We need to get this done and we need to get it done right rather than quickly," said Corbett, sounding like his predecessor Ed Rendell, who said the same thing all eight Junes he went through the budget process.

"So, if we're not able to finish by June 30th, we're not able to finish by June 30th."

The governor wants pension reform and championed a plan that would put new state and school district hires into a hybrid 401(k)-style retirement plan. Pensions are a $50 billion burden and counting. Corbett says it eats an additional $610 million out of the budget every year and something must be done now to fix it.

"That's not just on you and I here in this room, that's on the future generations of Pennsylvanians," he said.

The governor also linked drinks and drilling. Give him the liquor reform he wants, he signaled, and he'll give up a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers that nearly everyone else wants.

"If they don't give us the pension and the liquor, then I don't know where we have any consideration for revenue," Corbett said. "I think a lot of people would like to see revenue (Shale tax, Medicaid expansion, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette taxes), but we have to start fixing the cost drivers first."

Democrats, like Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), were unmoved. She agrees pensions are a huge problem, but says reforming pensions this year won't help fund the budget this year.

"That is debt that we owe, $50 billion, no matter how the revenues come in short this year, or what we do or don't do with revenues next year," Dean said.

Dean also noted that the state will try to "taper the pension collars," a fancy way of saying it won't pay what it should this year. That, Dean says, is more of what created the pension problem in the first place.

"The state will not be paying its share," she said. "We will have to, in order to get cash for this budget, reduce the pension obligation by the state, by the employer. We should not be doing that."

Many at the Capitol support a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. More importantly, budget arithmetic requires it.

"I think this budget, if it works out well, is gonna represent a triumph of math over ideology," said Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York). "That's what I'm looking to make happen at the end of this process."

Republicans control the levers of power in the budget process (House, Senate, Governor's office) and they can't leave town only accomplishing a drilling tax.

Even relatively modest proposals like pension reform for only new hires and beer and wine in grocery stores are struggling to get enough votes in the legislature.

But the governor made it clear Tuesday he wants something that looks like GOP reform and he says no one is leaving Harrisburg until he gets it.

"No bluster. No threats. These are facts," Corbett said in a calm and controlled voice.


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