State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Corbett defends administration's approach to lottery privatization deal

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 16, 2013 7:51 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Gov. Corbett’s apparent intentions to change the way he communicates with the state Legislature didn’t last long.

During an interview with reporters in late November, he was resolving to change the way his administration works with the General Assembly.

“I know we need to communicate better, and I think we are,” said Corbett. “We’re in that process.”

Now some state lawmakers are balking at what they say is a dearth of information from the administration about the lottery deal. House and Senate Democrats have certainly made their concerns known, but even Republicans had pointed questions and commentary at this week’s state Senate hearing on the privatization plan:

Republican Sen. Pat Vance, of Cumberland County, said she’s suspicious of any agreement where only one company makes a bid. Two bidders other than Camelot dropped out of the bidding process, and their names were disclosed publicly for the first time today: Tatts Group, an Australian company, and GTECH, based in Rhode Island.

Vance asked short, specific questions about where Camelot would base its operations, how it would grow the Lottery’s customer base, and whether such a business plan would have other societal costs in Pennsylvania.

“I think some of these questions come about because of the lack of transparency,” she said.

The governor objects to the “lack of transparency” criticism leveled at his administration. At an unrelated event in Lancaster Wednesday, he pointed to an announcement and a state House hearing held in April on the administration’s plan to look into privatizing the lottery.

“It was out there,” said Corbett. “I can’t help it if people were paying attention or not.”

But at the time, lawmakers said it was too soon to come down on either side of the proposal because of the lack of available details. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said in April: “Let’s see what that request brings and then we’ll have a more detailed discussion. I think it’s too early to get into what-ifs.”

The administration has also maintained they were unable to disclose more details sooner because of state contract bidding restrictions.

Corbett said Wednesday that evaluating and choosing private bids on the lottery is a role for the executive branch – not something that, as some lawmakers have suggested, should require their input.

“So, what you’re saying is the Legislature has the ability to say, we like this bid or don’t? That’s not the way it works,” said Corbett. He likened it to a bid on purchases of vehicles, or goods and services. “That’s what this is,” said Corbett, referring to the Pennsylvania Lottery operations. “This is a service.”

Corbett said he’ll make his final decision about signing a contract with British firm Camelot Global Services by the end of Thursday, several days before a state House hearing is scheduled to vet the pending deal.

The administration announced its intent to sign a contract with Camelot last week, three days before a state Senate hearing on the proposal.

Corbett was asked if he was concerned his bet on Camelot would burn any political capital with lawmakers.

“We’re not always going to match on everything,” he said. “Sometime we are, sometimes we aren’t.”


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