State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Audio report: Corbett's budget

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 5, 2014 10:13 AM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Gov. Corbett's fourth budget proposal, outlined yesterday, would hike state spending by more than three percent. But as Mary Wilson reports from the state Capitol, the way he's proposing to find the money is raising eyebrows among those quick to accuse him of letting reelection politics be his guide.

The governor said his plan to boost state spending by more than three percent signals a change for the better in Pennsylvania's fiscal situation. But Democrats called the proposal "too little, too late" - and too unwieldy. They said they see it as a cynical election-year ploy, dependent on revenue from one-time sources or incomplete plans.

"At first glance, this appears to be a deathbed conversion funded largely by various budgetary gimmicks," said Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin). "But even as deathbed versions go, it doesn't seem to go all the way."

Corbett's proposal counts on money that would come from, among other things: expanding natural gas drilling on state parks and forest lands, making changes to Medicaid that haven't gotten federal approval, and changing unclaimed property law (an overhaul also supported by Democrats).

The plan relies on cutting what the state must pay into its underfunded public pension systems. It would shift $225 million from the state's Tobacco Settlement Fund, set aside for health care programs, into one of the pension funds. It counts on a small amount of funding from expanding the Lottery's game offerings to include keno drawings.

GOP legislative leaders commend Corbett for outlining a proposal that could gain support from lawmakers and the public. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said the maneuvers don't suggest Corbett's plan is fundamentally flawed.

"Essentially, the governor's speech was a speech about spending priorities," Pileggi said. "How we support those priorities will be in the details. He didn't address those in the speech today at any length but they're very important to us because we want obviously a sustainable plan."

Another assumption baked into the budget proposal: that commonwealth revenues will grow by four percent this year. Pileggi called the projection "optimistic" and said he hopes to dig into it further during budget hearings.

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