Corbett’s budget plan: A partly cloudy forecast

Partly cloudy with a chance of mixed precipitation. That might fit for the state budget forecast following Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address Tuesday.

Corbett is proposing a $29.4 billion General Fund budget and a 3.3-percent spending increase.

He’s proposing the extra money to start healing the state’s public pension crisis, beef up financial support to most facets of public education and bolster health care funding.

He’s counting on new revenues from gambling in bars, a stepped-up seizure of unclaimed investment and bank accounts and royalties from gas drilling on private lands that also extracts from public lands to pay for the increased spending.

There is plenty for Corbett’s critics to pick at. For starters, the spending increase is a lot in any year, no matter the circumstances.

And lawmakers Michael K. Hanna Sr., a Lock Haven Democrat, and Rick Mirabito, a Williamsport Democrat, were skeptical of parts of the education spending plan among other things. Mirabito renewed his call for a gas severance tax.

As you might expect, Republican representatives Garth Everett, of Muncy, Matt Baker, of Wellsboro, along with Sen. E. Eugene Yaw, had more hopeful outlooks.

From our standpoint, all bets are off on this budget until June, when revenue projections will become more accurate.

Whatever final form the budget takes, we would hope it creates – finally – the legislative opening for overdue state pension reform and liquor privatization.

As Yaw accurately summarized, if nothing is done to reform the pension system, “it’s going to eat us alive.”

– Williamsport Sun-Gazette