Highways, pensions and booze on Corbett’s agenda
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett vowed Monday to revisit the politically thorny issues of transportation funding, privatization of the state liquor sales and runaway state pension costs as he approaches the second half of his term.
Speaking at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday, the Republican governor also said he does not plan to shake up his inner circle of advisers, even though both candidates he endorsed for U.S. Senate and state attorney general this year were defeated in the primary and general elections, respectively.
“Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to work out,” Corbett told the crowd of 130 people, mainly business leaders and lobbyists. “When I decide to make any adjustments, I’ll let you know.”
Corbett, who touted the accomplishments of his first two years in office, faces scrutiny from newly elected Democrats who will take over in January as state attorney general and auditor general, as well as a shrunken GOP majority in the Senate that could make partisan bills harder to approve.
He provided few details of what he will propose to lawmakers in 2013, but said he will propose a statewide transportation plan and lobby for it. Corbett has long acknowledged the need for adequate funding, but his failure to advance a proposal has frustrated lawmakers, and some senators are hoping to introduce their own legislation in January.
Corbett also has not laid out a plan for the privatization of state liquor and wine sales, but said Monday he remains committed to the concept. Lawmakers debated competing privatization bills through most of their 2011-12 session, but all of them foundered.
“I’m going to keep going at it. I won’t back away,” he said.
The governor said taxpayers’ share of the cost of the two major public pension plans for teachers and state workers is expected to increase from $1.6 billion to more than $4 billion in 2016. The proportion of the budget consumed by pension costs is expected to double in five years to 8 percent, he said.
“Pension reform is essential,” Corbett said, without elaborating.
Corbett also expressed concern that potential developments in Washington could compound the state government’s problems.
Corbett said failure by Congress to resolve the “fiscal cliff” facing the federal government could disrupt the nation’s economy or cause another recession.
“I fear for the economy. I fear for another recession,” he said.
He also said the state cannot absorb the cost of any expansion of the Medicaid program stemming from implementation of the national Affordable Care Act because it could quickly spiral out of control.