Our opinion: A budget hole
The numbers are looking pretty grim for Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal, which counts on vast additional state revenue to pay for a 3.7 percent increase over the previous spending plan.
Corbett is counting on more money from gambling revenues, specifically the addition of gambling in taverns, and a legislature willing to postpone $170 million in pension payments.
Bar owners have all but ignored the games of chance they would be allowed to run, given the percentage that goes to the state and the bureaucratic hurdles they would face to qualify. The legislature, even though its controlled by the governor’s own party, isn’t clamoring to do his bidding on pensions, and has been less than obedient on a number of other issues.
Facing dreadful poll numbers, Corbett needs this budget for image repair.
The General Assembly’s leadership would like Corbett to keep his job and recognizes that Corbett’s proposal for $240 million in grants to education and more money to meet rising health care and pension costs could go a long way toward that goal.
But, they aren’t oblivious to the problem of unfulfilled revenue projections.
House Speaker Sam Smith would like to sell liquor licenses to make up the shortfall, a short-term solution that does little for the future.
A growing number of legislators, even from the Republican majority, have begun whispering about a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production, something they recoiled from just a few years ago. Corbett was vehemently opposed to a severance tax when it was proposed, and only grudgingly agreed to a much smaller impact fee.
There is a good chance that there will be some debate yet again in the General Assembly about a severance tax, something that every major natural gas producing state, other than Pennsylvania, levies.