Session Preview: Pennsylvania GOP looks to close a deficit in an election year


Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) will have to walk a political minefield in closing the budget deficit. (AP)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett and Republicans leading the state legislature have some difficult work ahead of them as they try to close a budget deficit during an election year.

Corbett (R) presents his budget on Feb. 4, but he’ll have to navigate a political minefield of spending cuts and tax hikes, the Associated Press reports:

Cutting spending on education or programs for the poor could severely damage the re-election prospects for Corbett and the GOP’s narrow Senate majority. And Corbett’s budget secretary, Charles Zogby, says he’ll listen to anything besides a tax increase.

Republicans are considering expanding lottery gambling, cutting the pension benefits of future public employees and auctioning the accounts of millions of Pennsylvania households to firms that buy and sell electricity.

Battles are likely to play out over education, liquor and pension reform, too, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. State control of liquor and wine sales could come to an end. And the Senate GOP wants to see more accountability for charter schools. But the real problem, according to a spokesman for the governor and the paper, is pensions:

[T]he debt for Pennsylvania’s two pension systems, for state employees and for school employees, has spiraled to $47 billion. Within five years, it is expected to hit $65 billion, Corbett’s budget office says. Each Pennsylvania household would need to contribute $13,000 to address that liability. Longer-range potential consequences include spending cuts, tax increases and teacher layoffs, reform proponents say.

 

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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