#PABudget: Corbett Unbelievably Screwed

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For those just tuning in, Steve Esack has a very good update article on where things stand with the Republican budget right now:

In February, Corbett proposed an additional 3.5 percent in spending for a total of $29.4 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1. A lot of that extra money would have gone to public schools via Corbett’s new Ready to Learn grant.

But Corbett’s budget proposal did not carry tax increases to fund the extra spending. It was built on rosy revenue projections and numerous one-time revenue sources.

His budget proposal then blew up when revenues came in short and the state got hit with unforeseen costs. This year’s deficit stands at $537 million and next year’s is estimated at $870 million — for a cumulative shortfall of $1.4 billion. And the state has not made up revenue it has lost over the last three years after Corbett ushered through business tax cuts.

What that means is that if Republicans don’t want to break their promise to restore some of their education cuts (and by the way, this restores none of their cuts to basic education), they need to find some money.

But a large number of Republicans, Corbett included, have signed a No Tax Pledge promising Americans for Tax Reform head honcho Grover Norquist they won’t raise taxes. Grover Norquist already thinks they broke that pledge with the transportation funding bill and the fracking impact fee, but Republicans disagree, and they want to avoid angering him more, and further depress anti-tax conservative voters.

So where do they get the money? They aren’t going to rescind the business tax cuts that are driving their budget deficit or accept the federal Medicaid expansion money, so their big ideas are limited to underfunding pensions some more, passing a weird liquor reform bill that doesn’t actually sell the state stores, and then maybe caving on a severance tax on natural gas production.

Here’s the fun part: Corbett is setting this up so that his cave-in on the severance tax is conditional on underfunding pensions and the liquor plan, and neither of those things are going to happen.

Democrats aren’t going to help them on pension underfunding or the liquor plan, because they don’t support either one, and this is an election year. So the administration is stuck looking for votes solely from Republicans, and the whip count isn’t adding up.

About three dozen think the pension underfunding plan is fiscally irresponsible (it is) and there’s also a contingent of social conservatives and protectionists in the state Senate who don’t support the proposed alcohol market reforms.

I could be wrong of course, but I’m betting neither of these things pass. So what happens then? Does Corbett cave on the severance tax anyway, even though neither of his conditions were met? And even then, where does the rest of the money come from?

I’m going to go ahead and predict that Corbett breaks the education funding promise and self-derps his way into another round of painful budget cuts in an election year. Grab the popcorn – this thing’s about to start getting good.

This entry was posted in Budget, Elections, Governor, Issues.

6 Responses to #PABudget: Corbett Unbelievably Screwed

  1. Doug Webster says:

    So when does the “trickle down” part begin happening? It is always promised and always factored into GOP budget planning, but it just never seems to materialize.

    Meanwhile we are spending 50+ billion per year on an intelligence system that captures everything and never heard of ISIS.

    Add another $40 billion wasted on a missile defense system that doesn’t:


    And something approaching a TRILLION bucks on the F-35 which our good friend Charlie Pierce describes thusly:

    the new Air Force attack fighter that is neither a dessert topping nor a floor wax, at least as far as we know, but is almost everything else. Except airborne. And sensible. When we last looked in on this rara avis, it had survived the austerity carnival known as sequestration because almost 90 senators have stakes in this charade.


    And we wonder why we “can’t have nice things,” like education, clean air and water, modern infrastructure, etc.

    I guess it is time for us to go back into Iraq.

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  3. Scaevola says:

    The most humorous part of this whole debacle is the fact that Tom Corbutt has largely executed the conservative vision for America. If it can be called a “vision” at all. He avoids a severance tax at all costs, even at the behest of his own party, and thusly Big Oil and Gas fuel some bucks discreetly into his reelection campaign.

    How can Corbett even attempt a bid at reelection, unless he truly believes there is a chance Tom Wolf will self-destruct at any moment (of which we have seen not the slightest indication). Because that seems to be what he is banking on. He is polling consistently in the low 30s, and this budget fiasco won’t endear him to conservatives or independents, so next thing he’ll probably be down into the 20s. Mark my words.

    Why run the embarrassment of a reelection campaign? Apparently if Wolf avoids the perfectly realistic self-destruction scenario, Corbutt is confident in the massaging dollar bills of his friends in the Oil industry. So just retire. If he doesn’t, the people of Pennsylvania would gladly do it for him. Announce his intention not to run for reelection, wave your goodbye, pound your chest and say something ignorant, put on your flag pin and declare yourself the “triumph of conservatism.” At least he won’t leave office in complete shame and disgrace.

    He is so obsessed with taxation–so scared and petrified of Tea Partiers.. he will not raise taxes (on the wealthy, that is) even when it is in the best interest of HIS state. Property taxes have discreetly gone up–but who gives a flippin-crap–they ain’t millionaire donors to Tommy Corbutt’s campaign. He has neither governed rationally nor appropriately–he has made himself (and thereby OUR state) a lab-rat for radical Tea Party-ism. This, Pennsylvania, is your Republican Dynasty. Take it or leave it.

    • That’s just the thing. If he lost 53-47 his funders wouldn’t care, really. But what happens if he loses by Little Ricky Santorum margins, or greater? Most wingnut welfare outfits don’t want to be associated with that kind of loser, do they? Will they really want to employ one of the worst Governors in Pennsylvania’s history?

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