Corbett proposes new budget, liquor sales fund education revenue

Karley Ice February 13, 2013 0

Governor Tom Corbett delivered his 2013-2014 budget address to the General Assembly Feb. 5. Corbett plans to tackle three big areas: transportation funding, pension reform and the privatizing of liquor sales to raise revenue for education.
The Pennsylvania House and Senate gathered to hear the $28.4 billion plans that have been expected since the beginning of his term in 2011. “I believe Pennsylvania’s best days are ahead … Pennsylvania has unlimited potential,” Corbett said. Although his ideas have a favorable outlook due to Republicans holding the majority in the Senate and House, they are very complex issues that people have strong concerns about.
A prevalent aspect of the governor’s plan includes raising funds for transportation improvements including repairing roads, bridges and mass transit. This plan would generate $5.3 billion over the next five years by removing the cap on the wholesale gas tax, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Corbett also proposes a 17% reduction in the flat liquid fuels tax. These actions do not guarantee an increase for gas at the pump, but the change would raise the public’s attention.
Corbett also wants to take action regarding pension reform. His plan to resolve the pension crisis seems controversial to many in that he suggests changing the calculation of future benefits for current workers such as dedicated teachers and state employees. The governor wants to create a new 401(k)-style retirement benefit for future employee.” Through this reform, $140 million will be provided in pension savings across the state,” Corbett said. However, the plan pays too much attention to the future and ignores the existing liabilities and the state’s reputation for underfunding this system.
The governor’s plan also focuses on raising funds for education. “My budget works to provide our public schools with enrichment funding to help them achieve academic excellence at all grade levels,” Corbett said. $6.4 million will be allocated to Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance programs that give 3,200 children the opportunity to participate in academic programs. Corbett’s plan also allocates $1.58 billion for state and state-related universities to keep tuition reasonable. He wants to add $90 million overall, which will raise the total amount for education funding to $5.5 billion.
The plan for education also includes the first-time “Passport for Learning” block grant valued at $1 billion to enhance public schools for the next four years. This grant focuses on four areas. The first is funding for beneficial kindergarten programs that concentrate on reading and math through third grade. The second provides customized learning plans, taking into consideration that every student learns differently. The third includes funding for programs and equipment to support sciences and mathematics in grades six through 12. The fourth aspect invests in the safety of schools in that it will provide necessary security measures.
Corbett proposes that funding for education should come through the privatization of liquor business. Liquor sales will transfer from government control to private enterprise, eliminating the monopoly currently in place. There have been mixed emotions about associating liquor purchases with funding for education. “That’s inappropriate. We should not be tying our kids’ education to wine and spirits shop explosion across this commonwealth,” said Senator Jay Cost, the Democratic Minority Leader. First-year Collin Davidson disagreed, “I think it sounds logical. It’s still good revenue.”
The thought of using liquor privatization as a source is actually irrelevant. “The suggestion of privatization of state stores would only offer about $200 million more, but not until the 2014-2015 fiscal year,” said Dr. Rachel Finley-Bowman, Associate Professor of Education and Chair of the Education Department. Although Corbett wants to add $90 million to education, this amount and funds expected from liquor privatization struggle to replace the $900 million that has been removed over the past two years. “A true tax on Marcellus shale, not just an impact fee, and a reexamination of loopholes in the corporate tax structure might be more suitable alternatives,” Bowman said.
Governor Corbett has ambitious goals. He has decided to deal with some big issues. His plans for transportation are needed to improve our roads, bridges and mass transit. Although it is a tax increase, it is happening for the right reasons. His plans for pension reform are perhaps the most controversial aspect. This area will most likely be tied up in court and legislature to reach an agreement. Although Corbett is adding to funds for education, his efforts fall short of the serious needs of schools across the state. Governor Corbett’s plans are headed in the right direction, but they may need reform to be as effective as possible.

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