Promises, promises: Roads and liquor belong on the legislative agenda

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With limited work time left for the Legislature this fall, the list of subjects that the House and Senate plan to address has dwindled to a precious few.

Whatever happened to doing the people's business first and campaigning later? The General Assembly's leaders have it the other way around and Pennsylvania is the victim.

Lawmakers will return to Harrisburg for a brief session starting late this month. The House has set only 10 work days before the Nov. 6 election, and the Senate a paltry eight. Any bills not passed by the end of November will die and have to be introduced after the new Legislature is seated in January.

That's little time to get votes on bills that caucus leaders say are ripe for action: charter school regulations, the distribution of special education funds, capital borrowing limits and barring life sentences for juveniles.

Even less likely is action on two subjects that have been long neglected, although long promised for solution by the Republicans who control the House, the Senate and the governor's office. One is transportation funding, the other is an end to the state liquor monopoly.

Gov. Tom Corbett came into office pledging to find a way to fund road maintenance, bridge repairs and mass transit -- essential elements to Pennsylvania's economy and businesses. He appointed a broad-based transportation funding commission that issued a catalogue of recommendations a year ago, enough to generate eventually $2.7 billion a year. Citing a "very difficult economy," Mr. Corbett promptly ignored the package.

A year earlier, while campaigning on a platform of modernization and reform that included getting the state out of the liquor business, candidate Corbett said, "We need to move our state out of the 19th century and refocus state government on its core functions and services for our residents."

Despite the advantage of Republican control, the governor and his allies in the House, including Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods, were not able to bring their liquor privatization bill to a floor vote in the spring. Maybe in the fall, Mr. Turzai said.

Well, that session, short as it will be due to a long season of politicking, is around the corner. If the Republicans who own the government want to make good on their promises, they should work funding transportation and ending the liquor monopoly into the fall agenda.

Said Mr. Corbett last October, "This General Assembly doesn't end until November 2012." True enough, and it will be here before you know it.

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