Promises, promises: The governor spells out some familiar priorities

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Tom Corbett is saying all the right things as he prepares for his third year in the governor's office. Let's hope three's a charm.

In an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg this week, the governor laid out his goals for the new two-year legislative term that starts in January. Topping his list were curtailing state pension costs, privatizing state liquor stores and funding transportation.

That's an ambitious agenda, but with his Republican Party controlling the Legislature, he has no excuse for not getting the job done.

The transportation funding crisis is large, with the number of structurally deficient bridges and deteriorating roads increasing every year. Last week, there was more bad news from Auditor General Jack Wagner, who said the Pennsylvania Turnpike's debt has tripled in the last five years because of its required annual $450 million payment toward road improvements.

A solution already is available, one that could raise as much as $2.5 billion a year. Inexplicably, though, the plan put together by a commission hand-picked by the governor has been collecting dust for more than a year. Even now, Mr. Corbett is not endorsing its recommendations, which include raising vehicle registration and drivers license fees.

The governor says he's ready to bear down on the problem, but he still won't say specifically what he'll advocate. His coy public posture is puzzling, and Pennsylvanians are losing patience.

That's the same reaction to dormant efforts to get the state out of the retail liquor business. Mr. Corbett said he'd bring the state into the modern era by selling off this relic of Prohibition, but he has yet to use his political capital against the government monopoly.

Finally, there is the problem of paying the pension benefits for state and public school employees. Moody's Investor Services lowered the state's bond rating because of the growing gap between pension liabilities and the funding of the retirement systems.

Recent legislative action has simply kicked the problem down the road as the situation gets worse. State contributions are expected to increase from $1.163 billion this year to $3.178 billion five years from now.

The governor has pledged to meet these complex challenges. In January, he must make good on his promises and deliver.



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