Reaction to Corbett's budget proposals is mixed

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HARRISBURG -- State Democrats are blasting the budget package that Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled this morning, calling it inadequate, and at least one Republican lawmaker is cautioning that they'll have a lot of work to do.

"There's a lot of heavy lifting for the General Assembly in order to pay for this budget," said Sen. Mike Brubaker, R-Lancaster, of the governor's plans for overhauling public pensions and privatizing the lottery and liquor sales. "We need all of these reforms in order to make that budget work."

Mr. Brubaker, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee that will need to approve any changes to the retirement systems for state and school-district employees, said he supports significant pension reform, but other lawmakers are less enthusiastic.

"Those members that are in favor of pension reform have different ideas of how to get done it done," he said above the din from protesters in the crowded Capitol Rotunda.

Democrats elsewhere in the crush of those reacting to Mr. Corbett's $28.4 billion spending plan were unimpressed by his proposal to boost the basic education subsidy by $90 million and use dollars from auctioning liquor license to provide public-school grants.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, said the previous reductions in education spending that his party opposed "will remain etched in stone."

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, described the proposed education funding as not sufficient, and said more support to public schools should not be dependent on changes to how alcohol is sold.

Mr. Smith did commend the governor for including $200,000 for support to communities like Moon that are fighting to keep military bases open. He called it "a very positive step," saying that those dollars could be used to pay for economic-development studies illustrating the impact that such bases have on a community.

Business leaders said they were happy to hear the governor's comments on eliminating the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, which is levied on business assets, and plans to lift a cap on how much of past losses can be applied to future tax liabilities.

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, said those changes and a proposed long-term decrease in the corporate net income tax -- which would drop to 9.89 percent in the first year from the current 9.99 percent -- would be a positive signal to employers.

"Long-term, we believe when you reduce it you're going to enhance your revenue," Mr. Barr said. "Short term, we understand that there are challenges as we try recover from this recession."

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Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254.


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