Gov. Tom Corbett publicly scolded the Legislature and took away some of its money Thursday, a move that said more about his re-election campaign than the state budget he’d just signed or his quest for pension reform.
It was a peculiar way to end the annual fight over state spending, and it’s hard to see how it will help Mr. Corbett persuade lawmakers to enact pension changes that he and many school officials say they need to prevent property tax increases.
Republicans in the House and Senate passed the $29.1 billion budget without a single Democratic vote, but Mr. Corbett delayed signing it while he pressured members of his own party to tackle the pension issue. When they didn’t cave, he went ahead and signed the budget anyway, but he lined out $65 million from legislative accounts and another $7.2 million in General Services appropriations that fund some local programs.
It’s not as if anyone outside the House and Senate will complain about the perfectly reasonable cut Mr. Corbett made. After all, the two chambers are sitting on a joint surplus of $150 million, a luxury they do not need and one that Pennsylvania cannot afford.
It’s too bad the whole state spending plan doesn’t contain a thick cushion; instead it is balanced on inflated revenue projections and one-time budget transfers. For that matter, it’s too bad most state residents don’t have a financial cushion either, particularly given that allocations in the state budget already are triggering tuition hikes at state-related universities and higher school property taxes.
Unfortunately for Mr. Corbett, leaders from his own Republican Party put that budget together, just as some of his party’s members stand in the way of the pension changes he seeks and other major reforms he promised to deliver, including privatization of the state liquor system.
With this record of failure to achieve results with the very lawmakers who should be his natural allies, it’s no wonder he’s decided to attack the Legislature and take his argument directly to state residents. But will burning his bridges to fellow Republicans accomplish anything for Pennsylvania?
His choice to go it alone may make a good stump speech on the campaign trail, but it won’t be as persuasive with voters as accomplishing something in Harrisburg.