Following a “bad weekend” with the collapse of his agenda, Governor Tom Corbett signed a nearly $29 billion state budget Sunday night. Controversial issues including liquor privatization and allocations for transportation funding remain in the Legislature until the fall, prompting a close examination of these pressing topics and the motivations behind both parties in both the House and Senate.
Perhaps the most pressing element of the proposed budget was the funding for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Complaints from the Republican end focused on the amount of money being allocated to PennDOT ($2.5 billion over three years) while the Democrats found fault in the lack of funding for public transit. Harrisburg Patriot News Opinions Editor John Micek notes that because PennDOT funding was not improved or restored, “projects it had on the books for next year have now been delayed because they’re going to lose a construction season without this funding mechanism in place.”
Less money for transportation would result in more weight restrictions for bridges (including many in the Pittsburgh area). These restrictions would require more detours, more gas and a decreased competitiveness economically for the state of Pennsylvania.
Medicaid expansion was approved in the Corbett budget. But Micek indicates that the House Republicans will try to remove that section and that Corbett “was opposed to it from the outside and wanted to seek waivers from Washington” instead of including it in the state plan.
Included in what has been called the Governor and Legislature’s “shortsighted budget” is a continued block grant approach to funding for public schools, higher education and people with mental health and intellectual disabilities.
Pennsylvania lawmakers have not technically recessed for the summer; instead, they are working on enabling bills that will give the state authority to spend money. Micek observes that the “Governor needs political victories heading into 2014” and instead of a weak budget, he needs to make decisions in a timely matter with the best possible choices.