The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 7, 2013

Budget plan not quite new or bold

Daily Item

---- — When Gov. Tom Corbett announced his budget plans for 2013 on Tuesday, he used lofty language. He knows Pennsylvania is in a financial fix. He knows the state has miles of crumbling infrastructure.

The governor also knows education was in the crosshairs of his first two budgets. Now that he is a year out from another campaign, Gov. Corbett is trying to reverse that, or at least change perceptions.

To accomplish all he wants -- tackle pension reform, fix roads and bridges, fund education -- Gov. Corbett needs money. Acquiring some, he said, involves forward thinking and not recycling things that have been tried and failed in the past.

"Now is not the time to be timid in our approach," the governor declared. "Now is not the time to cling to old ideas and the status quo. … Now is the time to be truly innovative. Now is the time to embrace new ideas."

Sounds impressive, doesn't it?

But what is really new about the idea to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania? Dick Thornburgh tried and failed in the 1980s. Tom Ridge did the same thing in the 1990s.

The liquor plan could generate $1 billion for schools. What happens when the licenses are sold and the $1 billion is gone in a few years? All those new programs won't have the funding. Someone will have to find something else to sell.

Too many of the governor's plans are contingent on other things happening first, or hoping that a sleight-of-rhetoric pays off and taxpayers don't notice.

Take the gas tax, for instance. Here the governor is going drop the liquid fuel tax, which will shave the fuel costs by 2 cents over two years. Meanwhile, he is raising wholesale fuel tax rates for oil companies. How will the oil companies offset the rate increase? The same way every business does when its tax rates go up, by passing it on consumers.

This is expected to inflate prices at the pump by nearly 29 cents.

With re-election on the visible horizon, Tom Corbett is face-to-face with the need to substantially raise taxes or dramatically cut government spending.

He calls for bold, forward thinking approaches.

His budget is a plan to sell assets and perform a two-step to hide higher fuel taxes.

We can pick Peter's pocket to pay Paul. Let's not pretend that is new or bold.