In these dark and dank fiscal times, it’s like being awakened by a gorilla when you put a Republican in the governor’s chair. Limbs are gonna come off in bloody clumps.
Which brings me to Gov. Tom Corbett’s first budget today.
Looking at it fresh off the butcher’s block, the budget calls for massive cuts in education and the eliminations of hundreds of state jobs. But no new taxes.
Pennsylvania is going to be leaner and meaner as Corbett proposed $27.3 billion in spending for the fiscal year that starts July 1, a decrease of about 3 percent from this year’s budget.
For the past two years Pennsylvania has benefited from a $2.6 billion federal stimulus package; that money runs out in June, and the commonwealth is grappling with a $4 billion deficit.
Corbett is right in line with current conservative thought about state finances: cut spending with a machete and don’t raise taxes. But unlike Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Corbett has not targeted collective bargaining rights.
So I guess legions of folks won’t be marching off to Harrisburg, yelping like bacon grease splattering on a hot stove.
Still, if the legislature approves Corbett’s plan, parents better buckle down and teach their kids their readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic at home. Because the concrete pilings of state education K-12 and colleges are now crumbling.
Corbett wants to eliminate nearly $550 million in basic education funding for K-12. To compensate for the resulting shortfall, he’s asking for a one-year salary freeze for all public school employees, a move that he says would save up to $400 million.The Pennsylvania university system also would take a massive hit under his plan. Corbett plans to cut $650 million in higher education costs; funding for state and state-related schools (including my alma mater Temple University) would be slashed in half.The plan calls for the elimination of 1,500 state jobs through a mix of layoffs and attrition. About 1,200 of these cuts would come from the Department of Public Welfare, particularly its mental health services division.
So look for an army of shambling, neurological wrecks shuffling along sidewalks. The Department of Community and Economic Development, simply known as the DCED, stands to have its budget axed by 32 percent, with a whopping $114 million in proposed cuts.
No surprise that funding for environmental protection would drop from $147 million to $140 million under Corbett’s proposal, even as the EPA has ordered tighter monitoring of Pennsylvania’s natural gas drilling industry.
Republicans traditionally are not big fans of the environment. Just saying. Republicans hug big cigars, not big trees.
Then again, the GOP traditionally is smitten with business. Corbett has proposed a number of tax credits and benefits for businesses. Among them: a $171.1 million business tax credit package; $25 million in grant funds for job creation and retention; a $10 million assistance program for small businesses and entrepreneurs; and the continued phase-out of the Pennsylvania capital stock and franchise tax, which is headed for elimination in 2014.
Hopefully all those cuts and benefits soon will have jobs in PA multiplying like loaves and fishes.
Considering the toxic economic climate that is poisoning state and municipal governments, Tough Tom Corbett likely had little choice but to wield a meat cleaver to the budget.
Tough times call for tough measures. And the time came today to be unmindful of the past, uncaring of the future, existing only for the moment and the quick fix.