PA School Districts

Corbett Budget Gets Mixed Reviews from Advocates for Children

While the state’s largest teacher’s union says the Governor’s budget fails students again,  another group sees signs of encouragement.  Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says the budget begins to restore some cuts to core programs.

CEO Joan Benso says they were pleased to see increases for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance.  She says it’s a turn in direction, indicating the Governor wants to make some important investments in children.

Benso is also encouraged by additional funding to do outreach for the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  She says the state has seen its child population in Medicaid decline.

The budget also calls for 90 million more for basic education, but Wythe Keever, a spokesman for  the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says that doesn’t begin to fill the hole created since Governor Corbett took office.

Keever is not impressed with the administration’s argument that it inherited an education budget backfilled with one-time federal stimulus money.  He says budgeting is about choices and the Governor chose not to replace the stimulus funding.

Keever adds that the governor’s pension reform proposal asks teachers and other public employees to shoulder the burden, when they didn’t create the problem with the pension system.  He says new employees would be paying more for a lesser benefit.

The Association is not a fan of the governor’s proposal to privatize state liquor sales and create a four-year education grant program with the proceeds. Keever says the governor is proposing to spend money he doesn’t have yet.  He says privatization is far from a done deal; it’s been proposed many times over the last two decades in the General Assembly.

A privatization effort failed to get enough support for a vote in the last session and some lawmakers favor modernization instead.

Governor Corbett Lays Out Liquor Privatization Plan

Governor Tom Corbett wants to transition Pennsylvania out of the liquor business over a four year period and use the proceeds for education.    The privatization plan would change the distribution of liquor from   the wholesale to retail levels.

During the phase in, the governor expects the plan to generate one billion dollars, which would be used to create the Passport to Learning Block Grant Program for public education.

Governor Corbett says he does not simply want to trim the system a little here or there.  He says if we are to gain the advantages of greater consumer choice and greater consumer convenience, we should not do it half way.

The Governor added that the plan includes tax credits for businesses that employ separated LCB workers, educational credits, civil service credits and other efforts to help displaced employees.

The Governor’s plan would double the current number of wine and spirits stores to 1200. It would require new alcohol retailers, such as wine and spirits stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores to use an ID scanner device before they can sell alcohol. Fines would be increased for selling to minors and visibly intoxicated persons. The additional money from license surcharges and increased fines would be designated for enforcement efforts.

The Governor also proposes increasing alcohol treatment and prevention efforts.

Governor Corbett released details of the plan surrounded by by a number of state house Republicans.  House majority leader Mike Turzai , whose own  privatization effort fell short,   said  there’s a lot of energy in the house. He said the Governor is doing something historical in taking the lead on the issue.