On Gov. Tom Corbett's Pennsylvania Budget Proposal

Okay you non-Pennsylvania residents, you might want to skip this post. If you don't, prepare to inherit a case of the I-don't-care-what-he's-talking-about blues...

In case you missed it, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) released his proposed 2011-2012 budget on Tuesday.
[N]o item in the 1,184-page budget epitomized the difference between Corbett and Rendell's approach to governing more than aid to schools. Rendell made a point of boosting this figure in each of eight years as governor; Corbett, in his first year, proposes cutting it.

In his budget speech Tuesday to a joint session of the legislature, Corbett said there must be sacrifices among unionized workforces and called for eliminating 1,500 state jobs, almost half of them in mental-health services. He said he would seek concessions in salaries and benefits from unions representing tens of thousands of state employees when contract talks begin this spring.

"To the people of Pennsylvania, the taxpayers who sent us here, I want to say something you haven't heard often enough from this building: We get the picture. It's your money," Corbett said.

"The electorate, its trust scraped to the bone by lies and half-truths, isn't going to stand for another broken promise," the governor added. "I said we'd cut. I'm not asking you to read my lips. I'm asking you to read my budget."
Nice. He invoked George H.W. Bush.

You can check out the full budget here (a 1,200 page pdf) or view the Governor's budget "dashboard" here.

I must admit that what bothers me the most is not how much money is being cut from the state-appropriations for Penn State, Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities. What really bugs me is the fact that higher ed is getting cut, but there are other areas in the overall proposed budget that remain intact -- or are actually getting an increase in spending.

It seems to me that the best way to have Pennsylvania get through the 'tough times' together is to make cuts across the board, not just in certain areas (*cough* education *cough*).

Over at TMV, Walter Brasch has some snark that the Governor should probably read:
Cutting an additional $1 billion from public education is bringing Corbett cheers from the tax-burdened masses who have yet to figure out that the cuts will force local school boards to raise taxes to cover essential educational expenses. But, the brilliance of Tom Corbett is that by freezing teacher salaries, he also spares local school boards the sweat of trying to explain why they have to raise taxes, drop programs, and close schools.

Now, let’s look at the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). Corbett plans to reduce the $465 million appropriation to a lean $232 million, roughly what it was in 1983 when the state system was created. That’s the true spirit of conservatism in America—bringing back the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was president.

The 14 state-owned universities enroll about 120,000 students. Some classes have only 40 students. That’s highly inefficient. By cutting funding, Corbett helps assure fewer high-paid professors who inflame students with the ideas of left-wing radicals like Socrates, St. Augustine, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. There’s hardly any difference between 40 and 200 students in a class. The prof still has to prepare only one syllabus, one lesson plan, and talks into only one microphone. Besides, testing is more efficient when it’s computer-scored multiple choice questions. If students want to chat with their prof, all they have to do is take a number and wait their turn for their allocated five minutes face time each semester.
Now Brasch is a being a bit, well, brash -- but his point does make sense.

Corbett is making massive cuts in k-12, as well as higher education. While this looks great on the state's leadership, i.e. your Pennsylvania state taxes will not go up, what is being overlooked is that local governments will be forced to raise taxes to continue the same level of support for public schooling and municipal projects.

Sure, Tom Corbett is not raising your taxes. That fact will likely help him get re-elected during the next gubernatorial election in Pennsylvania. BUT, if local school districts cannot make enough cuts to cover their budget shortfall, Pennsylvania resident's taxes will go up -- it will just be at the local level.

I voted for Governor Corbett last fall. After two terms of Ed Rendell, and several budget stalemates between him and the State Legislature, I was ready for some new leadership in Harrisburg. I respect that Corbett is making good on his campaign promise to get Pennsylvania back into fiscal prudence, without raising taxes. I am not criticizing that point.

As an employee at Behemoth University, I am more-than-willing to do my fair share of belt-tightening to help balance the state budget -- and I feel that sentiment is shared by many here at the University. I think it's only fair that all Pennsylvanians work together to ensure the financial stability of the Keystone State

However, I do feel that it is grossly unfair to target one or two areas in the state budget and take an axe to them -- and to them only.

...and don't even get me started on the increases in state-funding for drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania.... with zero taxation for the gas companies.

Photo: Matt Rourke/AP