Corbett Budget Adds $2.4 Billion in State Spending

Posted by By at 9 March, at 10 : 22 AM Print

(By Tim Potts, Democracy Rising)

Tim Potts Democracy Rising

You read that right. The budget that Gov. Tom Corbett proposed actually increases the spending of state money to replace the loss of federal funds. Without that increase, the budget pain would have been even greater than it is for schools and dozens of other programs.

See page 133 of Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal. It gives “Total State Expenditures,” not including federal funds, this year of $24.96 billion, and it proposes to spend $27.33 billion of state money in 2011-12, an increase of $2.37 billion, or 9.5%. Click here, then click on “2011-12 Governor’s Executive Budget.”

Warning for those who get twitchy about big documents: It’s 1,184 pages long.

This was one of many odd features of the new governor’s first budget. Among them was that the budget speech didn’t include a discussion of budget numbers. Perhaps we now know why.

The Aristocracy Wins
Most striking was the absence of any effort to reform the aristocracy that rules PA. The governor’s executive budget declined by 5.8%, although top-level staff are being paid 11% more than under former Gov. Ed Rendell. See the March 3 edition of DR News.

The judiciary’s budget is flat with no increase and no cuts. Not a dollar in state funding changed for the second consecutive year.

And on a “day of reckoning” that proposes pain for nearly every PA citizen, the governor let the good times roll for the 253 members of the second largest legislature in America and their largest-in-America staff. Corbett’s proposal cut the legislature’s budget by a mere 1.4%, what some in the capitol call “budget dust.”

This contrasts with his treatment of rank-and-file state employees. Corbett called for public sector salaries and benefits to fall in line with private sector counterparts: “We will be looking for salary rollbacks and freezes from state employees as well as asking them to increase their contributions for healthcare benefits.”

Corbett did not call on the legislature to:

  • bring its health insurance costs in line with the private sector. Currently, lawmakers with 10 years of service get lifetime health insurance for themselves, their spouses and any children under 21. This includes vision, dental, prescriptions and long-term-care insurance. Taxpayers currently pay $19,633 per lawmaker per year for their health insurance. Does the average private sector worker get benefits like these?
  • pay the same percentage of their health insurance costs as state workers and ordinary citizens. State employees currently pay 3% of wages toward their health insurance, which Corbett contrasted to 6% in the private sector. Senators pay 1%. House members pay nothing but may begin paying 1% in July.
  • repeal its automatic COLA based on inflation in the Philadelphia area. Does the average private sector worker get a benefit like this?
  • give up its private doctor, who doesn’t deal with injuries and emergencies, only illness. Does the average private sector employer provide one doctor for every 253 employees?
  • document expenses in order to get per diems. Does the average private sector worker get reimbursed for expenses without submitting proof that there really were expenses?
  • return its $188 million surplus in leadership accounts to the Treasury for use in important programs that were cut.

Question:

  • Apparently Corbett can stand up to ordinary state workers. Does he have the backbone to stand up to the legislature?

One Final Oddity
A combination of more than $1 billion in cuts to education plus an increase of $600 million to human service programs marks the first time that PA will spend more on welfare than on education.

(Go one step further to hear and see more by clicking on Rock The Capital.)

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