Legislator: Pensions, roads big priorities

As state lawmakers head back to Harrisburg this month they can expect to take up a number of issues, including transportation funding, privatization of the state’s liquor business and, of course, the budget.

“I would say transportation is going to be one of the biggest issues this session,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy.

He said the time for solving the state’s road and bridge funding needs is overdue.

The good news is that a transportation commission has already put forth measures for lawmakers to consider.

“That will be the blueprint from where we start from,” he said.

Everett, who ran unopposed for the 84th House seat in November, said he expects Gov. Tom Corbett to issue his own recommendations that could well mimic those of the commission.

Formed by the governor’s executive order in April, the agency was tasked with finding an additional $2 billion to $2.5 billion annually for transportation infrastructure needs.

Many Republican lawmakers have pushed for privatization of the state’s liquor stores.

Everett, for one, sees it once again becoming a hot button issue.

He said liquor sales must be kept separate from the question of beer distribution in order for anything to get done, however.

“I would like to just concentrate on spirits,” he said.

The state’s pension woes certainly will be considered.

Everett conceded that while there’s little the state can do to continue paying out pension benefits to vested employees, other measures can be taken down the road to reduce the state’s burden.

The pension problem has been kicked down the road, but the governor has shown signs of wanting to confront the issue once and for all, he said.

Many school districts and municipalities face the sort of big pension costs that are putting major strains on services.

On the budget front, Everett noted that the state is not faced with the multi-billion dollar deficits of the past two years.

Thanks in part to some serious cuts in spending, the state has seemed to have gotten better control of its budget.

The governor will issue his state of the union address later this winter.

After that, Senate and House lawmakers will make clear their own budget plans.

“That will keep us busy for a little bit,” Everett said.