Democrats say budget is lackluster

Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal has $400 million worth of uncertainties, according to several state Democratic legislators who spoke during an editorial board meeting with the Sun-Gazette Tuesday.

State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, who joined local Reps. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, and Michael K. Hanna Sr., D-Lock Haven, said Corbett’s plans “may likely not come to fruition.”

Sturla said Corbett’s plan to privatize the state’s lottery and liquor stores won’t bring the anticipated revenue the governor projected.

“He assured dollars that may not necessarily happen,” Sturla said of state store privitization proceeds with which Corbett wants to fund education.

Proposed pension reform that may require newly hired state employees to contribute to a retirement plan different from existing employees actually may be more expensive to operate, according to Sturla.

And as far as lottery privitization, “I don’t think that’s going to come through now,” he said.

The lawmakers also said the Corbett administration needs to curb tax breaks for large companies. In the past three years, Pennsylvania has granted $1.3 billion in tax credits for companies, Sturla said.

“They all seem directed at corporations, not individuals,” he said of the tax credits.

The trio also agreed that a business loophole that allows businesses to incorporate in Delaware to avoid paying taxes here needs to be stopped.

Because of the so-called “Delaware loophole,” almost 16 percent of Pennsylvania companies don’t pay the corporate net income tax, according to Hanna.

Hanna said the governor has acted as a “corporate raider” and attempted to sell off profitable state assets such as the lottery and state stores since coming into office two years ago.

“He’s come in and taken away what’s valuable,” Hanna said.

The Democratic legislators also slammed Corbett for failing to adequately fund education. Sturla said that the governor’s claim of giving more to education is “blatantly false.”

“We peaked at the 2008-09 (budget) year,” he said.

While rural school districts have received steep cuts, those in urban areas have not been hit as hard,” Sturla said.

“The gap has actually widened between the wealthy districts and the poor districts while this governor has claimed to be a champion of education,” Sturla said.