State reform agenda fails; there’s lots of blame to go around

Pennsylvania has a state budget for another year.

But not much else.

Gov. Tom Corbett went a disheartening 0-for-3 on the three major initiatives that were supposed to accompany this budget.

There was supposed to be a comprehensive new transportation bill to heal the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

There was supposed to be a privatized liquor system to replace the antiquated state-run-system.

There was supposed to be a new pension system to begin addressing the looming underfunding crisis.

Instead, there is just a get-by budget that doesn’t really address the three sorely-needed initiatives.

Gov. Corbett is taking lots of flak for coming up short on his budget/reform agenda, and perhaps he should.

Perhaps he didn’t come in early enough or prepared enough with a rationale for the roads, bridges, pension and liquor system changes.

But in our view, it’s far too easy to just settle on blaming the governor. The fact is, the governor should have had plenty of wingmen supporting this agenda.

It’s not that all parts of it were consensus worthy from the start.

But the agenda was worthy of broad-based backing.

The fact that it didn’t get that philosophical backing is testimony to the problem with Pennsylvania’s state government.

For decades, Pennsylvania’s Legislature has been too factionalized and too dominated by powerful lobby groups.

There are too many lawmakers aligned with an outdated agenda and re-election strategies aligned with lobby groups.

The result is a liquor system that is one of only two in the country that is state-run when a privatized one could have brought in money for education and a long-term flow of new revenue through the free enterprise system.

The result is a continuation of a pension system that can’t be economically sustained without draining money from needed state programs in the future.

The result is no plan for updating the state’s roads and bridges, which most people concede are among the worst in the nation.

Gov. Corbett didn’t allow those results. He tried to prevent them.

His proposals were flawed in detail and presentation but not beyond compromising that would have brought progress.

Until Pennsylvania’s lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, learn how to do that, the state’s potential and general condition will be stagnant and on the verge of long-term disaster.