Without change in mindset, state budget outlook is gloomy

Unless state Rep. Garth Everett’s math is off, the 2014-15 state budget talks are starting out with a $1 billion deficit to resolve.

Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of the region, is on the state House Appropriations Committee, so we doubt his math is inaccurate.

It’s a simple equation.

The state is getting $650 million less from the federal government in Medicaid reimbursements and may get about $230 million less in tobacco settlement funds.

You add the unfavorable math to the realities of a gubernatorial election year and this has the look of a tough few months of budget negotiations for Gov. Tom Corbett.

The budget headache reaches migraine proportions when you factor in a badly underfunded pension system that must be reformed but keeps hitting political roadblocks.

And there’s nothing significant in the way of increased revenues to make up for those losses.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Even a modestly executed move to privatize the state liquor system would raise enough money to significantly reduce the budget whole Everett is predicting. But political forces keep getting in the way of liquor privatization. Somehow, 48 other states have been able to privatize their liquor systems without their commonwealths vaporizing.

Unless our state Legislature begins performing in the next few month with apolitical vision, it’s easy to see what will happen.

The state will meet its must-do budgetary obligations to solve its budget woes.

But the needs that are met through a variety of human services programs throughout the state will be jeopardized.

And that’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

When elected leaders defend their special interest friends and block overdue proposals such as liquor privatization that could raise needed revenue, they never talk about who really gets hurt by such obstruction.

So don’t be fooled this budget season when some in the Legislature talk about the budget logjam and how real Pennsylvanians are getting hurt.

In many cases, they could do something about it and won’t due to selfish political agendas. That has to end like yesterday.