Budget tug-of-war pits politics against long-term solutions

Quite possibly, Gov. Tom Corbett has made the calculation that the only way to get pension reform and liquor privatization is to hold up the next state budget until it happens. And he may have also made the calculation that if it costs him his re-election, so be it.

We stand behind both calculations.

Nothing fundamentally changes in the inefficient way Pennsylvania state government operates precisely because a few major lobby groups have too much power, and too many decisions are tied to power-drunk elected officials holding office.

It would be refreshing if the leadership in our state government would focus on what’s needed instead of scoring political points. What’s needed is reform of the pension system to stop a looming shortfall before it becomes too great to bring under control and jeopardizes the rest of the state’s operating budget.

What’s needed is a sell off of the state-run liquor system, a concept so outdated that only Pennsylvania and Utah use it.

Such a selloff would be a better way to attack the state’s current operations deficit in the budget proposal, which include the same old solutions we hear every June.

As usual, raising taxes on everything from tobacco to the natural gas industry is proposed by many in the state House, particularly the big-government apologists.

These ideas go over well with folks because tobacco and the natural gas industry are seen as the big bad wolf by those in the business of attaching villains to ideas to make a point.

But just taxing particular entities or the general population only creates more revenue that the state budget grows into and past in a couple of years. So no problems are really solved.

The current shortfall of at least $1.2 billion in a $29.4 billion budget has a potential hole of $2 billion. Raising taxes on “the bad guys” may solve much of that problem short-term, but it doesn’t solve the state’s long-term spending habit.

Long-term solutions require fundamental changes in the way state government does business. Gov. Corbett is advocating two practical ones.

We just wish we had more confidence that the Legislature including both sides of the political aisle possessed the will to get these things. What we see most of the time is a favoring of special interests and political hides over actually finding solutions.