State budget woes: Solutions other than taxes long overdue

The state’s budget outlook for 2014-15 is getting worse at the wrong time – just a few weeks before the June 30 deadline for approval.

Tax collections for the month of May were down, continuing a slump that has gone on most of the year and makes it less likely that there is revenue to support Gov. Tom Corbett’s original proposal for a $29.4 billion spending plan.

But Corbett is holding fast with promises not to raise taxes to solve the problem. He told lawmakers last week he would rather pare back spending and tap other existing sources of money to close the billion-dollar gap between expenses and revenue.

Corbett’s stance marks a departure from many previous Pennsylvania governors, who have taken the easy way out in similar past situations.

And it’s the correct stance. The state already has an unhealthy reputation for heavy taxation that keeps many businesses and industries from considering it a favorable place to locate.

And Corbett’s stance is especially practical given a liquor privatization bill that’s on the table. Passed by the House last year and supported by Corbett, the bill would bring in more than $1 billion in one-time fees by selling more than 2,000 new licenses to sell wine and liquor, according to a House Appropriations Committee analysis.

Perhaps the budget woes will be the element that breaks down the political stonewalling of liquor privatization in the state Senate.

If that’s not the case, then we don’t want those same elected leaders decrying cuts in other parts of the budget.

We especially don’t want them knowingly perpetrating the myth that the Corbett administration has cut state funding of public education during its four years. In fact, the federal stimulus money for education always touted as temporary was shut off. The administration’s funding of education has actually increased.

Stop the inaccurate criticisms, pass a liquor privatization plan that brings Pennsylvania in step with 48 other states, and preserve the human services and education needs of the state in the process.

That sounds like a more mature way to solve the budget woes than the political stonewalling that too often goes on in Pennsylvania.