What does Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget plan mean for Philly?

Gov. Tom Corbett
Gov. Tom Corbett.

Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday rolled out his annual state budget proposal, and officials on both sides of the political aisle were displeased.

“Democrats are railing against it, passionately railing against it,” said pollster G. Terry Madonna.

He said a particularly heated debate was sparked by Corbett’s refusal to accept federal monies to expand Medicaid coverage expansion to an estimated 500,000 Pennsylvanians who make too much to receive aid under current law, but can’t afford private insurance.

“Walking away from reducing Pennsylvania’s uninsured population by 41 percent is short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible,” U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D–Pa) said.

“Republicans are not sure about the privatization of the liquor control system,” Madonna said. “And some of them have raised questions about the lottery management privatization.”

Activists closer to home worried about education and social services, whose funding largely relies on cuts to state employee pension plans and one-time income sources, while is at the same time undermined by a large package of proposed corporate tax cuts.

“Our city really is hurting in terms of funding if you look at our schools, if you look at what’s happening with our public services,” said Gwen Snyder of Philadelphia-based advocacy group Jobs with Justice. “Gov. Corbett is starving our city in the sense that we need for our children to succeed and for our economy to recover.”

Though he provided increased funding for state police and some victim assistance programs, Corbett also failed to earmark funds to address many of the public safety issues facing cities – namely, gun violence.

“We’re not surprised,” Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePa said. “He has been on record saying that we don’t really need gun laws, and this is not the time for new policy, but we were hoping that he would decide to address that in the wake of the national attention that’s been brought.”

- with additional reporting from Tommy Rowan

 

Voters unlikely to budge

 

Madonna said that Corbett’s plan came as no surprise and is unlikely to sway voters during the governor’s 2014 re-election bid.

“There isn’t anything that voters are going to latch onto and say, ‘Uh-oh, this is something really bad or something really great,’” Madonna said. “This was expected.”

He noted that plans for liquor privatization were announced at a series of press conferences prior to the address, while pension and infrastructure reforms were much hinted-at.

Madonna said he’s not confident the budget will affect Corbett’s approval rating, which currently hovers around a dismal 36 percent.

“It’s at a historic low level for a governor,” he said. “I think he needs to vigorously sell this agenda. He’s doing a bit better at that and conducting a lot more visits, but he needs to really get a handle on this agenda here.”


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