Corbett’s Budget Tries to Win Back Voters

After years of cuts, education get a boost.

With his poll numbers tanking and voters angry, Gov. Tom Corbett unveils his 2015 state budget today with an eye on winning back some support before November’ election: A big emphasis in his proposal will be to put funding back in education after years of cuts. But will it work?

Reuters breaks down the proposal:

“He’s going to want to use his budget to shore up political liabilities. But he’s doing so in an environment that is very constrained,” said Christopher Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

Corbett last week he said he would boost funding for the state’s pre-kindergarten program by $10 million. He also challenged the state’s education funding formula in January, saying it’s unfair and needs to be changed.

AP adds:

In this budget, Corbett will propose a fourth straight year of tax cuts for businesses and a big new block grant program for public schools.

The $340 million block grant program will provide a menu of options to public schools on how they can use the money, and that menu expands for schools that performed better in the first school performance profiles that Corbett’s Department of Education released last year. The $340 million includes $240 million in new money and $100 million from the decade-old School Accountability Block Grant.

Aid to public schools for instruction and operations would remain unchanged from this year’s $5.5 billion.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on how he’ll pay for it:

Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday rolls out a $29.4 billion state budget that increases spending by 3.3 percent and counts on new revenue from legalization of keno, a fast-paced game typically played in bars and restaurants, his budget secretary said.

It’s not clear how Corbett proposes to address an expected $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion deficit. His budget emphasizes increases, rather than drastic cuts he said were necessary in 2011, when he took office with a more than $4 billion deficit.

Keno initially would bring in $40 million annually, Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said. The budget counts on $100 million from small games of chance, which lawmakers legalized last year. The budget does not raise taxes and continues the phase-out of a tax on business assets by 2016, Zogby said.

PA Independent on the “$2 billion ghost in the room.”

That’s how much — about $1 out of every $15 the state plans to spend — Pennsylvania has to pay the State Employees Retirement System, or SERS, and the Public School Employees Retirement System, or PSERS, in the 2014-15 budget. It’s a $600 million increase from the current year, with larger increases due in the next few budgets.

“We in state government have had a shameful history since 2001 producing legislation that short-changes the funding of our public employee pensions,” said state Rep. John McGinnis, R-Blair. “The mistake has always been to not pay the bill.”

We’ll get more details today.