Let's make a deal
The stage is set in June for a potential deal: House Republicans pass a transportation funding bill most don't want and the Senate holds its nose and approves a limited liquor privatization bill.
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett supposedly benefits from both since they are part of his 2013 agenda. How much of a boost, if any, that provides for a governor lagging in the polls remains to be seen. Corbett might have to swallow hard and sign a transportation bill that's more expensive than he wants. But can he get House Republicans to do that?
Lifting the wholesale cap on state gasoline taxes might be sold as a “free market” proposal but it will gradually raise prices at the pump. Higher driver's license fees also are likely.
Sure, people like quality roads but it's hard to see most Pennsylvanians getting excited about paying more. The shift toward phasing out state stores is likely to be so incremental that a lot of people won't notice. The window for full-scale privatization, including the immediate sale of all 600-plus state stores, appears to be past.
The unwritten plan by some at the Capitol would be to peel away a layer of state control a little each year so that the state stores close by attrition. If there's a deal, it might be simple — beer and wine in grocery stores and phasing out state-controlled stores over the long haul.
Eliminating the state's wholesale control of liquor and wine remains a hurdle. Every indication is that liquor store privatization is in deep trouble in the Republican-controlled Senate. It seems to be a lot more than posturing to get higher transportation revenue and to convince Corbett to expand Medicaid funding under ObamaCare.
Getting private wine and beer sales would be a triumph for Corbett and it would change the narrative at the Capitol.
Doing two big issues with the state budget by June 30 is a heavy lift for a part-time Legislature with full-time pay and benefits. And it would require the House Republican Caucus, the most conservative of four, to approve what some will criticize as a tax increase.
House Republicans don't want a $2.5 billion transportation plan. Many want none at all. Senate Republicans don't want House Majority Leader Mike Turzai's idea of liquor privatization. They can't count on getting all Democrats for transportation. So it's possible all we might get is a state budget.
Medicaid expansion has bipartisan support but Corbett is concerned about creating an unsustainable program. Note that the governor's pension reform plan has not even been discussed. Failing to approve Corbett's pension proposal and declining to expand Medicaid make the budget even more complicated.
That's the outlook as June approaches — either a mega deal or a big bust.
Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or email@example.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates grind out extra-inning win against testy Tigers
- Donora woman wins state nursing award
- Steelworkers seek to keep working during talks
- 1 dead in Washington Township crash
- Duquesne extends contract of men’s basketball coach Ferry
- Whoa, whoa, whoa ... It’s WOTUS
- Candidate for Fayette County sheriff drops election appeal
- Work-zone safety
- Full of surprises: Sweet or savory, watermelon fits the bill for summer
- Blawnox reaches deal with firm for services through end of year
- Coroner: Police-involved shooting in Latrobe was justified