Corbett sends a signal
Republican Gov. Tom Corbett touched off an internal party war by vetoing one-fifth of the state Legislature's operating funds because the House and Senate hadn't approved pension reform.
The veto won't bring the Legislature to its knees. It still will live fat off its $153 million surplus. Still, his action was perceived by leaders as a slap in the face as he signed the rest of a no-tax-hike budget.
So why would Corbett anger fellow Republicans? A complex series of events over the past three and half years explains it — the Legislature has always been wary of Corbett, the former top state prosecutor who put many of their colleagues and former staffers in prison and campaigned against it in 2010. Corbett, who has acted like an attorney general while governor, brought much of this on himself by keeping his plans as secret as a grand jury indictment, remaining figuratively cloistered in the governor's office, failing to grab the reins of power. Perhaps because of its history, he was too willing to defer to the Legislature to come up with a plan rather than lead.
From the standpoint of Corbett supporters, the GOP-run Legislature has done very little for him and he owes them nothing. The Senate essentially ignored liquor store divestiture and the House couldn't round up the votes on school choice in 2012.
A key factor no one talks openly about is that Corbett doesn't have WAMs, “walking-around money.” They are discretionary grants governors and leaders use to “lubricate” the system and get votes. Corbett said he would get rid of WAMs. For the most part, he did. A mutant form of WAM-like grants — some called them earmarks — showed up in the fiscal code approved by both chambers. Corbett vetoed that designated spending as well as 20 percent of the Legislature's operating money.
The way GOP leaders reacted to his veto was a clear indication that top Republicans view Corbett as a goner in his November contest with Democrat challenger Tom Wolf.
Corbett clearly brought this specific budget predicament on himself when he said he wouldn't sign a state budget without pension and liquor reform. He got neither. If he signed the budget he'd look weak and if he vetoed it he'd have a mess on his hands. Signing it, but also going after the Legislature, was his best option.
It was a campaign statement. He's using pension reform to try to bring back his Republican base, said G. Terry Madonna, a longtime political analyst.
Corbett should have made a bolder statement and vetoed 90 percent of all legislative expenses. The backstory is the Legislature wouldn't give up any of its surplus in earlier budget talks. It's outrageous that it is sitting on a $153 million reserve, which has been used as a slush fund. Corbett's veto could potentially make it use almost half.
Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter (717-787-1405 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
- Hurdle says Pirates must eliminate defensive gaffes
- NHL notebook: Red Wings waiting for AHL team to finish before naming coach
- Storms knock out power to several hundred in Western Pa.
- Steelers’ defense unfazed by noise, believes in potential
- Judge: UPMC must provide in-network access to Highmark Medicare members
- Chinese artillery spotted on artificial island
- Islamic State group claims Shiite mosque blast in Saudi Arabia
- Silk Road founder Ulbricht gets life term for drug-selling website
- Penn State lands 4-star offensive lineman from Reading
- Judge dismisses UPMC ‘data breach’ lawsuit
- Man dies trying to escape fire at his North Buffalo home