Enormous sections of aircraft fuselage and mechanical components for the C-130 military aircraft dominated the manufacturing floor of the Lockheed Martin AeroParts Inc. factory in Johnstown.
Suspended sections of the massive airplane, destined for final assembly in Marietta, Ga., dwarfed Gov. Tom Corbett as he toured the facility with Lockheed Martin Plant Manager Becky Styles.
But Corbett was at the factory Thursday to discuss another gigantic project: balancing the state budget to overcome a $4.2 billion deficit.
Corbett praised the work of the 416 employees at the Johnstown plant, where components for the C-130 as well as the F-16 and all three variants of the F-35 fighter aircraft have been assembled for almost a decade.
Evoking the words of President Ronald Reagan, Corbett expressed his belief in the necessity of a strong national defense and the importance of the work conducted at the Johnstown site.
“I believe Lockheed Martin is doing important work for our nation right here in Johnstown,” Corbett said. “Many years ago you weren’t here, but you’ve moved here. You’ve got a lot of developments, you’re growing here, and I think that’s wonderful for the area, for the county… and for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. You are providing private-sector innovation to our public defense.”
Innovation and job creation is a key component of his proposed $27.14 billion budget, Corbett said.
To reduce spending by about $20 million for the fiscal year, state officials focused on five components. The goal – to increase economic opportunities and public safety, streamline government, and manage education and human services – are all key to a successful state budget, he said.
Corbett reiterated his commitment to not raise taxes and instead called on the private sector to stimulate economic growth through job creation.
“Anybody want to voluntarily write a check for the state?” he asked. “We can take it, we’ll be happy to take it, but I don’t think that we should be doing that. That’s why we’re controlling our costs.”
The governor also addressed cuts in funding for higher education – specifically the recent proposed cuts made to state-related schools such as Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. The state’s 30 percent cut in funding for Penn State only equates to 1.6 percent of the university’s total operations costs, Corbett said.
“Most business people here, the managers here, if they were told they had to find 1.6 or 2 percent to save money, they’d be able to find it, or they wouldn’t be in business,” he said.
Corbett said he was “troubled” by the idea of state universities raising tuition to cover their budgets and questioned how effectively administrators manage their operations costs.
Penn State received about $3 billion a decade ago, Corbett said, but tuition has since increased over 110 percent, he added.
“We’re not required by law [to provide funding] … This is something that has developed over the years,” he said.
Although last year’s funding cuts were a “shock” to administrators, students and alumni, this year everyone understands the need to spend only what is needed and the importance of a grounded state budget devoid of high costs, Corbett said.
“In difficult times, difficult choices have to be made,” he said.
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