Before County Leaders, Gov. Corbett Talks Transportation, Pensions.

Allentown Morning Call

Continuing his “What I Want For 2013” Tour, Gov. Tom Corbett told a gathering of county commissioners today that there’s no “silver bullet” or “magic wand” when it comes to finding a solution to the state’s exploding public pension costs.

“It will be hard and it will be a lot of work,”Corbett said as he addressed the fall meeting of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsyvlania as the group gathered at the Hotel Hershey.

Mixing his metaphors even further, Corbett pivoted from “Lord of the Rings” jargon to unexpected 80s arcade game slang, noting that “If something continues to be the Pac-Man of the state budget … you’ve got to face it.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, the Republican governor said the administration is “looking at everything” for potential solutions to an unfunded pension liability that now tops more than $40 billion. But he declined to give specifics.

According to current administration data, the state will spend about $1.6 billion on public employee pension contributions during the fiscal year that ends next June 30, with that tally growing to about $4.3 billion by 2016.

Corbett’s numbers largely jibe with a recently released analysis by the state’sIndependent Fiscal Office, which concluded that that pension costs will grow from $1.2 billion, or 4 percent of general fund expenditures, in the fiscal year that ends next June 30 to $3.2 billion, or 9.6 percent of general fund expenditures by the 2017-18 budget year

Corbett also provided a touch more detail on a developing transportation funding proposal than he did during an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday.

He again declined to discuss specifics, but did acknowledget that “we definitely have to look at revenue” to find a way to pay for an estimated $2.5 billion in road and bridge repairs.

“I am concerned about the effect on the average taxpayer,” he said, when he was asked about his own funding commission’s recommendation to give an inflationary boost to motor vehicle license and regisrration fees.

Corbett also seemed reluctant to take on lifting the cap on the wholesale gasoline tax — a move that most expect would almost certainly be passed on to consumers at the pumps. With gas prices fluctuating, Corbett appeared reluctant to force motorists to pay more.

And with Democrats lining up to challenge him in 2014, Corbett also test-drove what one expects will make up the backbone of his re-election stump speech.

More than once, he hammered on the need for the state to foster an environment favorable to business, arguing that the state had created 105,000 new jobs on his watch. He also highlighted the phase-out of the state’s Capital Stock and Franchise tax and an exemption on inheritance taxes for family farms.

And rebutting critics who weren’t even in the room, Corbett argued that his administration had not cut, but had actually increased, taxpayer supporf for the K-12 basic education subsidy.

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