Gov. Tom Corbett has demonstrated plenty of ambition in the past week.
Over the past week, the governor has taken a bold step to outsource the state’s lottery, and his administration has outlined plans to tackle some serious challenges. Just in the past week, take a look at Corbett’s audacious agenda.
- Corbett signed an agreement to place the Pennsylvania Lottery under private management. He’s betting that Camelot Global Services, which runs Britain’s lottery, can deliver on a promised $34 billion in profits over 20 years.
- He’s making it clear that he’s going to renew his push to try and sell the state-owned wine and liquor stores. Corbett said he will talk about this more in the next couple of weeks.
- The governor is apparently poised to move ahead with tackling the soaring costs of the state’s public pension systems, a looming disaster that threatens the state’s financial health and tax bills around the state. Part of that plan could call for changing benefits of state workers.
- And Corbett seems ready to unveil a long-awaited transportation plan to deal with the state’s ailing roads and bridges. The plan apparently involves lifting a cap on taxes on gas stations.
As Corbett heads into the second half of his term, the governor may be getting a little restless.
He seems anxious to tackle some of the state’s biggest problems, and the Corbett administration seems anxious to get that message out.
“They’re obviously trying to dramatically make the point that they’re not leading from behind,” said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and professor at Franklin & Marshall College.
In the past, Corbett has received criticism from some lawmakers for not fully exerting the power of his office to accomplish his goals. That criticism was heard notably on school choice issues, which Corbett favored but some felt he could have done more to support.
Others chided the governor for moving too slowly, particularly on transportation, where there is broad bipartisan support for a major financing package. Corbett received a report from his own committee on transportation funding more than a year ago.
Now, Corbett seems ready to shift into a higher gear.
“I think they’re moving full-speed ahead with the agenda,” Madonna said. “We’re seeing a decided effort from the administration to provide more details, more urgency.”
It’s at least partly with an eye on the election calendar. Corbett will spend much of 2014 running for re-election, so he’s undoubtedly going to want a have some accomplishments to tout to voters.
Corbett’s approval ratings at this point of his administration are the lowest of any modern governor, Madonna notes. His approval ratings have been between 35 percent and 40 percent, and those are daunting numbers to any candidate.
But Corbett has plenty of time to improve his standing with voters. The gubernatorial election is two years away, and if he can score some big accomplishments, he can reclaim public support.
President Barack Obama suffered abysmal approval ratings two years ago, but he rallied to a re-election. Corbett is certainly capable of a comeback. And his fellow Republicans control the General Assembly, giving him a chance for legislative victories.
“There’s 22 months until the general election,” he said. “That’s a lifetime in politics.”
Expect Corbett to make a strong effort to sell the state liquor stores. “Privatization was to be a hallmark of this administration,” Madonna said. And expect to see Corbett raising his public profile this year and next.
“You’re looking at a very vigorous agenda for the next two years,” Madonna said.