What We Know About Gov. Tom Corbett’s 2013-14 Budget Proposal

Harrisburg Patriot-News

Gov. Tom Corbett will begin delivering his 2013-14 budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the House chambers.

Those who care to witness this piece of state history in person can do so from the fourth-floor visitor’s gallery that overlooks the House floor.

Visitors who come to the Capitol will also be treated to a planned Budget Day protest expected to draw several hundred people. Protesters are calling for the governor to not tie education funding increases to other reforms and to close what it estimates to be $1 billion in corporate tax loopholes.

Many details of Corbett’s budget proposal have been kept closely guarded. But in the days leading up to it, his administration has shared bits and pieces of what to expect.

Here is what we know to date:

On education: The administration has signaled that school districts could see an increase in their direct state support to fund operating costs and grants to enhance school safety, early education, individualized education or science and math education, but both could be linked to reforms. The increased funding for operating costs to pension reform and grants to liquor sales reform.

On higher education: The administration has announced it will propose public colleges and universities receive next year the same amount of funding they received this year in exchange for a promise to keep tuition increases low.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency has promised to supplement state dollars going to the state grant program that provides free tuition aid to low and lower-middle income students by at least $25 million.

On public safety: Corbett announced last week he will propose funding for three classes of state police cadets, which would put 290 troopers on the street when their training is finished to help deal with the trooper shortage. He also said he would provide money for the state police to hire 90 civilian police dispatchers.

On health care: The governor pledges $5 million to increase access to health care in rural and underserved areas by funding community health centers and expanding programs to attract health care practitioners to those areas.

He also announced he will propose $8.5 million for the state Children’s Health Insurance Program to raise awareness about the program and to provide coverage to an additional 9,300 new enrollees.

It remains unclear whether he will address the Medicaid expansion provided for by the federal Affordable Care Act in his budget.

On human services: Corbett announced he will earmark nearly $20 million to provide home- and community-based services for approximately 1,200 of the approximate 3,500 Pennsylvania adults with intellectual disabilities needing services.

He also has pledged $50 million more for home- and community-based services for the state’s older citizens if the lottery management privatization contract is executed.

On business: The long march toward the elimination of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on business assets, which will drop to .89 mills for 2013, and then barring unforeseen circumstances – go away entirely as of January 2014.

On transportation: Corbett has promised to unveil his plan for raising more money to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, fund mass transit, and other transportation needs.

While specifics of the plan haven’t been shared, many expect the bulk of the new funding to come from raising a cap set on taxes assessed on wholesale gasoline sales that gas stations pay when they buy gasoline from distributors. His plan also is expected to include proposed increases in fees for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

On pensions: The governor is expected to share his plan for tackling the $41 billion unfunded liability in the state’s two public pension systems. Administration officials have signaled it plans to focus its reforms on future and current state and school employees, but said retirees’ benefits are safe.

On liquor store privatization: Corbett last week shared his plan to shut down the 600 state-owned liquor stores and auction off 1,200 retail wine and liquor sale licenses. Existing retailers, including grocers, big box stores and beer distributors, can bid on those licenses.

Additionally, it calls for allowing restaurants and taverns to sell beer and up to six bottles of wine to go and for beer distributors to purchase an enhanced license to sell wine and benefit from package reform, allowing them to sell smaller sizes of beer such as six-packs.

Read more: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/02/what_we_know_about_gov_tom_cor.html