Tom Corbett said he isn’t going to let his poll performance shape his agenda.
Speaking at an Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday, the governor vowed to focus on the politically thorny issues facing him during the second half of his term.
“There are a lot of tough decisions that need to be made, and it would be easier not to deal with them, but I made a promise to voters that I would,” the Republican told the crowd of business leaders and local officials at Ephrata Main Theatre.
The problem with government, Corbett said, is that politicians react to situations instead of planning for them.
“I’m not looking at things in a two- or four-year election cycle; I’m looking down the road 10 and 12 years from now,” he said. “I can honestly say that I go to sleep every night knowing that I’m doing what I believe is the best for Pennsylvanians.”
Corbett said nothing — including dismal job approval ratings — will stand in the way of his promise to address runaway state pension costs, transportation funding and privatization of the state liquor stores.
“These issues are big ones and we need to figure out where we’re going on these before the budget deadline this summer,” he said.
The most worrisome, Corbett said, is the $47 billion in unfunded liabilities coming from the state’s two pension systems.
An impending avalanche of debt threatens to create a “nightmare of economic hardship for our children” in the decades to come if legislators don’t soon find a solution, he said.
The state paid about $1.1 billion into the funds last year. That amount is expected to double to $2.2 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and to exceed $5 billion by 2019.
Corbett described the growing pension costs as a tapeworm eating away at the budget, severely undercutting the state’s ability to fund education and transportation.
Fixing the state’s crumbling roads and bridges is not something the state can avoid, he said.
The state already is spending $5.3 billion in state and federal funds on transportation needs — and Corbett has proposed increasing transportation spending another $1.8 billion by eliminating longstanding price caps on a wholesale fuel tax.
Corbett’s visit came the same day that TRIP, a nonprofit transportation organization, released a study showing that roughly 25 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, while 37 percent of the state’s roads either have pavement in poor or mediocre condition.
Forty-one percent of major urban roads in the Harrisburg/York/Lancaster metro area are in poor or mediocre condition, according to the report.
“This has become a safety issue in which lives are at stake,” Corbett said.
The governor spoke about his plan for the privatization of state liquor and wine stores, and how he remains committed to the effort. House members passed a bill based on Corbett’s proposal, but debate continues in the Senate.
“Government has no business being in the business of liquor sales — its focus should be on enforcement,” he said to a round of applause.
State Rep. Gorden Denlinger said Corbett’s dedication to the topics that matter will get him re-elected in 2014.
“A record of success is what people want to see, and if he can accomplish these initiatives, the public will remember,” the Narvon Republican said.