| HARRISBURG, Penn. July 10
HARRISBURG, Penn. July 10 Pennsylvania Governor
Tom Corbett signed a smaller $29.02 billion 2015 budget on
Thursday, after stripping out millions of dollars and waiting
more than a week in the unfulfilled hope that lawmakers would
pass pension reform.
Corbett, a poorly polling Republican who is up for
re-election this fall, for the second year in a row could not
get a legislature controlled by his own party to make changes
aimed at improving the state's underfunded public retirement
So he used line-item vetoes to trim the legislature's $320
million budget - which pays lawmakers and staffers - by $65
million, or 20 percent. Corbett said the legislature's six-month
budgetary reserve of $153 million could cover the reduction and
still leave a more than three-month reserve.
He also angrily urged them to return this summer to finish
pension reform, though he did not order them back into session,
which he has the power to do.
"The legislature needs to take action on pension reform,"
Corbett said, blaming the teachers' union in particular for
helping to thwart reforms. He had pushed a proposal to move new
state employees into a "hybrid" pension plan that could reduce
David Broderick, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania State
Education Association, said the governor's plan would save no
money in the first year and only small amounts in later years,
while cutting retirement security for young workers.
"It was defeated because it is a bad plan," he said. "It
won't reduce property taxes. That's why it couldn't get the
The state has about $50 billion of unfunded long-term
pension liabilities. About 63 cents of every new dollar of state
revenue goes to pay pension costs, Corbett said.
The state's pension problem is "a bleeding wound that needs
a tourniquet," state budget Secretary Charles Zogby told
reporters following Corbett's press briefing.
Despite facing a $1.5 billion budget deficit, the
legislature had increased funding for its own operations by 2
percent and filled the budget with discretionary spending,
Pennsylvania's Republican majority leaders in the Senate
said Corbett had eliminated or withheld funds from programs for
low-income residents, education, arts, job training and
biotechnology research as part of $7 million in cuts to earmarks
in a related bill.
They said in a statement that his use of line-item vetoes
was "unprecedented" and "likely unconstitutional." The
legislature can overturn the line-item vetoes on a two-thirds
vote of each chamber.
(Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg; Editing by Hilary Russ
and Cynthia Osterman)