Gov. Corbett dodges tax hike questions

With one week to go before the election, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is remaining evasive about whether he would support increasing taxes if re-elected, even as he criticizes his Democratic opponent Tom Wolf for being vague about tax plans.

During his appearance at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg, the governor redirected questions about tax increases and closing state budget gaps by referring to the state’s public pension debt of roughly $50 billion.

“We have to go and address the cause of the deficit, and one of the great causes of the deficit is the pension,” said Corbett.

It was a puzzling pivot, since the pension debt only gets smaller with larger payments, and the scheduled payments toward it are already crowding out other state spending. Corbett alluded to pension overhaul legislation, but the measure wouldn’t get rid of those payments. In fact, neither Corbett nor Wolf has proposed a way to deal with the pension debt, something that would require billions of dollars.

Corbett was far more comfortable offering an alternative to raising taxes: selling off the state’s Liquor Control Board, a plan that hasn’t gotten far in the Legislature.

“You know our first plan out there said there’s $1.2 billion if we can get the LCB sold,” Corbett said. “LCB’s not making money. We know that. Look at the numbers.”

The board Chairman Skip Brion has said the numbers tell a different story, pointing to annual profits of more than $100 million over the past few years. This year, the LCB essentially gave the state an $80 million advance used to help balance the budget.

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