Gov. Tom Corbett says he’ll make do with a late budget for Pennsylvania this year and possibly renege on his no-taxes campaign pledge.
“Given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed – I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done, and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly,” said Corbett at a news conference Tuesday. “So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”
Whenever lawmakers do start talking about the state spending plan, Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said higher taxes are on the table, including for Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers.
“I’m not ruling out a severance tax,” said Zogby. “You didn’t hear me rule out a severance tax.” A higher cigarette tax is also in the mix, he added. Many state lawmakers say tax hikes will be necessary to plug a $1.4 billion budget hole.
But Corbett said negotiations will take a backseat to two other longtime legislative priorities — overhauling public pensions and getting some kind of “liquor reform.”
The pensions bill is stuck in the House, and Corbett asked residents to call their state representatives to ask for “yes” votes.
“We have time on this,” said the governor. “But those who are sitting on the fence and waiting to see what happens, we need you to act, and we need you to act now.”
He added that he may accept something less than total privatization of the state liquor stores, which appears to be a non-starter in the state Senate.
“We have an open mind,” said Corbett. “We need to get something done.”
The governor has touted his past three budgets as on-time – though critics say some spending plans were technically late.
The change in tactic left House Democratic spokesman Bill Patton criticizing the governor’s remarks as “shockingly short on specifics.”
“He’s delegating all the decision-making to others,” Patton said.