A former governor who’s practically an expert on late state budgets says he knows how he’d broker a solution to end Pennsylvania’s current impasse.
Ed Rendell said this year’s stalemate could end if talks focus on liquor, pensions, and a shale tax.
Speaking on WITF’s “Smart Talk,” Rendell said he sees a potential compromise that would give legislative Republicans two wins: ending pensions for future state and school workers and opening up wine and liquor sales to private industry.
“You keep the state stores up and running, and they would be competing with the new restaurants. But over the course of time, the good state stores in the good locations, I think, would survive,” said Rendell. “The bad state ones would phase out.”
Rendell endorsed ending the traditional pension for future state and school workers, given his own belief that pensions are going the way of the dodo bird. But he stressed that immediate pension relief – or in other words, additional money for long-delayed pension payments – is going to be important for any pension overhaul.
“That’s crucial because pension costs are one of the things that are making it impossible for local school districts to meet their budget,” said Rendell.
In return for the bitter medicine of making state stores obsolete and sticking it to public sector labor, Rendell said the GOP should cave to Wolf’s demand for a new tax on natural gas drillers to help fund schools. He noted that polls have shown support for taxing the drilling industry.
“When the will of the people is this strong, the Republican Party would be well advised not to stop that severance tax from coming into operation, particularly because that money would go to education,” said Rendell.
The former Democratic governor isn’t the only one inserting himself into budget talks.
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently advised Wolf and top lawmakers to lock themselves in the governor’s mansion for a weekend to make a deal.