Corbett expected to discuss across-the-board cuts in budget address

March 06, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Franklin County, Pa., legislators say Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget address Tuesday will be different than those in recent years, in part because they expect public welfare and education funding won’t be considered as sacred.

The budget address from Harrisburg, Pa., will be Corbett’s first since being elected and the first from a Republican governor since 2002. Little information has been released about Corbett’s proposals as the state faces a $4 billion shortfall.

“Everyone is pretty tight-lipped about what is going to happen,” said state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, said the state budget is often viewed in three parts — public welfare, education and others.

From remarks by Corbett and Charles Zogby, the governor’s top budget adviser, Kauffman said he expects the core functions of state government will be preserved. Among those would be serving vulnerable people like those with intellectual disabilities.

Kauffman said he’s certain Corbett, Zogby and leaders in the administration are “looking for strategic cuts in that one-third of ‘other’” category. He said to anticipate all state-funding entities will face cuts, whereas organizations like public libraries and the agriculture department were hit harder in recent years.

“This is a time when you are going to see truly equal pain across the board,” Kauffman said.

“There are going to be massive cuts proposed,” said state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

With welfare fraud discovered in recent audits, Alloway said hefty welfare cuts are expected through reform. He also said the nominee for state corrections secretary — Chambersburg, Pa., resident John Wetzel — is working to identify savings in the corrections system.

“Before we get to education, I’d like to hear something about welfare and prison reform,” Alloway said.

The Franklin County legislators said education subsidies to the state’s 500 school districts could be diminished because of expiring stimulus funding.

“I doubt the commonwealth is going to be able to find the funds to backfill what were federal stimulus funds,” Kauffman said.

Kauffman, first elected in 2004, described the $4 billion shortfall as a “structural deficit” created by failure to trim when revenues fell off a couple years ago. He said one-time funds were used to fill the gap previously.

With the GOP in control of both chambers of the General Assembly, the Franklin County lawmakers said the Republican governor’s proposals might not meet much resistance aired publicly.

Although Kauffman thinks some Republican members might complain behind the scenes about their pet projects being slashed, he said last year’s elections energized the party’s membership in the legislature.

“We believe there is a mandate on us to tighten things up ... (and) do exactly what the people at home are doing with their own personal budgets,” Kauffman said.

“Our leadership is saying a month early we’ll have the budget done, May 30. I think the thinking is the cuts are so big, there’s not a lot of room to negotiate,” Rock said.

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