Sunday, September 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

For PA politics, tis the season.

And so it begins. The annual dance of dollars in Harrisburg is underway as Gov. Corbett and state lawmakers finally focus on passing a budget and other big issues before a deadline of July 1.

For PA politics, tis the season.

And so it begins.

The annual dance of dollars in which policy, spending and taxes are set for a new fiscal year (and in many cases beyond) is underway in the state capitol.

Monday, a week after Senate President Joe Scarnati publicly complained there had been not one meeting of subtance on a new, roughly $28 billion state budget to take effect July 1, he and other GOP leaders met with Gov. Corbett in what House Leader Mike Turzai called "a positive" meeting, a prelude to introducing the governor's budget next week.

Get used to it. Over the next several weeks, there will be lots of meetings with one step forward and two steps back as leaders grapple with revenue projections and efforts to address monster issues such as finding billions for transportation infrastructure, privatizing liquor and solving a multi-billion-dollar pension problem -- three issues, I might add, that even Republicans can't seem to find agreement on.

Speaking of which, on Tuesday Corbett was rolling out details of his plan to attack the state's long-ignored unfunded liability on pension costs for state employees and teachers. It's a plan that, if it progresses, is certain to draw litigation from unions and likelty prolonged periods of court appeals.

This as the state's highest court is knotted in a 3-3 political tie, short one justice, Joan Orie Melvin, who was scheduled to be sentenced, probably to prison, on Tuesday. Court decisions that end in ties make the high court meaningless.

We are a state more often in a state of confusion than concensus.

And all of this collides in coming weeks. And what gets resolved or even addressed carries significant consequences for the governor's reelection.

As Corbett struggles with bad polling numbers, bad publicity over public gaffes and constant fire from would-be-governor Democrats, he faces a test of leadership. It's one that can set him on a path to a second, four-year term; or set him up for the history books as the state's first incumbent governor ever to lose reelection.

Tis the season. Let the games begin.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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