Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Corbett mulls privatizing state parks

Gov. Corbett thinks Pennsylvania's 117 state parks - and prison health care - might be ripe for privatizing.

Corbett mulls privatizing state parks


Gov. Corbett thinks Pennsylvania's 117 state parks might be ripe for privatizing.

With a new gubernatorial commission, this one to study privatization, in the works, Corbett was asked today what, besides the liquor control board, might benefit from private sector control and he replied, "prison health care and running state parks."

Corbett - a former lifeguard - said the lack of lifeguards at beaches and park pools inspired that idea.

"There are some places where we don't have any lifeguards in our state parks," Corbett speaking to reporters after a bill signing event in Hershey.

 "If we privatize that [parks] can we save a little money and have the lifeguards back?" Corbett asked. "Having been a lifeguard, I would like to see the lifeguards there, at least during the summer season."

The full privatization idea didn't sit so well with the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania.

"Certain aspects of the parks might lend themselves to private control, but operations of the state parks?" said the club's state executive director Jeff Schmidt. "We'd want to know more about it, but it doesn't sound good."

Of course, there's the sticky issue of fees that would likely crop up. What private operator would not want to maximize revenue by charging an admission fee, a hot potato issue in the state legislature if ever there was one.

Past proposals to charge fees at state parks have been shot down like sporting clays by the state legislature.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources spokeswoman Christine Novak said there are lifeguards at all pools and at Presque Isle State Park in Erie and Fuller Lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Adams County. Since 2008 there have been no lifeguards at other park swimming facilities.

Novak said there are private contracts for certain operations in some parks such as concessions and marinas.

The governor is scheduled to hit the road for a tour of state parks later this month with DCNR Secretary Richard Allen.

Corbett also today ruled out privatization of the PA Turnpike - an idea that died a slow death during the Rendell administration.

Corbett - flanked by former Gov. George Leader at an assisted living facility owned by Leader and his family - signed a bill extending a moratorium on eligibiilty for PACE and PACENET, the state's prescription drug program for senior citizens. Some 30,000 would be made ineligible for the program if the state factored in Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.



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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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