Pa. finds $$$ for lots of things, just not Philly schools

Corbett State Budget
In this June 30, 2013 photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, surrounded by House Republicans, reacts after signing the 2013-14 state budget after the House approved the Senate-passed budget in Harrisburg, Pa. At left is House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware County, and at right is Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley. (AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Dan Gleiter)

IF YOU DON'T fully get why Gov. Corbett and the Legislature found only $15 million in new funds for Philly's fiscally failing schools, allow me to explain.

See, the state has no more money for Philly schools.

Oh, it has more money than expected. Revenue reports released Monday show it has $57 million more than estimated.

And it has more money for itself.

Each of our three government branches shows that money grows on trees.

Executive offices under the governor (his Budget Office, Office of General Counsel, etc.) got more in the new state budget.

They got $16 million more, no doubt for the fine job done in not finding more for Philly schools and in losing that case against the NCAA's Penn State sanctions.

The judicial branch got more.

It got $8 million more, I suppose for its ethical excellence: Only one of our seven Supreme Court justices was criminally convicted this year, and only one other is under investigation.

And, of course, the legislative branch got more.

It got $4 million more, upping its budget to $277 million, because it can. And, come on, what other legislature's worth more?

Not one of its 203 members went to prison this year, an achievement given that eight of its former leaders sit in jail.

And, by the by, the appropriation for House and Senate "incidental" expenses, "contingent" expenses and regular expenses is $13.4 million.

Wait, there's more.

That doesn't count the House's $11.6 million for "special leadership accounts," shared equally by Republicans and Democrats. But then who offers more "special leadership" than our House?

Each of these expense funds and special accounts were increased, as was the line item for members' salaries since they get automatic annual raises.

There's also more money for prisons, $75 million more, which is smart given the possible impact of Philly schools collapsing.

There's more money for "voter registration and education," $2 million more, probably to beef up legal defense of the state's voter-ID law so fewer Philadelphians vote next year.

And there's a little more money for state museums, $1.4 million more, I guess for space to house and display relics of the Philadelphia School District.

And while we play with numbers and spending priorities and, hopefully, raise questions regarding stuff money is always found for, let me remind you of two things.

The contract with big-time Philly law firm Cozen O'Connor to wage that losing battle against the NCAA was $400,000 to pay legal fees of up to $545 an hour.

The reported cost of out-of-state consultant firms advising the governor on outsourcing lottery management to the British firm Camelot Global tops $3 million.

I'm not arguing that Philly schools are blameless. I know they get tons of money. I agree all unions need to start living in the real world where salary and benefit concessions are common.

And I understand the politics.

The governor's base and much of the electorate is anti-Philly, anti-union and anti-spending policies, and Philly voters won't support Corbett, period.

But none of the district's 200,000 students created this problem. The state runs the district through the School Reform Commission, a commission controlled by appointees of the governor. And the state is required by its constitution to provide "thorough and efficient" public education for all.

Maybe the "rescue" ($15 million in new money, $45 million in federal forgiveness, borrowing $50 million against future Philly revenues and a questionable $30 million from collecting local delinquent taxes) helps meet that requirement.

But if it doesn't, and if Corbett is the decent person I've always suggested he is, he'll find a way to do so - by making the state more responsible for the district that it owns.

DN Members Only: Corbett dipped fingers into Council's till with school rescue plan.