You’ve got to give Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett credit for one thing: He’s a man of his word.
He said he’d slash the budget, and he did. Of course, he neglected to mention that the proposed budget cuts would disproportionately hurt the state’s most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities — but that’s a secondary issue. He promised to sell off state assets like a fire sale, and he’s done that, too.
Just last week he gave a British company, Camelot Global Services, control of the state’s lucrative lottery system. Already a $3.5 billion enterprise, Corbett sold the lottery against a promise by Camelot to provide the state some $35 billion over 20 years. What remains unclear is whether Pennsylvania seniors and other lottery beneficiaries will enjoy the same level of commitment from a private firm they currently get from the state government.
Adding to that sense of dread is the news that Camelot is facing withering criticism in its home country over inflated bonuses for company executives, and the fact that once they were allowed to take over the U.K. lottery system, Camelot doubled the ticket prices.
State legislators, even members of Corbett’s own Republican Party, have called for a slowdown of this hastily-formed plan, and have expressed concerns over a number of related issues, including Camelot’s idea to pay the state those promised billions by expanding the state lottery system — in effect, getting more Pennsylvanians to gamble.
Newly sworn-in Attorney General Kathleen Kane has until Feb. 15 to study and approve or disapprove the lottery sale. Let’s hope that’s enough time to do a thorough forensic audit, follow the money and discover the devil hidden in the details.
And Corbett is still determined to privatize the state’s liquor store system as well, although that plan is going more slowly than the lottery surprise.
You’ll recall last year when the governor decimated the state’s education budget, forcing districts and institutions with students from pre-school to college to scramble for funding, with many forced to hike tuition and fees. This year, Corbett pledged not to further cut education funds, provided, he said, he gets the givebacks he’s asking for from the state’s pension plans.
The idea of holding education funding hostage to union givebacks is reprehensible on its face, but somehow not surprising, considering the governor’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later political style.
Tom Corbett may not have a heart of gold, but give him credit: When he says he’s going to slash and burn, he really slashes and burns.