2013: Pennsylvania Governor’s Season of Discontent

As he returns to Pennsylvania from his South Carolina vacation home — the one he forgot to list on his financial disclosure form — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is not a happy camper.

Recent polling shows him to continuing to slide as he gears up for a reelection bid in 2014. Only 20 percent of those polled feel he deserves reelection.

His administration has had three state Education Secretaries in three months, along with significant senior staff turnover at the same time.

His legislative priorities — privatization of the state-controlled liquor system, added funding for state road and bridge repairs, and addressing the state’s $47 billion pension liability — were pushed aside by a Republican-dominated General Assembly in June.

Two weeks ago, state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, said it will be necessary to increase weight restrictions on bridges across the state since the General Assembly failed to ante up an additional $1.8 to $2.5 billion on top of the departments $5 billion budget.  Conservative Republicans in the state House like Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) have said Schoch’s threat is an attempt to spur the lawmakers into passage of the extra tax funding.

In the spring, Metcalfe and other conservatives hamstrung the Republican caucus by pointing out passage of the additional  transportation funding would ultimately see state drivers paying an additional 28 cents per gallon at the gasoline pump.

Tomorrow, conservative state Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) will announce his introduction of a bill calling for  the transportation department to prioritize its current spending “to make the replacement and/or restoration of closed or posted bridges the top priority among construction projects.”  While it seems logical to repair allegedly unsafe transportation venues before embarking on new construction projects, Schoch could not be reached for comment on Bloom’s plan.

Prior to the Labor Day weekend, a group of state construction and union leaders, along with various chambers of commerce, held a Pittsburgh press conference calling on the General Assembly to pass the additional funding for roads and bridges, which means extra tax funds in the construction company’ and union pockets. Business groups have been Corbett’s most significant supporters.

Privatization of the state alcohol monopoly stands at an impasse with the House and Senate having separate bills which have caused  bitter antagonism between the Republican leaders, much to the delight of Democrats and state unions opposing the privatization.

Democrats, reluctant Republicans, and public employee unions have also brought efforts to reform or recalibrate the state’s pension system to a halt.

Whether enough state lawmakers are willing to take on these controversial remains an unanswered question.

Corbett is back this week.  Lawmakers return on Sept. 23.