During this week, progress was made on one of four major issues currently before the State Legislature. The plan to privatize the State’s Liquor Stores passed the State House and the plan now moves onto the State Senate. The Governor has indicated that he supports privatizing the liquor stores.
The other three major issues before our legislators are a plan to fund transportation infrastructure, the State’s budget, and reforms to the State’s pension system. As part of the Governor’s budget address in early March he has introduced a plan which would reduce the State’s portion of the fuel tax but lift the cap on the wholesale fuel tax. This plan, along with some minor changes to registration and license fees would be phased in over five years and would eventually raise an additional $1.7 Billion to fund transportation infrastructure. The Governors funding commission released a report in August of 2011 indicating that funding at the level of $2.8 Billion per year would allow sufficient funding to allow us to maintain our roadway and mass transit systems at the level they are currently performing. Several legislators have suggested that when bills are introduced in the House and Senate they may include higher funding levels to allow for the maintenance and potential improvement of our transportation infrastructure.
The annual battle over the State’s budget will likely be contentious, however, the State’s revenues have shown some growth as it appears the economy in Pennsylvania has stabilized and may actually be growing slightly. The issue of Pension reform is a very difficult battle. It is likely that new workers will receive different less costly retirement plans than workers in the existing system. While private industry has moved away from defined benefit programs in favor of defined contribution programs the State government has continued to resist this change.