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Guv takes on pensions

Published by Laura Olson on .

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett will be unveiling his third state budget proposal this morning in a speech that also is expected to formally reveal his plans for more transportation funding and overhauls to public retirement systems.

The Republican will make his remarks before a joint session of the state Legislature at 11:30 a.m. The speech will air live on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN).

After two austere spending proposals, some good news has trickled out from the Corbett administration over the past week regarding increased funding for older adult services, state police, and programs for those with intellectual disabilities.

Public school districts may see some additional money heading their way, targeted at math and science curriculum and safety programs.

Observers also will be listening for more details on Mr. Corbett's plans to privatize the sale of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania. He announced a new attempt at doing so last week, proposing to use the estimated $1 billion in revenues from new liquor licenses to provide grants to schools.

Universities that count on state dollars won't see boosts, the governor announced last week, but they can budget for level funding instead of the drastic reductions that Mr. Corbett suggested in his first two proposals.

Those employed in state government or public school districts will get their first glimpse today of how the governor seeks to tackle the underfunded retirement costs that he refers to as a "tapeworm" gobbling up tax revenues. State pension contributions will grow by $511 million in the upcoming fiscal year.

His recommended changes to the two state pension systems are expected to affect both current and future public employees, though Mr. Corbett has emphasized that benefits for current retirees will not change.

He also will be officially detailing his $1.9 billion transportation plan, which a top Senate Democrat says will rely in large part on lifting a tax cap on wholesale fuel prices.

One thing listeners may not hear? A definitive answer on whether Mr. Corbett will agree to expand Medicaid eligibility rules next year as allowed under the federal health care law.

The Corbett administration has expressed concerns about the expense of adding more Pennsylvanians to the health care program, though supporters point to the federal funding that will cover much of the new costs.

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