The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 6, 2013

Legislators face tough issues

Budget, pension, highways top list

The Tribune-Democrat

— Pennsylvania’s legislators were sworn in on New Year’s Day for the first time in 22 years. That’s because the state constitution requires that the ceremony take place on the first Tuesday in January of every other year.

Good thing, too. With one of the most challenging agendas in history facing the General Assembly, it can use all the time it can muster.

And with everything else facing the governor and our House and Senate members, some eyebrows were raised last week when Tom Corbett formally took on the NCAA over its landmark sanctions against Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal.

Perhaps you see it as a political ploy by a governor who is taking increasing criticism over the job he’s doing. Perhaps you are among those asking why the court challenge in the way of a lawsuit took so long. Obviously, for Penn State alumni, it comes as a holiday present.

“A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system,” Corbett told a news conference on Wednesday.

Time and a court ruling will tell whether the NCAA overstepped its authority. We’re not lawyers or judges or experts on the inner workings of the NCAA so we’ll just wait and see.

One thing we do know, however, is that the sanctions, aside from the scandal itself and the resulting lawsuits, have added to the hurt put on the university, athletes who had no role in the Sandusky affairs, and on an entire business community in the way of lost streams of revenue.

While Corbett tackles his latest venture – or misadventure, depending on how you view it – we urge him to waste no more time in addressing the pension and highway/bridge infrastructure crises.

The pension issue is a $40 billion matter that won’t go away on its own and crumbling highways and bridges are not only safety issues but economic issues as well.

It’s also time to firm up a tentative budget for 2013-14. Corbett commendably has vowed to not increase taxes. Meanwhile, state Sen. John Wozniak of Westmont told us before the election that “there is a limit to budget cuts and we might be there.” Commonwealth residents are about to find out.

Here are some other issues that are crying for attention in Harrisburg: Eduction funding, vouchers and charter schools; sentencing guidelines and prison costs; election spending reform, term limits and efforts to reduce the size of the Legislature; ways to help volunteer fire companies with financial and manpower problems; and whether to bolster state police ranks in the wake of so many municipalities disbanding their police departments.

We’ll also be surprised if there isn’t another go at privatizing the state’s liquor stores. We hope so.

•   •   •

We commend three of our area legislators for assuming committee chairmanship positions. They are Sen. John Wozniak, reappointed Democratic chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee; Sen. Richard Kasunic, Democratic chairman of the Senate Game & Fisheries Committee; and Rep. Gary Haluska, chairman of the House Game & Fisheries Committee.

All are very deserving and we wish them success in their leadership roles.

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