What does a new governor do when he inherits a $4.5 billion deficit from his free spending predecessor? There are only two answers: either raise taxes or cut spending.
In a time when people are hard pressed, unemployment is out of control and borrowing is difficult, raising taxes won’t work so cutting spending is all that is left. Tom Corbett is going to try to do that and he’s put one of Pennsylvania’s most sacred cows on top of the chopping block: Penn State University.
Penn State’s budget is close to $3 billion dollars. University president Graham Spanier likes to boast that he only takes $642,000 a year out of that number. Spanier’s point might be well taken. If he were running a federally subsidized Wall Street empire of that magnitude $642K would likely just be his year end bonus. Like counterparts on Wall Street Spanier also gets housing, a car and the essential country club dues.
The Commonwealth’s taxpayer subsidies of $304 million to Centre County’s largest employer are by no means to a public school. It is entirely a private institution basing admission on class standing, academic achievement, test scores and something called a personal statement. It boasts students from all 50 states and 31 countries.
Therein lies the rub. While the state pumps the average annual earnings of over 7,000 Pennsylvania’s workers on to Penn State’s 24 campuses there’s no guarantee that your kid could attend even the Altoona Campus, where last month he or she could have attended the free "Live Group Sex Therapy Show."
Corbett’s case is plain. While Penn State has received subsidies of $3-1/2 billion over the last ten years it has increased tuition by 110%. Which institution: the state or Penn State’s spending is out of control?
Corbett has picked his target well. Undoubtedly thousands of fans of the blue and white will cascade the state capital with pleas to the legislature for fiscal mercy. But someday if Tom Corbett can tame the Nittany Lions’ voracious appetite for taxpayer dollars he’ll have taken the first big step towards fiscal sanity in this state.
Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Resarch. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations in Pennsylvania.