It's hard to get worked up one way or another over the budget Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled yesterday.
There's an infusion of money for schools, but basic and secondary education funding is flat nearly four years after the governor shorted districts and colleges about $1 billion.
Corbett wants additional funding for special education, but he's only asking for $20 million. If it's distributed the same way it was last year, that would amount to about a 0.5 percent increase for half of York County's school districts.
A new block grant program, Ready to Learn, would offer districts $240 million, although the grants come with some big strings. The money can only be used for teacher training and curriculum development — not the salaries that are by far districts' biggest expense.
While higher education would have to make do with the same amount it received last year, Corbett is proposing a $25 million scholarship fund for middle-income college students. That would certainly help Pennsylvania families, but how much would depend on whether colleges have to hike tuitions due to the flat funding.
Corbett's focus on education, such as it is, is not surprising. The governor is seeking re-election this year and is wildly unpopular, largely due to the negative effect his first term has had on education.
Funding for schools and colleges was slashed by about $1 billion in Corbett's first budget, although that, he says, actually was a result of expiring federal stimulus funds. However it's parsed, the result was massive teacher lay-offs and program cuts, while many districts continued to raise local taxes.
Corbett remains true to no tax-hike pledge in the 2014-15 budget plan: There are no calls for sales or income tax increases.
Of course, he's not suggesting they be cut, either. That's a favor reserved for businesses, which would see their fourth straight year of tax cuts under the governor's proposal.
And once again, Corbett refused to accede to bipartisan calls for a fair severance tax on natural gas drillers in the state's Marcellus Shale area. Every other large natural gas-producing state has such a levy, but the governor favors the current impact fees, which raise a relatively paltry amount.
So what should we make of this spending plan?
It's built on many "ifs" — if the federal government breaks decades of policy and approves Corbett's Medicaid changes, if the Legislature finally approves changes to public pensions, if lawmakers agree to a temporary cut in pension payments (the same tactic that caused the pension crisis) ...
The governor's 2014-15 budget is a house of cards that could collapse any time between now June 30, when it must be approved.