Governor Corbett Answers to Pitt Students on Questions about Higher Ed Budget Cuts
Governor Tom Corbett addressed a crowd of roughly 300 University of Pittsburgh students, faculty, and staff, outlining the challenges he faced when crafting his most recent budget, which slashes state funding for the four state-related schools, including the University of Pittsburgh.
Corbett said he had to make some tough choices, and added that other options would have included raising taxes, including the corporate tax rate. That suggestion got a rousing round of applause, but Corbett countered, "Remember the Shell project we just got, and the other companies that have been coming here? They wouldn't be coming here, because we have the second-highest corporate net income tax in the country."
The governor took questions from the audience, most of them asking why he chose to cut funding for higher education, specifically Pitt.
"We have to fund a great deal of other things," said Corbett. "I can go into a crowd in Welfare, I can go into a crowd in public safety, I can go into a crowd with transportation, and many areas, and have the same discussions. I am dealing with what I inherited. I'm not blaming people, these are the facts, and you deal with those."
A few dozen people protested Corbett outside of the William Pitt Student Union, and there were some shouts of dissent from the audience, but overall the discussion remained civil. Afterward, amidst criticism that the governor did not thoroughly answer funding questions, at least one student sympathized with Corbett's situation, and said he believes it's disingenuous to say that Pitt can't cut costs further.
"They spent tens of thousands of dollars to put in a golf simulator in a new activity center," said Pitt graduate student Brian Witt. "I feel like, in a recession and in tough times like this, every organization, every government, every non-profit, is cutting costs. I don't think it's fair for the Pitt administration to say there's no room for cost-cutting in Pitt's budget."
The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) and the undergraduate Student Government Board (SGA) hosted Friday's "Pancakes & Politics" event. Later in the day Corbett had scheduled meetings with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Port Authority CEO Steve Bland to talk about transportation funding.