Seems Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s recent run of bad luck started well before last Friday’s apparent snubbing of a celebration honoring the academic successes of students at Philadelphia’s Central High School.
Weeks before Corbett’s ill-fated decision, the governor endured blowback from the state’s most powerful Democrats over Corbett’s appointment of Silvan B. Lutkewitte as the new leader of the Pennsylvania Lottery.
Corbett’s announcement comes on the heels of another recent Corbett announcement, where Corbett decided to not pursue the privatization of the state’s multibillion-dollar lottery. Corbett decided to sever the contract with global lottery manager Camelot, but only after spending millions of dollars in state fund to analyze the arrangement.
While Pennsylvania Democrats were generally pleased that Corbett ended his plan for privatization, many of the state’s party leaders – including House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (D-33), Democratic Whip Mike Hanna (D-76) and Appropriations Committee Democratic Chairman Joe Markosek (D-25) – voiced “disappointment” over Corbett’s selection, labeling Lutkewitte a “Harrisburg insider.”
“This appointment concerns me,” said Markosek. “After pursuing a misguided attempt to privatize Lottery management for almost two years, it is not clear that Governor Corbett truly understands the value and importance of the Pennsylvania Lottery.”
It’s not that the three Democratic leaders dislike Lutkewitte; it’s that the leadership feels that Lutkewitte is simply not qualified to lead the lottery.
“Mr. Lutkewitte did important work and served honorably on the Independent Regulatory Review Commission,” Dermody said. “But that limited experience does not prepare [Lutkewitte] to oversee a multibillion-dollar statewide lottery.
“This continues Governor Corbett’s strange pattern of appointing people to professional positions for which they lack sufficient expertise or qualifications.”
The three democratic leaders reinforced their point in a letter sent earlier this month to Corbett, in which the continued to press the governor on privatization and on the governor’s appointment process.
“While we welcomed your Dec. 30 announcement that you will no longer pursue an effort to outsource the Pennsylvania Lottery to a British firm, we remain concerned that you have not ruled out a renewed effort at privatizing management of the Lottery in the future,” read a portion of the letter the three Democratic leaders sent to Corbett. “By now, it should be clear that there is simply no need to privatize the Lottery. In the last two years, the Lottery enjoyed record sales and profits, and it is on pace to beat those numbers again this year. That success is due, in large part, to the hard work, dedication and expertise of capable and skilled state workers. In fact, a private corporation would be hard-pressed to operate as efficiently and leanly as the state-run Pennsylvania Lottery, which has one of the lowest administrative costs of any lottery in the world.
“However, we agree that we must find new ways to improve Lottery profits, in order to respond to the growing demand for programs and services that help older Pennsylvanians, many of which are funded through Lottery dollars. We simply disagree that outsourcing, or privatizing, the state Lottery is the most effective way to accomplish that goal. There are other options, which are less disruptive and, we believe, more profitable than privatization. One such option is to hire a world-class, seasoned expert to head the Pennsylvania Lottery,” the letter continued. “The position of Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director has been vacant for nearly two months, presenting an exciting opportunity to find a new Lottery chief executive who has the background, skills and expertise to take the Pennsylvania Lottery to new heights. We strongly urge you to seize this opportunity and promptly begin a nationwide search for an experienced Lottery executive director who has demonstrated previous success at expanding lottery offerings and consistently growing lottery profits…while there certainly are strong, experienced candidates from across the country eager to fill this position, you would be wise to include current Pennsylvania Lottery employees in your search. After all, it was those state employees who have helped the Lottery rise to prominence as one of the most successful in the country.
“We share your goal of increasing the resources available for important programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians. We hope to work with you to find better ways to achieve this goal. Your welcome decision to suspend the privatization effort offers a chance for a fresh start, especially when combined with the opportunity to appoint an experienced and qualified new leader at the Pennsylvania Lottery.”