Already, a little bit of daylight can be seen between the governor and his party's top legislative leaders on such potential flash points as state aid to colleges and the lingering question of whether to tax extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
In his first budget address Tuesday, Corbett proposed eliminating $625 million, or 52 percent of state aid, for the 18 state-supported schools - Temple and Lincoln Universities among them.
In the aftermath, a stunned Pennsylvania State University president Graham Spanier laid out a bleak scenario, saying that if the budget were adopted as proposed, students could expect a tuition increase, faculty and staff layoffs, and program cutbacks. He said closing some of Penn State's smaller campuses was not out of the question.
"The proposal would be the single largest percentage state cut in the history of American public education," Spanier said in an interview Friday. "Make no mistake: 52 percent is a staggering number for us."
Spanier, who said he had been prepared for a "single-digit" reduction in funding, described the $182 million cut from Penn State's appropriation as having "the appearance of eliminating higher-education funding."
He says he intends to make the case for a smaller cut when he testifies at a Senate budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Lawmakers from both parties say they are hearing from alumni and students, mothers and fathers. "Parents are panicked," said Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery). "For many, this will make the difference between their children going to college or not."
Penn State's sprawling main campus happens to be in the district of a key state senator, Jake Corman.
At a news conference after the governor's budget address on Tuesday, Corman (R., Centre) smiled uneasily when asked if he supported Corbett's proposed higher-education reductions.
Corman, who, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is poised to play a major role in shaping the final budget, said the proposal offered a spending "blueprint," a sentiment echoed by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) in an interview Friday. "The governor promoted a blueprint that we will take some time to look at and contemplate if it needs to be changed," Turzai said. "We will be looking at the line items and levels of funding. There will definitely be some shifting within the budget."
In a separate interview, Corman said there was concern in both chambers about the extent of the higher-education cuts. "That's something we will look at, and find savings elsewhere to restore, if not all of the funding," he added.
College funding is just one area that has touched off expressions of alarm from those who stand to be affected most. School boards are decrying the plan's $1 billion in funding cuts to basic education, saying that will likely force local property-tax increases, particularly in districts already in the red.
And those who are unhappy with how they fared in Corbett's budget have begun to rally around a single pressure point: the absence of a proposal to tax natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale. Pennsylvania is the only major gas-drilling state without such a tax.
If nothing else, Corbett's budget only increased support in some quarters for a gas-drilling levy, said Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College.
"People can now portray the budget cuts against a lack of resources coming from the drilling industry," he said. "You take cuts to public education, to hospitals, to higher education, and you juxtapose them to the lack of any contribution from the natural-gas industry - it becomes a powerful political narrative. And it's a potential PR disaster for the administration."
Many in the legislature, including some Republican leaders, have said they are willing to engage in a serious debate over whether and how much to tax natural gas, notwithstanding the governor's steadfast position on the matter.
A few days before Corbett's budget speech, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi set the stage for that debate.
"We're certainly respectful of the governor's position on the gas tax," Pileggi (R., Delaware) said, "but especially in light of this year's budget challenges, there will be renewed conversations about the timing and design of such a tax."
During the fall campaign, Corbett vowed not to raise any taxes or fees on natural gas or anything else.
And when he delivered his budget speech last week, he kept that pledge, calling instead for steep cuts in most state agencies and departments.
The budget also included a paragraph that Democrats quickly pounced on as yet another bone thrown to the drilling industry.
The paragraph said that in an effort to speed up the permitting process and encourage job growth, the secretary of the state's Department of Community and Economic Development would be empowered to expedite "any permit or action" in any regulatory agency "where the creation of jobs may be impacted."
Leach called the move "unprecedented" and said he believed it would undo years of legislation and regulation.
An unintended consequence, perhaps, of Corbett's budget proposal is that it has ended up unifying groups that don't always work side by side: environmentalists, unions, educators, and social-service advocates, all of whom see their oxen getting gored in the new governor's plan.
"It's energized people again," Eric Epstein, founder of the activist group RocktheCapital.com, said shortly after the budget was introduced. "It helped them find a villain."
A "villain," that is, who in his first budget proposal stuck firmly to the promises that won the support of a majority of Pennsylvania voters - no new taxes, smaller government.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or firstname.lastname@example.org.