Pennsylvania State Budget
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf has proposed several new spending initiatives and tax code changes, though specific details remain lacking. To give Pennsylvanians a better idea of the impact of these proposals, we conducted an analysis of his two major education funding proposals. We also analyze his personal income tax proposal, the increase in the income tax rate required to pay for his spending plans, and the impact on taxpayers.
October 8, 2014, HARRISBURG, Pa.—A new analysis of gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf’s “Fresh Start” plan reveals that Wolf’s spending and tax proposals—$4.6 billion in new spending on education alone—would result in a potential 121% increase to the state income tax rate, bringing it to a whopping 6.8 percent. That’s almost an additional $600
Today, credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Pennsylvania’s general obligation bond rating from Aa2 to Aa3, citing the state’s use of one-time budgetary stop-gap measures and the continued underfunding of public pensions. This marks the third credit downgrade from ratings agencies in as many years.
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Last week, legislation moved out of the Senate Finance Committee that would set guardrails on state government spending, establish a “Rainy Day Fund,” and, potentially, even send rebate checks back to Pennsylvania taxpayers.
Check out our new Taxpayer Protection Act handout for more information.
So, what are some of the benefits of responsible spending limits?
CF’s Nate Benefield answers in a conversation with radio host Gary Sutton. Listen here:
The Gary Sutton Show airs daily on WSBA 910AM in the York area.
Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.
We at the Commonwealth Foundation are pleased to welcome State Treasurer Rob McCord to the fight for fiscal restraint.
McCord, along with Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, held a press conference today to raise concerns about state finances. While DePasquale in his role as Auditor General is regularly fighting waste and abuse, such as his audit of Scranton's failing pension plan, this seems to be a first for McCord. The impetus is the state needs to borrow money from the Treasury to pay its bills until taxes roll in.
This is a real concern, but this is far from the first time the state has been in this fix. In 2009 and 2010, Pennsylvania issued "tax anticipation notes"—borrowing funds with interest until enough tax revenue comes in to pay them off. But McCord issued no warning shot then. He simply signed onto the bond issue.
In contrast, the Commonwealth Foundation has been sounding the alarm for years about the state's fiscal health, noting the "Four Alarm Fire" facing our commonwealth, and the frequent bond downgrades we are experiencing thanks to a pension crisis and excessive debt. As we've noted, this problem has been caused by seven consecutive years of spending more than revenue.
Nonetheless, we welcome Treasurer McCord in the fight for fiscal restraint. The treasurer noted, "the state's true financial condition is even worse than it appears because Pennsylvania has papered over its problems by draining other funds to balance the last several budgets."
In other words, this is a long-standing problem caused by decades of excessive spending. We have to put our fiscal house in order.
One good start is the Taxpayer Protection Act, which passed the Senate Finance Committee today. Click here for our fact sheet on that important issue.
Lawmakers should also tackle the critical issue of pension reform. And recent House efforts to reduce the "debt ceiling" on the RACP program—which is essentially borrowing for corporate welfare projects—would be a major step towards fiscal sanity.
Readers of PolicyBlog already know that Pennsylvania education spending is at a record high, that state funding to school districts for pension costs is skyrocketing, and that school district spending, revenues and reserve funds are at all-time highs.
That should be enough to stop government union leaders from repeating the $1 billion cut lie...but they're still at it. In fact, a new lie to defend the original lie has emerged.
Talking to Capitolwire (paywall), PSEA spokesman Wythe Keever claims, "No previous administration cited pension funding in order to boost their claims about K-12 funding."
It is preposterous to think that the cost of teachers' pensions isn't part of the cost of education, or that state aid to school districts for pension costs isn't part of state aid to school districts.
Of course, this is far from the first lie Wythe Keever has been caught in.
As we recently wrote, Mr. Keever has denied that union dues are used for any sort of political activity—even as his employer, the PSEA, told its members (as required by law) that 12 percent of their dues go to politics.
Wythe Keever also once denied to a reporter that the PSEA was behind mysterious ads claiming school choice would require a tax hike. We later uncovered that the PSEA spent $575,000 from union dues to fund those ads.
That a spokeman for PSEA consistently resorts to outright, provable lies is a telling commentary on how far government union executives are willing to go to advance their policy agenda.
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The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank. The Commonwealth Foundation crafts free-market policies, convinces Pennsylvanians of their benefits, and counters attacks on liberty.