A Diet Plan for an Obese State Government

Commonwealth Foundation launches campaign to “Put Pennsylvania on a Spending Diet”

HARRISBURG, PA — Today, the Commonwealth Foundation announced the launch of a media campaign to educate Pennsylvanians about the commonwealth’s fiscal and economic health. Through a new website (www.PADietPlan.com), radio spots, and a series of billboards along the Turnpike and around the state Capitol, the Commonwealth Foundation will direct citizens to “The Pennsylvania Diet Plan: Three Steps to Fiscal and Economic Health.”

The Pennsylvania Diet Plan is a balanced approach to helping restore state government to its proper role and healthy function in our daily lives. The three-step program will help state government shed millions and billions of dollars in unconstitutional, unnecessary, and wasteful spending—and, in the process, expand the financial well-being and economic prosperity of all Pennsylvanians. The “Three Steps to Fiscal and Economic Health” are:

STEP #1: Limit the Annual Growth in State Government Spending

It is a fact that states cannot tax, borrow, and spend themselves to prosperity. When politicians choose to grow the government, they effectively choose NOT to grow the economy. By limiting the annual growth in state government spending to a reasonable index of inflation plus population growth, elected officials allow job creators and families to keep more of their money to invest, save, and spend.

STEP #2: Empower Voters with the Right to Accept or Reject ANY and ALL Tax Increases

Shouldn’t the people who must pay higher taxes for increased government spending have the opportunity to accept or reject those proposals? By empowering citizens with the right to vote on each and every tax increase, elected officials will receive explicit confirmation from voters about how much government they want.

STEP #3: Reduce Pennsylvania’s Tax Burden on Job Creators & Families

Businesses don’t pay taxes any more than our homes or property pay taxes—only people pay taxes. So when Pennsylvania has some of the highest business taxes in the nation, it is the citizens of the commonwealth who ultimately pay the price. Additionally, every Pennsylvania worker felt the impact of a nearly 10% increase in the Personal Income Tax in 2004. Reducing the tax burden on job creators and families will improve the fiscal and economic health of Pennsylvania. Another benefit of reducing taxes is that it will also require a reduction in wasteful and unnecessary spending—something Harrisburg has been loathe to do.

For decades, jumbo-sized, pork-laden state budgets have made Pennsylvania state government overweight. By choosing to grow government spending at a faster rate than taxpayers can afford, elected officials in Harrisburg have stunted our state’s economic growth and competitiveness. Between 1970 and 2006—when state spending increased 160% in inflation-adjusted dollars—our commonwealth ranked:

  • 49th in job growth,
  • 45th in personal income growth, and
  • 48th in population growth among the 50 states.

In the 1990s, only Mississippi outpaced Pennsylvania in the growth rate of government spending on a per capita basis. And this spending trend has continued into this century. In Governor Ed Rendell’s first four years in office (2003-07), state spending increased by 28%, yet Pennsylvania still ranked an unhealthy:

  • 40th in job growth,
  • 35th in personal income growth, and
  • 42nd in population growth among the 50 states.

“Pennsylvania’s fiscal and economic health is harmed by overspending in Harrisburg,” said Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “The spending growth in Pennsylvania state government over the years has affirmed the truism that we can grow the government or we can grow our economy, but we can’t grow both. Our lack of healthy job, income, and population growth is attributable to poor policy choices in Harrisburg. For the fiscal and economic health of our citizens and our state, it is time we put Pennsylvania on a spending diet.”


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EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Pennsylvania Diet Plan: Three Steps to Fiscal and Economic Health” is available online at www.PADietPlan.com,as well as the radio spots and photos of the billboards along thePennsylvania Turnpike and the bus shelter signs around the stateCapitol. Also, be sure to watch the video message at www.PADietPlan.com.

TheCommonwealth Foundation is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.

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