Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Reading Eagle writer Mary Young opines that, in the state budget debate, both sides should simply get along. She advocates basically splitting the difference between the Senate’s $27.3 billion budget and Rendell’s $29 billion (soon to be $28.5 billion) spending plan.

What is wrong with this position? Well, for starters, it would suggest that Gov. Rendell should propose a budget that is far higher than he actually expects to spend, and Senate Republicans should offer a counter proposal than spends far less than what they really want – a tactic Rendell has, in fact, mastered, and Republicans are just catching up to.

It also implies we shouldn’t bother to evaluate all the over-the-top rhetoric being thrown around. For instance, I find it absurd to suggest that the Senate budget would “cripple agriculture production” in Pennsylvania. I would even go so far as to suggest Pennsylvania would be better off without farm subsidies.

Finally, Young’s “get along” position deliberately ignores what is good policy. She cites the Commonwealth Foundation as one “extreme” in the budget debate, for arguing among other things, that higher taxes undermines economic growth, that government spending fails to bolster the economy, and that Pennsylvania should reduce taxes and allow the private sector to respond to economic pressures. On the other side, she cites a group calling for higher taxes and more state spending, believing those policies will allow government planners to stimulate economic growth.

Only one of these two viewpoints can be correct. Which is it? In the opinion of Young, an unfortunately too many in Harrisburg, it doesn’t really matter what makes good fiscal policy.