Enacting an Irresponsible Budget
Way back on July 1, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi penned an excellent commentary, “Enacting a Responsible Budget,” urging “the Governor and the House Democratic leaders to support a spending plan that maintains core government services without a tax increase on hardworking Pennsylvanians.”
He wrote, “it is wrong to increase taxes at a time when so many people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and struggling to make ends meet” and that “[t]ax increases are both unnecessary and counterproductive.”
That was then, and this is now: The Senate GOP agreed to increase taxes, spend more than last year, and continue Pennsylvania on an unsustainable spending path in the future.
Read Pileggi’s commentary below. (I’ve posted it from here in case the Senate GOP decides it better pull these kinds of statements down in the wake of their capitulation.)
Enacting a Responsible State Budget
By Senator Dominic Pileggi
One fact – a simple, indisputable and painful fact – is at the center of the ongoing debate about Pennsylvania’s state budget: the Commonwealth has a revenue shortfall of $3.3 billion.
My view, and the view of the Senate Republican Caucus, is that we should do exactly what hardworking families across Pennsylvania are doing: reduce our spending to match the level of available funds.
The view held by the Governor and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly is that the state should increase taxes – including a 16.3 percent, $1.5 billion increase in the personal income tax – to spend more on government programs.
I believe it is wrong to increase taxes at a time when so many people are losing their jobs, losing their homes, and struggling to make ends meet.
Two months ago, the Senate passed a budget that does not increase taxes, relying instead on cuts to state spending. Since that time, the 203 members of the House have yet to debate or vote on a budget.
Instead, the Governor and his public relations apparatus have engaged in a full-time effort to convince you that the Senate’s approach will cause the sky to fall in Pennsylvania.
An objective look at the numbers shows that while difficult choices must be made, essential government services can be maintained and improved without increases in taxes and spending.
Under the Senate-approved budget, state and federal funding for public schools would increase by more than $720 million, or 11.7 percent. That is a generous increase in any year. It is an extraordinary increase during these difficult times.
Of the 62 school districts in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, 57 will receive an increase of more than 10 percent – and all of them will see increases of at least six percent. Philadelphia School District, for example, will receive $212 million in new funds, a 20 percent increase.
Schools will also receive an additional $500 million in capital funds for renovations and construction.
In addition to those substantial new investments in our public schools, the Senate-approved budget protects public safety by providing increased funding to the Pennsylvania State Police and the Department of Corrections. The social safety net provided by the Department of Public Welfare will remain strong with a funding increase. And funding for many other key programs – such as children’s health insurance and autism services – will be maintained or increased.
The sky is not falling.
There is no question that the Senate-approved budget contains many spending cuts. Some of those cuts were very difficult to make, and I hope will be reexamined when the recession ends.
But cuts have to be made, because the only alternative is increasing taxes. And a tax increase will not only hurt individual Pennsylvanians, it will also slow down economic activity and cause the recession to last even longer.
Just last month, the Governor himself said, “This is a bad time to raise taxes because any tax increase hurts the level of spending. So I am philosophically against raising any taxes.”
He was right then, and I urge him to return to that position. Tax increases are both unnecessary and counterproductive.
As you think about the state budget, here are the most important numbers to keep in mind:
In the current fiscal year, 2008-09, Pennsylvania is spending $27.7 billion.
The Senate-approved budget for 2009-10 would spend $27.3 billion, reducing total state spending by 1.4 percent.
The Governor is seeking a 2009-10 budget of nearly $29 billion, a spending increase of about $1.3 billion.
Now, ask yourself this question: In the worst recession since the Great Depression, does it make more sense for the Commonwealth to hold the line on taxes and reduce spending modestly, or to increase your taxes to pay for a significant increase in government spending?
The answer is clear. We need to live within our means.
I urge the Governor and the House Democratic leaders to support a spending plan that maintains core government services without a tax increase on hardworking Pennsylvanians.
More information about state issues can be found on Senator Pileggi’s web site, www.senatorpileggi.com.