Pennsylvania has a massive state budget hole, and it can be chalked up to one cause – listening to the wrong people.
- Gov. Rendell put his faith in folks at the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, who said the federal government would approve I-80 tolling – despite rejection after rejection. The Commonwealth Foundation has been saying for three years that the plan didn’t meet the FHWA program requirement. Guess what? The Obama Administration (convincingly) rejected the bid to toll I-80, and Gov. Rendell had no plan B. Now Rendell has called a “special session” to deal with this $415 million gap between planned transportation spending and revenue.
- A mere one month ago, Gov. Rendell’s advisers issued a statement saying they expected state revenues to recover in April, and thus there was nothing to worry about. In contrast, the Commonwealth Foundation advised lawmakers to reduce spending to match revenues. In reality, Pennsylvania collected $400 million less than was expected.
- Gov. Rendell’s budget team decided to use the MCare Fund to balance the state budget – against the Commonwealth Foundation’s advice not to exhaust one-time revenue sources with deficits as far as the eye could see. Last month, the Commonwealth Court ruled that this raid of the MCare money was illegal and must be repaid; thus creating another $800 million hole in the Pennsylvania state budget.
This is why many legislators feel the need for an Independent Fiscal Office in Pennsylvania – the Rendell Administration does not, but I think we’ve already established that we should ignore their recommendations – but easier than that, how about lawmakers take advice from the Commonwealth Foundation.