If lawmakers don’t raise taxes, Pennsylvanians should brace for drastic cuts to education and human services. This myth is promoted endlessly by the Wolf Administration to justify taking more out of the pockets of working people.
The administration offers this false choice in the context of the state’s projected budget deficit, which admittedly has credit rating agencies worried. The agencies warnings shouldn't be ignored, but they also shouldn't serve as cover for increasing Pennsylvanians’ already high tax burden.
As Majority Leader Jake Corman pointed out last week, there are two ways to close a budget deficit: raise revenue or cut spending. The latter is preferable and possible without dramatically reducing funding for education and human services.
That’s not to say reforming the education and welfare systems is unnecessary. We need to rescue students from violent and failing schools. We need to fix a system that traps people in a cycle of poverty. However, these are not the only areas where reforms can help improve lives and save taxpayers' money.
Other areas ripe for reform include economic development or corporate welfare programs. CF has called for eliminating the almost $700 million in corporate welfare found in the operating budget. If a recent Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) report is any indication, the full cost of special subsidies is probably much higher.
The IFO's report on corporate welfare, or what they call economic development incentives, identified a number of programs not included in our corporate welfare tally. Here are just a few:
- Infrastructure Technology Assistance Program (Cost: $1,750,000) – Provides grants to Lehigh University to help the state and companies increase operating efficiency.
- Alternative Fuels Funding (Cost: $9,231,000) – Awards grants to cover the costs of installing, upgrading, retrofitting, or purchasing alternative fuel equipment, facilities or vehicles.
- Life Sciences Greenhouses (Cost: $3,000,000) – Funds biotech and medical device startups and helps connect them with investors and experts.
Should taxpayers continue to fund these programs when the state’s facing serious fiscal challenges? The governor believes so. And he is willing to break a major campaign promise to not only sustain corporate welfare spending but increase it.
Fortunately, the future isn't set in stone. We can change course and embrace an idea proven to raise the standard of living for billions of people. But it takes an act of will. Do we have it?