A critic, responding to my op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, opines that I am repeating the “mantra” that lawmakers should control the growth of spending and avoid job-killing tax hikes.
He’s right. I have repeated the need to restrain spending ad infinitum. What he misses is that state government has usually followed the opposite practice, allowing the government to grow without limit.
To make my case, here are six sad statistics about Pennsylvania's fiscal trends, all illustrated by interesting infographics:
- General Fund spending has grown by $2.9 billion in the last three years under Gov. Wolf. This includes a $1.8 billion increase in 2016-17, which is larger than the state's entire deficit for that fiscal year.
- Since 2001, Pennsylvania’s total operating budget has grown by 103 percent, compared with only a 78 percent growth in personal income.
- The largest growth has been in the more than 150 “other state funds” included in the shadow budget. Spending has almost tripled in this budget over the last 17 years.
- The state's total operating budget now consumes about 12.3 percent of Pennsylvania’s personal income, up from 10 percent in 1991.
- Pennsylvania state government has enacted four tax increases in the past eight years.
- The $600 million tax increase passed by the Senate—potentially representing the fifth tax hike in nine years—would result in the loss of nearly 3,600 private sector jobs in Pennsylvania.
Is there a better way?
I’m glad you asked. Here’s a path forward.