How Big is the Pa. State Budget? 17 Million Yoga Rooms

Much has been made about a yoga and meditation room in the state Capitol—costing taxpayers about $5,000 to furnish. With an annual state budget that could pay for 16,800,000 yoga rooms, it seems like there might be other spending programs that merit as much attention.

My letter to the editor in yesterday's LancasterOnline is a look at some big-ticket items, including subsidies for horse racing and sports stadiums, that lawmakers should really focus on. 

Your editorial about the cost of the Pennsylvania Senate constructing a yoga room for employees gets an important fact right, “even seemingly trivial expenditures add up.” But there are far bigger ticket items that deserve at least as much attention as a yoga room.

  • General Assistance: The Governor’s unilateral decision to restart this welfare program will cost at least $25 million per year. That’s 5,000 times the cost of building a yoga room.
  • Film Tax Credit: Hollywood studios get $65 million in tax breaks (which they can sell if they don’t use them all); exemptions from the heavy tax burden local businesses have to pay. The commonwealth could build 12,000 yoga rooms annually with this revenue.
  • Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP): The state borrows $175 million every year to subsidize big projects, including sports stadiums and corporate headquarters. This amounts to 34,000 yoga rooms every year (plus interest).
  • Horse Racing: More than $238 million from taxes on slot machine revenues go to subsidize horse racing prizes. This equals almost 47,000 yoga rooms.
  • School District Reserves: Pennsylvania school districts have accumulated more than $4.5 billion in fund reserves—an amount that keeps growing every year. That’s the equivalent of 891,000 yoga rooms; enough for seven yoga rooms for every teacher.

These are just a few of the many unnecessary expenditures in the state budget that lawmakers should reduce if they respect working families.