February 8, 2022, Harrisburg, Pa. — In his final budget address Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed an unaffordable spending increase while claiming the mantle of fiscal responsibility.
Commonwealth Foundation Senior Vice President Nathan Benefield issued the following statement in response:
Governor Wolf’s words and actions don’t line up. While touting fiscal responsibility, Wolf would have Pennsylvania spend $3 billion more than it is taking in, generating deficits his successor will have to deal with. Instead, lawmakers should prioritize taxpayers, grow spending responsibly, and give parents and students the education options they are seeking.
Here are five takeaways from Wolf’s final budget proposal:
- In his address, the governor has proposed a massive 16.6% increase in General Fund spending. But state revenues don’t match plans to increase spending, especially given our poor economic health after the pandemic. This far exceeds the Taxpayer Protection Act limit and would require tax increases or program cuts in future years.
- Wolf proposed a $2 billion increase in public school spending, though Pennsylvania already spends more than $19,000 per student—the seventh-highest level in the nation. His spending increase ignores the Independent Fiscal Office’s (IFO) finding that increased spending doesn’t improve student performance.
- There is no justification for the governor’s continued attacks on school choice. He seeks to cap EITC administrative costs, even though the IFO has found scholarship organizations us a minimal percentage (8%) of voluntary donations on administration. He also advocates cuts for charter schools, a lifeline for many students.
- Wolf celebrates fiscal responsibility, as he should—our state’s growing Rainy Day Fund, resistance to tax increases, wine in grocery stores, and pension reform are all good things. But we haven’t forgotten that these reforms happened because legislators rejected Wolf’s tax and spend proposals.
- The Legislature, not the governor, will drive the agenda for our 2022 budget. Commonwealth Foundation has provided lawmakers with a checklist to ensure smart budgeting this year that will prevent a fiscal crisis under the next governor.
“The surplus caused by federal dollars in this year’s budget provides a great opportunity to pay down debt and offer students a chance to recover from pandemic learning gaps,” Benefield said. “This budget season, lawmakers should pass the Taxpayer Protection Act to ensure fiscal stability, expand education options for students, and spur job growth by lifting burdensome regulations on small businesses.”
Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.
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