State Budget is Out of Balance and Unconstitutional
By State Rep. Sam Rohrer
On June 30, a truly unconstitutional, out-of-balance $28.04 billion state budget was passed through the Legislature. The fact that it was passed on time for the first time in eight years is nothing to celebrate, given the abdication of both fiscal responsibility and constitutional safeguards by those in office.
This budget is, ultimately, a set-up for an enormous tax increase next year. This budget grossly overstates revenue, depends on $850 million in federal Medicaid funding that has not yet been approved, and refuses to plan for the upcoming fiscal shortfalls.
Leadership in both parties in both the House and Senate has been applauding the on-time passage of a budget that doesn't increase taxes. Yet this blindness to what is really taking place is either deliberate ignorance or a complete disregard for sound policy making.
This budget expects the state's economy to grow — grow! — by 3 percent this year, when most economists are predicting at best 0 percent growth and as much as a 2 percent decline. That gap is between $750 million and $1.25 billion.
Next year, Pennsylvania loses federal stimulus funds. We will likely have to cope with the raiding of the MCare fund to the tune of $800 million. And the state’s unemployment compensation debt it owes to the federal government could top $4 billion. Everything is being pushed off until next year.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this budget’s passage is the manner in which it was accomplished. Approximately $66 million of Walking Around Money (WAMs) was put back in, along with a $600 million increase in the borrowing cap on the fund that pays for discretionary capital projects around the state, including nearly $300 million to be passed out by Gov. Ed Rendell. The historic use of these taxpayer-funded earmarks to buy votes in exchange for funneling money to legislators' districts is unconscionable.
Our leadership and elected officials have once again placed pragmatism over principle. That the budget should be passed on time is absolutely correct. But it's not just about getting it done on time. It's about elected officials doing the right thing — by their oath of office, by the Constitution, and by the taxpayers.State Rep. Sam Rohrer is a Republican who has represented the 128th House District in Berks Council since 1993. He is minority chairman of the House Finance Committee. Rohrer is retiring from the Legislature at the end of the year, following an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor.
Labels: Debt, Pennsylvania Legislature, Rendell, Taxes