January 2010 Column - Governor’s Budget Must Reflect Reality of Pennsylvania’s Financial Situation
By Dave Hickernell, State Representative
98th Legislative District
On Feb. 9, Gov. Ed Rendell will present his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2010-11 to the Legislature. After last year’s budget battle, which extended into October, and given the fact that our revenue collections are already well below predicted levels, I am hopeful that the governor will offer a more sensible approach that reflects the fiscal realities our Commonwealth is facing.
Unfortunately, the governor has indicated he intends to offer yet another plan that spends far beyond our means. Recent news stories have reported that the governor’s proposal will increase state spending by $1.2 billion. When we consider that revenue collections for this year are already below predictions by at least $250 million, we are left to wonder how the governor plans to raise the funds needed for his spending increase. The answer is as obvious as it is troubling: tax increases.
Pennsylvania’s families and employers are already struggling to make ends meet. They simply cannot afford to have Harrisburg take even more out of their pocket each pay day. For some families, another tax increase will be the final straw that drives them into financial ruin.
There is simply no reason lawmakers and the governor cannot sit down and make the same tough decisions thousands of other Pennsylvanians make every day. When a family realizes its spending is outpacing its income, difficult choices must be made about which spending is necessary and which spending can wait until things improve. Maybe that means a needed home repair will have to wait until next year. Maybe it means the family vacation this summer will have to be smaller than planned or even canceled. In any case, these families do not have the option of just demanding more money so they can keep spending and government should not have that option either.
The governor and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have you believe House Republicans want to take away vital services from those who need them most -- the sick, the poor and the elderly. Nothing could be further from the truth.
During last year’s protracted budget fight, House Republicans offered several plans which would have increased funding for education and fully funded state programs without increasing taxes. Our plans set reasonable, workable spending priorities, and created significant savings by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in state agencies, like the Department of Public Welfare, which Democratic Auditor General Jack Wagner has said could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
As we begin the budget process in February, I am calling on the governor and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to set aside the partisan rhetoric and political gamesmanship. I urge each of us to keep in mind that these are not just numbers on a page. These are real people with real needs and concerns. The decisions we make in Harrisburg will have a profound impact on their daily lives and we should conduct ourselves accordingly.
Let us sit down in a spirit of bipartisanship to reach agreement on a budget of which we can all be proud. Of course there will be disagreements. That is the nature of a two-party system. But we should seek to resolve those disagreements, not with an eye on who can score the most political points but with an eye on what will be the best possible solution for the people of Pennsylvania.
I look forward to the governor’s budget address and to working with my colleagues to craft a budget that reflects the financial realities we are facing.
Rep. Dave Hickernell
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Sean Yeakle
House Republican Public Relations