Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gov. Corbett's "family budgeting" is hurting PA

Four years ago, Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his first state General Fund budget proposal and likened it to a belt-tightening family sitting around the kitchen table making decisions on where to save and where to spend.

So let's take a look at how that family budgeting idea compares with this year's House Republican budget proposal.

Simply put: this budget plan is based on either delaying paying the bills or simply not paying the bills at all. Not many Pennsylvania families can balance their budgets in that way.

For example, the PlanCon reimbursement program for new school building construction is behind by $1.2 billion and the 2014-15 Republican budget allocates only $10 million to it. That's like making a single payment on a 120-year mortgage. On that schedule, schools in the program will have to wait 120 years for a new building. Are you kidding me?

The Republican budget plan also suggests putting off this month's payment of $394 million to Pennsylvania's managed care organizations which help to meet the health care needs of some of our state's most vulnerable residents. Cash-strapped families know what happens when you put off making a monthly payment. You're faced with interest and late fees. And make no mistake about it, when the MCOs come calling for their bills to be paid, they're going to charge the state more money to make up for it.

As for higher education funding, four years ago the state cut their budgets 19 percent and that cut has continued year after year after year with so-called "flat funding." For families with students in college, that would be like telling the school: "We'll pay tuition for 4 out of 5 semesters and call it even." How do you think that would go over at Pitt or Penn State?

Standard & Poor’s warned that Pennsylvania’s credit rating would suffer if the Republicans continued to use one time gimmicks to “balance” the budget. This Republican budget is based on $700 million in one-time accounting gimmicks that supposedly balance the budget this year, but will lead to a $2 billion structural deficit in next year’s budget. That's an irresponsible way to budget, even for fiscal conservatives.

I just can't go along with the idea of fixing a budget deficit by creating a bigger one for the next guy to worry about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Republican budgeting has led to $1.4 billion deficit

Gov. Tom Corbett and his Republican friends -- who lead comfortable majorities in the state House and Senate -- have had four years to take Pennsylvania in a new direction.

Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, that direction is deep into the red, headlined by a $1.4 billion General Fund budget deficit. We are one of only 11 states nationwide with a deficit. That’s what happens when you give tax breaks to some multi-national corporations while refusing to tax others at all. 

If the state budget deficit wasn't enough, funding cuts at the state level have drastically impacted Pennsylvania's 500 school districts, which have been forced to lay off 20,000 employees, cut programs, increase class sizes and hike local property taxes. But the governor continues to claim he didn't raise taxes?

And so here we are, within days of the budget deadline and the governor and Republican leaders can't figure out how to fix a billion-dollar deficit of their own making.

Now in their fourth year of budget fiascos, they feign surprise that their trickle-down economics aren't working. Sorry governor, you've had three years and three budgets that let you implement your spending priorities. You chose $2 billion in big-business tax cuts over more dollars in Pennsylvania classrooms. You chose to stall on Medicaid expansion instead of accepting Pennsylvania's share of federal dollars and you refused to impose a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas even though every other state with gas reserves imposes one. You don't have the federal stimulus program to blame any more. This is your budget deficit.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee Republican Chairman Bill Adolph is offering some obtuse argument about how our flat income tax as it relates to federal tax rates is causing our budget problem. Again, most other states have a budget surplus, not a deficit. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai believes another thing entirely: that targeted job-creation tax incentives are breaking the state's bank and corporate tax breaks should be across the board. With all due respect Mr. Leader, that's how we got into this predicament in the first place: by Republicans cutting corporate taxes by $2 billion and allowing multinational corporations to continue their tax shifting out of Pennsylvania's state coffers.

We didn’t need to be here … but we are. By implementing fair progressive policies, we could have stopped our slide from 7th to 49th in job creation, and Pennsylvania likely wouldn't be in the budget hole that we are today thanks to the failed leadership of Gov. Tom Corbett and his Republican colleagues. It may be too late to change the governor's fate as a one-term failure, but it's not too late to change the failed policies the governor and the Republican legislature have pursued. We could pass a budget that doesn't rely on one-time gimmicks and selling off assets.

I am not holding my breath …