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 …