Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Corbett, Republicans ignored the problem for four years

During his recent mid-year budget briefing, Corbett administration Budget Secretary Charles Zogby said the cost growth in the 2015-16 state budget, which was cited as the reason for the projected $2 billion deficit, is nothing new. Which begs the question: Why didn’t they do something to deal with it, instead of ignoring it for the past four years?

If Zogby and others knew the one-time revenue fixes used to balance the last four state budgets would not solve the state’s overall fiscal problem, that begs more questions: Did they use those tactics merely for “window-dressing” of the budget or were they simply being irresponsible with your tax dollars?

Another example of the Corbett folks simply ignoring the problem with state finances is that everyone knew Act 120 of 2010 included mandated cost increases in the out-years, yet Corbett actually proposed reducing the payments to balance the budget instead of meeting the obligations.

While Zogby might be continuing the false claim that the Corbett administration didn’t raise taxes on middle-class families, the fact is those families did get hit with higher taxes, such as property tax increases and higher gas taxes.

Meanwhile, legislative Republicans and Corbett also gave away the store to the tune of $2 billion in corporate tax breaks instead of fixing our ongoing structural budget deficit problem. Those tax breaks didn’t result in more jobs as promised, instead Pennsylvania’s job growth plummeted from 7th to the bottom of the pack at 50th.

Zogby went on to admit that one-time budget fixes don’t work, yet he continues to push for more one-time revenue gains like selling the liquor stores, electric competition and pension reform. Those ideas simply won’t solve Pennsylvania’s structural budget deficit.

Finally, Zogby now admits that legislative Republicans and the Corbett administration created a structural budget deficit of $2 billion, yet here are just a few of the things that incoming Speaker of the House, then House Majority Leader, Mike Turzai said about the budget during final passage on June 30th:

“We have been nothing but responsible.”
"We have been fiscal stewards.”
“We have been about governing.”
"Let us talk about responsible governance.”
“We have been prudent, fiscally responsible, and prioritized state spending on the most vulnerable in our society.”
 “We are fiscally prudent, recognizing we have a responsibility to the taxpayers.”
Maybe not so much …

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bad Republican fiscal policy got us into this budget mess

After attending today’s mid-year budget briefing by Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, the multi-billion dollar budget deficit that Pennsylvania is facing is not unexpected given the past four years’ budget messes and the bad news is not likely to end.

The Independent Fiscal Office’s latest report revealed a multi-billion dollar budget deficit that was reaffirmed today by Secretary Zogby and points to a dreadful fiscal crisis for our new governor. It is certain that the extent of the gap is massive and we cannot continue with the same fiscal policies of the past four years and expect anything other than a continued deficit projection.

I see three main points concerning the budget deficit:

1.    Gov. Tom Corbett’s fiscal year 2014-15 budget was based on one-time revenue sources that the administration now admits was bad policy.

2.    The Corbett administration already borrowed to meet operational expenses and projections indicate the state will be cash flow negative from January through March 2015.

3.    The Republicans that control the House and Senate marched in lockstep with the Corbett administration on fiscal policy for the last four years. They also need to be held accountable for this failed fiscal policy and be willing to work to change it in a bipartisan manner that produces solutions.

Additionally, our state has fallen from the top 10 in job creation to last in the nation over the past four years.

This budget situation also has bad ramifications for policy proposals, such as infrastructure, jobs and equitable education funding, because most initiatives need state money to implement.

The Wolf administration offers a different fiscal policy that received a strong mandate in the recent election. This most recent forecast makes it even more obvious that we need to follow that change in policy.

I’m definitely ready for a fresh start, which begins Jan. 20.