Anyone hoping that Governor Wolf would unveil a realistic budget proposal in early February was surely disappointed.
The fact of the matter is that the $36.1 billion spending plan is out of touch with reality, on many levels.
My primary concern is that the Governor’s budget proposal does not align with the priorities of the 33rd Senate District.
First, the bloated budget proposal (which will cost around $87 billion in total expenditures) features a $1.5 billion spending hike. How does the Governor envision paying for the new spending?
Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 in tax burden among all states, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, and there have been five tax hikes in the past 11 years. That is unacceptable.
Whatever you want to call it, whether it is new “fees” or “contributions,” if more money is leaving our wallets for Harrisburg, it is a tax, period.
Sadly, our government has not met a tax, fee or a contribution that it does not like.
For instance, the Governor is once again trying to impose a severance tax on the natural gas industry, which already pays every applicable tax in Pennsylvania, including an “impact fee.” An additional tax will force the industry to move to other states that are more economically viable.
How would you like to see a 17-cent hike in the state’s gas tax? The ill-conceived idea is part of the Transportation and Climate Initiative that Wolf supports.
Also, the poorly-conceived State Police impact fee is back in the Governor’s budget, and this time it would be imposed upon municipalities statewide. Many municipalities in the 33rd Senate District already have a municipal police force, but it wouldn’t matter under the Governor’s plan. Those municipalities would be a “fee” for State Police services, regardless.
Sadly, the only cuts in spending by the Governor are misguided and reduce funds for Lyme disease research, agriculture and school safety programming.
Eleven local school districts recently received funding as part of the state’s School Safety Grant Program. Unfortunately, the Governor wants to cut the program by 75 percent. As a result, these important dollars would dry up. Why cut a program that has been successfully funded with zero tax increase since its inception?
The cuts to Lyme disease programming are also concerning. Pennsylvania should be a leader on this issue – unfortunately, our state is, and not in a good way as the Commonwealth leads the nation in Lyme disease cases. We need to reverse this troubling trend. Investing in Lyme research is helping that effort, and is an area that the Governor should not gamble with.
Lastly, it is deeply concerning that the Governor wants to hire more staff at the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Department administrators recently testified before the panel I chair, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, during a hearing on “Regulatory Reform, Red Tape Reduction and Transparency.” After hearing their testimony, I am convinced that accountability and consistency are necessary; not additional staffing.
Bringing additional staff aboard DEP will not resolve any of the issues that municipalities and constituents are facing regarding the rain tax and MS4, so it is mind-boggling that this concept is even being considered.
As the General Assembly approaches the June budget deadline, I am looking forward to addressing these concerns with the Senate Appropriations Committee.
There is a lot of work to do, but I am hopeful that the final budget will meet the needs of Pennsylvanians without over-burdening our already cash-strapped citizenry. 2020 is the year when there should be more accountability in Harrisburg. Money does not spring forth from the trees, but comes out of the pockets of our hard-working citizens.
The Governor’s bloated budget does nothing to help our citizens, but rather makes it even more daunting to balance our checkbooks. Each one of us has to live within our means…and it is about time that the Governor does the same with his budget.
Senator Mastriano represents the 33rd District in the Pennsylvania Senate. The District includes Adams County and parts of Franklin, Cumberland and York counties.