Gov. Tom Wolf recently presented his budget message to a joint session of the General Assembly. His budget proposal shows that his administration has already overspent the current budget by nearly $600 million. In spite of that profligate spending, the Governor is now seeking an additional $1.5 billion in new spending for next year’s budget. Over 80% of that new spending is for welfare benefits.
The Governor’s most recent budget address was in keeping with his message last year -- full of platitudes and generalities, and short on specifics or details. But the Governor did make one thing abundantly clear: He wants more spending in Pennsylvania and more debt for Pennsylvanians. His proposed budget unfortunately fails to address the serious structural issues we face here in our Commonwealth, not the least of which is the chronic inability of this administration to be fiscally responsible and to keep from overspending.
Under this administration, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has taken the position that they don’t need to be responsible or to live within statutory budget limits. The DHS secretary seems to think that the budgetary limits set for that agency can be flouted with impunity. This is evidenced by the Governor asking the citizens of Pennsylvania to pony up an additional $492 million for DHS in the current year. And when one takes a closer look it gets worse, because the administration is looking to hide an additional $307 million in current year spending by pushing it into the next fiscal year. On top of everything else, the Governor is seeking an additional $1.1 billion for DHS next year.
That means DHS needs an additional $800 million just in the current year! This sort of overspending would never be tolerated in the private sector, but under this administration it’s just another day in Harrisburg.
The second major theme of the Governor’s message was his call for more debt. Two years ago, the General Assembly passed legislation that was signed by the Governor to help lower the debt limit. Now we are expected to not only abandon those good debt reforms we all agreed to, but also to increase the debt limit by over 30%! This sort of public debt is nothing less than an unwanted and unwarranted tax on the future of the citizens of Pennsylvania.
Instead of a budget that plays the same old spend-and-borrow-and-pretend-we-won’t-have-to-raise-taxes-to-pay-for-it-all tune, Pennsylvanians deserve a budget that keeps spending growth as low as possible, that invests in our rainy-day fund, and that enacts more budgetary reforms. This will in turn contribute to the fiscal health of state government, encourage economic growth, and improve the lives of all Pennsylvanians.
Last year the General Assembly came together in a bipartisan manner and worked with the Governor to build a fiscally sound budget that put the needs of taxpayers first and foremost. We need a budget that goes beyond wishes and dreams and lays out a specific plan to carry Pennsylvania forward, and does so in a way that is least burdensome to those hard-working Pennsylvania taxpayers who deserve better than what we heard from the governor.
Representative Lou Schmitt
79th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross