Fiscal Fright in Harrisburg

How our state budget turned scary!

The theme this month is Halloween and I was asked to pen something scary.  Hmmm – does anything happen in state government that is not scary?!

Let me share something that is happening right now.  Something that is quite scary indeed.

It was scary when the PA House finally convened the week of September 11th to review the Senate’s July 27th revenue plan; that was scary because we had waited six weeks to convene and the majority party had been busy putting together their own revenue plan because they did not like what the Senate had authored.

It was particularly scary because as of September 15th, the state would be out of funds and the Governor would need to decide which bills did not get paid timely.  It was scary because the rating agencies were threatening a downgrade which means it would cost the state more to borrow money.

It was scary because there was denial of the most significant cold, hard fact that the state has a structural deficit of more than $1 billion.  The scariest of all was the revenue plan passed by the House that redirected many specially designated funds for transit, the environment, emergency services etc. to be used for the budget for 2017-2018; over $600 million of funds that, in fact, are performing and are not ‘coins in the cushions’ money.

A self-designated group of rank and file members from the majority party ‘found’ these ‘coins in the cushions’.  This group did not have sufficient access to information or information on the detailed workings of each fund and a thorough review would take more than the few short weeks that were used for this effort.

This is not the method that should be used to conduct such an analysis.

It would not be inappropriate to conduct a comprehensive review of the myriad of special funds (all statutorily established) to determine their value and purpose.

The spending plan also includes a projection to raise over $200 million via an expansion of gaming; yet no consensus exists on the details of that expansion.

The House revenue plan, in summary, is a commitment to pay our bills with money that is less than real and available.  The result is…truly scary.

As of this writing, the Senate will need to respond to what the House passed and either amend the legislation or send over new or different legislation — or the scariest outcome of all — we will have a budget impasse.   It is my sincere hope that by the time you read this article the issue of the state budget will have been resolved reasonably and realistically and not still be haunting us into month four of the current fiscal year.

Want to Comment or Know More About the Budget Situation?

Visit Pam’s office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or call (215) 482-8726

Representative Pamela A. DeLissio serves the 194th Legislative District, which includes East Falls.

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