(7/2017) With the June 30 state budget deadline looming, it is increasingly evident that the time for gimmicks and one-time fixes is over. There simply are no more shortcuts to be had. I voted against last year’s $31.6 billion state budget because it did not set us on a path to recovery, but instead brought us where we are today — facing a $2 billion budget shortfall. In
fact, we currently spend $1 billion a year more than we collect in state revenue. This disparity simply cannot continue!
The propensity of our government leaders to avoid difficult decisions has brought us to where we are today. At home, Pennsylvania citizens know they can only spend what they bring in. Government should work on the same principle — you cannot spend what you do not have. Pennsylvania taxpayers should also expect government to limit spending to the revenue coming in and I
believe they do. Yet government grows ever larger when government leaders lack the courage to do the right thing.
I did not agree with the level of spending I saw in the 2016-17 state budget and I voted against it. It demanded too much of Pennsylvania taxpayers and spent too much money unnecessarily. It allocated funding to agencies and programs that I believe should not be funded or are being over-funded. Those expenditures made this year’s budget situation that much worse.
When you are $2 billion dollars in debt, your choices are limited. You can raise taxes, which there are not enough votes to do, or cut spending. Current budget negotiations appear to be relying on a third option — to increase revenue from gambling expansion and borrow money from the tobacco settlement fund. These are creative one-time fixes, not unlike those we have seen
over the past several years. Borrowing from the tobacco settlement fund would take money from future generations to cover the mistakes of the past. It would hurt our children and grandchildren and, if it is part of the final budget, I will not support it.
Our fiscal circumstances call for bold and decisive action. I believe we need to cut non-essential spending, pay the bills that are mandatory and impose across-the-board cuts in state government.
As for non-essential spending, a couple of glaring examples come to mind. Pennsylvania taxpayers should not be funding state related universities to the tune of $600 million annually. Neither should they be funding the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) nor the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).
These commissions are not state government agencies, but are operating on the taxpayer’s dime. To make matters worse, those employed by the SRBC and DRBC are not state employees, yet they are on the state pension system! Serious concerns have been raised about the SRBC and the sizable fines and fees it charges our municipalities for federally mandated storm water programs.
I brought these concerns to the House State Government Committee, which is now conducting public hearings on the matter. You can watch those hearings at www.RepMoul.com.
There is some good news with regard to the state pension system. Legislation was recently signed into law that aims to slow the growth of pension liabilities, shift risk away from taxpayers and ensure the Commonwealth can meet its future pension obligations. While this is a move in the right direction, past delays in addressing the unfunded liability ensures that pensions
will remain a sizable expenditure for the foreseeable future.
It remains to be seen what the final budget will look like, but time is running short. I am hopeful that commonsense will prevail and that our leaders and the governor will arrive at a plan that is fair to taxpayers and is therefore deserving of my vote.
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