Time is up.
Today, social service providers missed their first payments from the state and soon they will run out of money. That means cuts to services, employee layoffs and borrowing money to keep up their mission to help those in need.
Soon, a lack of state funding will hit our schools – just in time for classes to begin. This, after four years of bad budgets that led to reduction in teacher staffs throughout the state, overflowing classrooms and skyrocketing property taxes for homeowners.
We need a state budget that is sensible, solves the structural deficit and finally lives up to our constitutional obligation to provide a quality education.
The Republican leaders claim they passed a “no tax hike budget” this year and for four years prior – but when your property taxes and local taxes go up because they passed the buck, how is that “no tax increase?”
The budget that was passed along party lines this year and vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf is more of the same: one-time revenue and accounting gimmicks to fund financial obligations that recur year after year. That doesn’t solve the problem, it makes it worse. It’s like using one credit card to pay off the other: The debt still exists.
If the governor hadn’t vetoed that budget, we’d be back where we started. Badly underfunded schools, no extraction tax on drillers – we’re the only state in America without an extraction tax – and no property tax relief.
To make matters worse, House Republicans refuse to even negotiate without two pet projects: handing over our liquor stores to private industry and denying pension benefits to the men and women who fight our fires, patrol our streets and teach our children.
The state store system is delivering hundreds of millions of dollars into our treasury every year; we shouldn’t sell a taxpayer-owned asset for a one-time windfall. Ending traditional pensions doesn’t save us one dime for this budget, and – since you have to create a whole second pension system to oversee the new system – might not pay off in full until 2045.
Pennsylvanians might have elected a divided government, but they do not want gridlock. Compromise is a good thing. We have serious issues to address in our state, and the governor laid forth an ambitious plan focused on property tax relief and education funding.
We need to get our leaders back to Harrisburg and settle things the old-fashioned way: lock them in the negotiating room and start with issue one, working their way through, until compromise rules the day and we have a budget that can be brought to rank-and-file members for a vote.
My colleagues and I want to be in Harrisburg. We have one thing in common: We want the best for the people we serve, and that means a budget that works for all Pennsylvanians, not just special interest groups. Let’s work together as our constituents expect and adopt a spending plan that will, after four years, be beneficial to this commonwealth.