Pennsylvania in free-fall: What another GOP gimmick budget would look like

This week, a group of House Republicans met in Harrisburg in private to try to sell their colleagues on a plan that provides no stable, dependable revenues for the $32 billion budget their leaders and many of them voted for in June, but calls for raiding and transferring money from other state accounts.

 

As with other gimmick budgets offered by Republicans in the past, the numbers don't add up -- they cannot close a $2.3 billion budget gap with spare change they claim they've found under the couch cushions.  

 

If this group of Republicans refuses to act responsibly when they get back to Harrisburg, the budget will have to be brought into balance by cutting spending that doesn't involve federal programs or other mandated services.

 

Those cuts won't be in areas Republicans like to call "waste, fraud and abuse." We're talking about schools, universities, health programs and public safety.

 

Here are just some of the discouraging examples of what across-the-board cuts to non-mandatory spending could look like:

 

  • State-related universities like Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln don't get funded. Expect higher tuition increases and support for Pennsylvania farmers through veterinary research and the state's Ag Extension program to disappear. 

  • Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to elementary and high school classrooms turn back the clock and return us to the Tom Corbett-Republican school funding levels of earlier this decade. That means a bigger burden for school property tax payers and more disparity in the quality of education children receive from one town to another.

  • Senior citizens and people with cognitive and physical disabilities see their support and services disappear, as do at-risk children and victims of domestic violence and abuse.

  • Pennsylvania loses its ability to attract new businesses and economic activity to our state because we can't support the training, education and infrastructure programs needed to prepare our work force and communities for the stable, family-sustaining jobs of the future.   

This bleak outlook represents a Pennsylvania not simply stalled or moving backward, but a Pennsylvania in free-fall.

 

Working in a bipartisan way, Pennsylvania has seen important progress recently in helping schools recover from Tom Corbett's $1 billion in school cuts, and making crucial commitments to fighting the heroin and opioid crisis and improving public health and safety. Democrats have been working hard, with cooperation from some Republicans, on returning the focus of state government to working people and the middle class.

 

Why would we sacrifice all of that to a discredited fiscal doctrine that never worked before and will simply cause much more damage in the future?

 

When the speaker calls lawmakers back to Harrisburg, the PA House of Representatives needs to pass a bipartisan revenue plan that closes the deficit with realistic, dependable dollars and keeps Pennsylvania moving forward.