Pennsylvania budget may be done, but challenges remain

The 2017-18 state budget is finally completed, but Pennsylvania's ongoing fiscal challenges remain.


Obstruction all summer -- primarily by the House Republican caucus -- forced Gov. Tom Wolf to begin the month of October taking steps on his own to pay the state's bills and protect taxpayers from backdoor tax increases due to another credit downgrade. There have already been six downgrades for Pennsylvania under Republican majorities in the legislature.


The month of October ends with the legislature forced to send Gov. Wolf a budget balanced with significant amounts of borrowing and one-time revenue sources that won’t be there in future years.


Responsible and predictable revenues would have allowed us to balance this and future-year budgets and begin to move forward on fixing our long-term fiscal challenges and lowering the increased costs to taxpayers that recent Republican budgeting strategies have created.


House Democrats realize that the state needs a completed, balanced budget so our schools can stay open, you and your family continue to receive the protection, support and services you need, and our economy doesn't fall further behind.


But this is not the budget we would have crafted. Our budget would have been based on sustainable, long-term revenues -- money that is available year after year so that our schools, communities and businesses aren't left constantly scrambling.


A responsible budget is built on smart policies such as a fair extraction tax. Our residents are paying the extraction tax that every other state already has, but the drillers profiting from our natural resources still aren't paying a tax here in Pennsylvania. Even with a "completed" budget, we still are the only state without an extraction tax. House Democrats will continue to fight this fall to have the drillers pay their fair share so we can reduce the burden on your pocketbook. 


A responsible budget is built on policies that lead to better wages for working people. Those better wages translate into more spending in our businesses, a growing economy with more jobs, and more revenues for our state and communities.


A responsible budget is built on a fair tax system -- one where everyone pays their share and the rules aren't rigged for big corporations and the wealthy; one where a small group of the well-connected doesn’t get to shirk their responsibilities while your taxes go up. 


And a responsible budget is the product of a responsible government, one that takes seriously its duty to preserve the opportunity, dignity and security of everyone equally.


House Democrats have been fighting for better budgets based on these kinds of smart and achievable policies for years, policies that have been ignored or maligned by the majorities that control the General Assembly. 


This year's budget proves once again that the current approach is not working. House Democrats are happy that the budget is completed and balanced for this year -- and we worked with the Republican majority to make sure the state can function -- but that is the minimum the people of Pennsylvania have a right to expect.


Instead of quality schools, fairer taxes, more jobs and a focus on putting people first, once again we got more gambling, stagnant wages, and higher property and other local taxes.


House Democrats are convinced that Pennsylvania can do much better. We have a PlanforPA -- a plan that can move us forward. But we need those holding us back to either get out of the way, or agree to be part of the solution instead of the problem.