Sturla calls for bipartisan solution to end budget impasse, start 2016/17 strong

HARRISBURG, Feb. 9 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, released the following response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address for the 2016/17 fiscal year:

“Today, Governor Wolf had a very frank discussion directly with the citizens of Pennsylvania about the ongoing budget impasse and the impending crisis if appropriate action is not taken to deal with the state’s fiscal woes.

“Even at this juncture, with rating agencies threatening more downgrades and the Independent Fiscal Office predicting a $2 billion structural deficit in next year’s budget without increases to any line items beyond mandated expenditures, there are still some in the legislature who would further run Pennsylvania into the ground and cause the kind of devastating consequences that the state experienced in 2010.

“Those impending devastating consequences include local school property tax hikes, again; 20,000 more teacher layoffs, beyond the bare-bones staffing complements that resulted from 2010 layoffs; increased class sizes; and lower student test scores. Programs that provide health care and prescriptions for seniors would also take devastating hits; social services for the disabled would see cuts, waiting lists would get longer and government services would slow to a crawl. Local municipal, county and school governments would be left to raise taxes and pick up the pieces. That is not responsible state governance; that is passing the buck and running from the realities of the state’s fiscal crisis.  

“Additionally, the state’s infrastructure would be negatively impacted as further taps to the Motor License Fund would be required to balance the budget. Unemployment would rise, in part due to teacher layoffs, but also due to the inability of the state to purchase new services from the private sector or even pay for what was already provided -- All this in the name of ‘no new taxes’ at the state level, including an unwillingness to impose a Marcellus Shale tax. Meanwhile, local taxes would skyrocket again.

“While other states raised revenues to compensate for the 2008 economic downturn and have since lowered their taxes, Pennsylvania – which tried struggling through the nationwide recession with borrowing and one-time accounting gimmicks -- was slower to recover. The bills from those irresponsible actions are now due. For some, this reality is not something they have ever experienced in elected office; but, it is nonetheless, a reality. The spending plan that was sent to the governor in December was $500 million out of balance. It continued to use accounting gimmicks, and delay payments to vendors and local governments. Recent college graduates can’t tell their loan servicers, ‘I’ll only be giving you 10 out of 12 loan payments this year.’ Homeowners can’t tell the bank, ‘I will only be paying 10 months of the mortgage so I can cover my health insurance bill.’ Again, these tactics are why we are facing a $2 billion structural deficit in the coming year.

"The governor clearly described this crisis to the citizens of Pennsylvania and laid out his search for a solution to prevent that devastation from the continued inaction on the part of some elected representatives. I’m proud to stand with Governor Wolf and my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, who seek to put an end to deficit spending and come up with sustainable revenue sources that will grow a strong economy so we can improve our credit outlook and create a better Pennsylvania moving forward. We have a responsibility to draft a balanced spending plan that also pays the bills that are due. It’s important that we stop playing games with our state’s economy and rebuild a sound fiscal foundation that puts Pennsylvania in the position to fund our schools, provide property tax relief to homeowners and help our neediest citizens.”