Wheatley: Latest House GOP budget defies logic, fiscal responsibility

HARRISBURG, Sept. 13 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, today said a House Republican revenue plan advanced late Wednesday doubles down on the fiscal gimmickry that has created a $2.2 billion hole in Pennsylvania’s 76-day-late budget.

“I can only deduce that House Republicans have no qualms about kicking fiscal responsibility way down the road,” said Wheatley, Democratic chairman of the House Finance Committee. “Everything we know that put Pennsylvania is such a deep fiscal hole – excessive borrowing, raiding funds from important programs and risky revenue gambits – is front and center in the late and latest House Republican plan.”

Wheatley said the House plan, approved along party lines at 9:42 p.m., includes:

  • $631 million in cuts to special funds, such as the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation and Substance Abuse Education and Demand Reduction funds;

  • A risky and expensive scheme to securitize $1 billion in Tobacco Settlement Fund revenues, requiring an unprecedented sale by the Commonwealth Financing Authority of future state assets;

  • Millions of dollars of transfers from the Liquor Control Board and Joint Underwriting Association, ;

  • Money from court settlements that mostly already is accounted for; and

  • Cuts to previous years’ budgets.

“I know it, the governor knows it, the credit rating agencies know it – we need recurring revenues,” Wheatley said. “Instead, Pennsylvania is treated to yet another serving of tripe and trickery that threatens mass transit, the environment, addiction treatment and programs providing nursing home care, community-based services and health care coverage for disabled workers.”

Wheatley said the latest iteration from the House GOP, which now returns to the Senate, only exacerbates Pennsylvania’s precarious finances and would leave the commonwealth with at least a $700 million deficit next year.

“The state expects to run out of money Friday, and credit-rating agencies could downgrade Pennsylvania’s miserable and expensive bond rating, which already costs commonwealth taxpayers an additional $142 million in borrowing costs annually, as soon as next week,” Wheatley said. “Instead of responding promptly and responsibly, the GOP plan accelerates Pennsylvania’s race to the bottom.

“The governor said the plan fails the basic test of solving the fiscal problems faced by Pennsylvania,” Wheatley said. “So, we’ve wasted precious time, and taxpayer dollars, dithering with this unworkable and damaging fiscal plan.”