Mar 24, 2010

Spend, Spend, Spend: PA Budget Passed in the House

Written by Roberta Biros

Governor Rendell is in a hurry to pass a budget before the June 30th deadline (for the first time in his career as Governor I might add). That is a GOOD THING.

Unfortunately, the piece of garbage that passed the House today is a mess. I don’t usually allow legislators to put words in my mouth, but in this case I’ll make an exception. I’d like to quote Representative Michele Brooks (R-17th District), whose official email announcement stated that “this spending plan is a fiscal train wreck”.

Wow! I wish I had written it myself! In a way, I guess I just did. It was absolute plagiarism . . . plain and simple but I digress. Regardless of WHO said it first . . .

Calling the budget a "fiscal train wreck" is some strikingly straight talk from a Harrisburg insider. In response, I say “It’s about time”.

I received numerous email messages from Pennsylvania legislators today. Each one explained that the idea of passing a budget quickly (and well before the deadline) is a great idea. Every legislator hopes to have a budget passed before the end of June this year . . . especially those legislators that have opponents in the General Election. However, the obvious fiscal irresponsibility of House Bill 2279 is poor policy. We can all tiptoe around the fiscal quagmire that IS the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but all of the icing in the world can’t sweeten this poison pill that they call a State budget.

Here are a few excerpts from the legislator email messages that were received in my “In Box”:

Representative Dick Stevenson (R-8th)

“At a time when state revenues have not yet rebounded, Pennsylvania needs to look to other states and follow their lead to reduce spending, not increase the state budget by $1.2 billion or 4 percent,” said Stevenson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Neighboring states like Maryland, New Jersey and New York have all taken steps to decrease expenses. They face the same financial obstacles we do, but they realize their taxpayers cannot afford a penny more in increased taxes and fees.”

Representative Brad Roae (R-6th)

“I voted ‘no’ because there is too much spending in the budget bill. Spending has increased by more than $8 billion since Governor Ed Rendell took office. We cannot afford to spend more than a billion dollars more than last year’s budget.

Representative Karen Boback (R-117th)

“I am greatly concerned about the overall spending number of this budget. The 2009-10 budget used all of Pennsylvania’s reserve accounts, and we are facing another deficit at the end of the year. To increase spending by $1.2 billion, which is 4 percent growth, is not wise. We should continue to look for ways to allocate our resources prudently, and we should remain cognizant that federal stimulus funds we have received for the past two years will soon run out. This is just not the time to increase state spending. “

Representative Sam Rohrer (R-128th)

“The current administration has led Pennsylvania down the path to fiscal insolvency,” Rohrer said. “The budget approved today by the House is simply a continuation of the fiscally irresponsible practices of the last eight years. It spends too much, disregards financial reality and ignores the wishes of Pennsylvanians.”

Representative William Adolf (R-165th)

“While I am pleased to see us debating the budget this early in the process, I believe the spending plan that was passed today is taking us in the wrong direction,” Adolph said. “This budget spends far more than we can afford, and it sets us up for some major financial problems in the near future.”

Representative Michele Brooks (R-17th)

“I agree that government should be listening to the people it serves and address the numerous calls to live within its means. This spending plan is a fiscal train wreck that does not reflect the priorities of the people who are paying the bills and who have told us government must operate more efficiently and effectively.

In Closing . . .

HERE is a link to the budget document, and HERE is a link to the House Vote (which ended at 107 to 89 . . . pretty much along party lines).

My father used a saying when I was a kid. I never had a purpose for it until today. He would say “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear”. I find that analogy to be perfect in this situation. House Bill 2279 is a sows ear. It will be the job of the State Senate to transform it into a silk purse before June 30th.

Unfortunately, my faith in the ability of the Senate to bend and twist this sows ear into something attractive is limited. Our State Senators are concerned about having their names tethered to another delayed budget. That concern will make them hold their nose and vote FOR this “train wreck” with hopes of not drawing attention to themselves. They are crossing their fingers, closing their eyes, and praying for this election year to blow over without incident.

Time will soon tell.

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