Jul 6, 2011

The $16 Billion Dollar Dump

Seemingly unnoticed in the new budget, is the incredibly giant leap in state spending on Public Welfare from $8.8B to $11.2B. This budget has obligated Pennsylvania taxpayers to permanently sustain a standard of living for welfare recipients that had been made 'temporarily' possible by one-time Federal stimulus dollars, and no one is batting an eye. It's a $2.4B increase in state spending, overnight. Just like that.

Last year, and the year before last, Pennsylvania received $2B per year in Federal stimulus grants for welfare, and $1.5B each year for K-12 Education. This year, with the Federal Government tightening its belt, Pennsylvania was not issued those previously enjoyed stimulus funds.

Governor Corbett's proposed budget created quite a stir when he allowed state spending on Education to return to pre-stimulus levels--even though he had executed exactly what was necessary and he encouraged school districts to do the same: operate within available means. Unfortunately, however, Governor Corbett did not apply the same principle he'd preached to the Education community when he laid out his proposal for spending on Public Welfare.

Last year, $25.2B was spent on Public Welfare in Pennsylvania, but most of that amount was funded by the Feds who gave roughly $16.4B. Pennsylvania taxpayers were obligated for the other $8.8 Billion. This year, however, rather than $16.4B from the Feds, Pennsylvania received only $14.4B because the Feds did not include the $2 Billion in stimulus funds as they had the previous two years. The lack of stimulus funds would have reduced spending on Public Welfare in Pennsylvania from $25.2B to $23.2B--that is if Governor Corbett had allowed spending to return to pre-stimulus levels as he did with Education, but he didn't. Instead, Governor Corbett made up for the lack of Federal stimulus dollars by allowing the PA taxpayer obligation to leap from $8.8B to $11.2B. That's a $2.4B spike. It's $2.4B added to the General Fund Budget. Without it, the General Fund budget would have come in at $24.7B rather than the $27.1 that passed on June 30.

To put the gravity of this $2.4B increase in perspective, it took former Governor Ed Rendell eight years to boost the taxpayer burden for Public Welfare by $2.4B. When Rendell took office, the taxpayer obligation to Public Welfare was $6.4 Billion. Eight years later, when he left, the taxpayer’s obligation had risen to $8.8 Billion. Governor Corbett and this Legislature have accomplished an increase of the same amount in less than one half of one year, of Corbett's first term. It's simply amazing.

Rather than return spending to the level that existed before the federal government’s one-time enticement, as he did with Education, when confronted with the choice, the Governor proposed to obligate the taxpayers to a gargantuan increase, for years and administrations to come--and the legislature voted to allow it.

With this budget now passed, as presented by the Governor, the taxpayers of the Commonwealth are now obligated to $2.4B in additional spending this year, next year, the year after and the year after that. Spread over Governor Corbett's four-year term, that's increased spending that adds up to more than $8B--and if Corbett secures a second term, the increase adds up to $16B assuming there is no increase. That’ll be $16 Billion not available for meeting known state debt. It's $16B Governor Corbett might have allowed us to keep in our pocket or put back into our businesses. It's $16B literally dumped on Pennsylvania taxpayers. Astounding.

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