Wolf making big budget promises; Devil in the details

Gov. Tom Wolf says he will balance the state budget this year without a major tax increase. He is not saying much else.

Meanwhile, analysts are projecting a $2 billion-plus hole in the state’s finances based on present and future expenses.

So we appreciate Wolf’s hopeful scenario but wonder just how it is going to play out, given the current budget math.

Wolf says he is not going to resort to “smoke and mirrors” that he says the Republican-controlled Legislature has preferred to tax increases.

But the money has to come from somewhere and we doubt the budget is going to be balanced by a 10-percent decrease in state spending, given trends of recent years. In fact, a spending cut of that degree probably would endanger funding to social services programs that depend heavily on state funding.

And we know the governor would never reduce public education funding, perhaps his top priority since being in office.

We hope his promises don’t mean cuts in funding to county governments, which are taking on a greater burden with each passing year as local governments strain to meet necessary needs and social services count on any penny they can get from county entities.

We hope his promises don’t mean a push for added taxes on the Marcellus Shale industry, which has been slumping in recent years. This would be a particularly ill-timed strategy, as there are hints that the industry may be poised for a recovery in parts of our state.

A thriving, environmentally sound Marcellus Shale industry creates revenue for all corners of the state and increases employment in gas drilling-related companies.

We like the overall budget promise from the governor but are apprehensive about how he is going to keep it.

Until the budget proposal is released Feb. 7, we will try to be hopeful.