Lessons learned from latest state budget impasse

At a recent Sun-Gazette editorial board interview, state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region, had some valuable reflections on the latest Pennsylvania budget logjam and some lessons learned.

Hopefully, those lessons learned will help prevent future embarrassing and unproductive state budget impasses.

Everett said a lesson for the future is to never pass the state budget spending bill – which the House did last summer – unless the revenues for the budget are set.

Approval of that side of the budget created a level of spending that became the priority for the new budget that had to be satisfied instead of an honest debate about spending issues.

House members truly interested in trimmings state government’s annual expenditures also found out that there are accounts in some departments that have surplus funds in them.

Those surplus funds could have been used to bridge much of the gap between proposed spending and revenues that led to yet another protracted state budget negotiation.

The discovery came late in the budget game, so there was not the time for a full airing of the fiscal condition of those accounts.

Now that the budget cloud has been lifted, Everett said there will be House Appropriation Committee hearings to examine those funds.

“We’d like to scrub those funds, one by one,” he said.

We believe it was a major failing of the just completed budget negotiation that those funds were not completely examined. Timing may have been a valid excuse in the fall.

But that’s not an excuse anymore.

There may be legitimate reasons for those unused, surplus funds.

If so, let’s hear it.

Otherwise, that money is the taxpayers’ money and should be used as revenue toward the next state budget.