State budget angst magically invisible in an election year
It would be hilarious – if it did not involve millions of dollars, most of it your tax dollars.
We speak of the state’s 2018-19 budget.
Local lawmakers say they expect a smoother process to approving the budget. And – are you sitting down? – it may be approved by the June 30 deadline.
All previous budgets since Gov. Tom Wolf took office have been subject to acrimonious discussions on multiple issues. And they have always been late, with approval sometimes lagging until Christmas.
But this year, there are no out-of-the-blue proposals costing millions of dollars, jacking up an already too-expensive $33 million spending plan.
There is no push for a natural gas drilling severance tax, following years of insistence that the industry is getting a free ride, even though it already is paying an impact fee and generates millions in business and employment taxes and receives no funding from the state.
There is no push for increase in any other state taxes.
There is no hand-wringing over public education funding, the largest part of the state budget and usual a key reason for budget delays.
That pension underfunding that could someday melt the state’s coffers? Apparently it’s not a problem in June of 2018.
So what’s different this year?
It’s called an election year.
And it’s an election year that includes the governor.
“You aren’t going to see any tax increase in an election year,” said Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region. “That the way things are in elective politics.”
Local lawmakers say the state’s economy is doing relatively well and revenues are coming in as projected, which helps get the Senate, House and governor’s office on the same budget page. But that has stopped the budget from being a political tug-of-war in most previous years.
We hope voters in November remember the national embarrassment that previous budgets have produced, the increases in spending and their growing state tax burden.
We also hope they remember this sea of tranquility the next time a costly proposal is pushed with the insistence that it is a life-and-death proposition.
Funny how the budget urgency fades during an election year.