State budget plan can be improved in coming months

While Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal emphasis on a battery of job training initiatives hat would improve Pennsylvania’s labor force capabilities is correct, the proposed budget is not without flaws.

For starters, the $34.1 billion plan represents $1.9 billion in new spending, or a 6 percent increase.

That’s simply too much.

Wolf is proposing no new taxes, though he does have a parallel plan that calls for a gas severance tax to finance borrowing for a wide range of projects, ranging from economic development to environmental cleanups.

He is counting on tax collections to rise by 3 percent based on a relatively strong economy, hundreds of millions of dollar in surplus money already appropriated and a fee from municipalities that rely only on state troopers to provide police coverage.

We agree with the police coverage fee, but it has been rejected in the past.

Reliance on that much of a tax collection windfall is dangerous.

What if it does not materialize?

And the fact that there is that much surplus money laying around suggests the budget already was too loose.

While some Democrats already are grumbling that there is not a sharp enough increase in money for public schools, most of Wolf’s extra spending is already pointed in that direction in a variety of ways and the state is in the nation’s top 10 in per-pupil spending.

We do support the $45 million allocated for school safety as long as the money is for initiatives that directly impact school safety.

And we have no quarrel with the money being spent to assure that voting machine modernization statewide is done in time for the 2020 elections.

Anything protecting the sanctity and fairness of our voting process is the correct approach.

In summary, this is a more palatable plan than the previous proposals which have tied up state government unnecessarily for months.

But the overall price tag is far too high.

The Legislature and administration should work in coming months at trimming that figure while maintaining the overall emphasis on job training initiatives.

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