State budget checks many needed boxes, but too large

Pennsylvania has an on-time state budget that does not raise taxes and puts aside $300 million in its Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies.

The budget includes funding increases for a wide variety of educational initiatives, from pre-K programs to workforce investments. The workforce investments are heavily centered on the job training and technical education aspects, with $4 million going to both the Pennsylvania College of Technology and the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.

The workforce and technical education infusions are particularly important if Pennsylvania wants to retain its young people. Right now, employers are straining to find qualified workers in technical fields.

The plan also comes without a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas on top of the impact fee the industry already pays for infrastructure and development projects in local municipalities impacted by the drilling.

Alleluia to all that.

Unfortunately, the $34 billion plan represents a 6-percent increase in spending. Lawmakers barely made a dent in Gov. Tom Wolf’s originally proposed $34.1 billion plan.

That’s, plain and simple, too much spending. Consider what the state budget would amount to a decade from now if each year the spending were increased by 6 percent, more than double the rate of inflation.

We understand that increased tax collections, the product of a robust economy, made the spending possible without a tax increase.

But that won’t always be the case and a $300 million Rainy Day investment is not going to cover that downturn.

There is lots of good in the new budget but a bunch of stuff remains in the fat ledger and needs to be cut out eventually.

That is perhaps the inevitable product of divided state government. But there is a day of reckoning coming on the size of the state budget.