Revenue windfall sets up no-excuses budget for state
Feeding off a robust national economy, Pennsylvania state government ended the last fiscal year with total revenue collections $883 million above the official estimate.
That sets a positive stage for the next state budget, which Gov. Tom Wolf will be proposing soon.
The robust economy also sets up a no-excuses scenario.
With the state’s coffers as flush as they have been in a decade, we don’t want to hear anything about tax increases in Gov. Wolf’s budget message.
The governor will make his budget address at 11 a.m. Feb. 4. That will be followed by House and Senate hearings from Feb. 18 through March 5.
The deadline to pass a state budget is June 30, though the governor has missed that deadline in the past, as have other governors prior to Wolf.
Let’s hope that’s not the case this year. We don’t want to see a protracted budget negotiation between the governor and Legislature that lags past June 30. Pennsylvania citizens and taxpayers do not deserve such hijinks when there is enough money to produce a solid budget without debatable fiscal maneuvers.
Furthermore, we don’t want to see major budget-related problems unaddressed.
This budget year presents an opportunity to address the state’s underfunded pensions. It presents an opportunity to fund programs and initiatives to attack the state’s opioid problem, which impacts the courts, social services and police network throughout the state.
Pennsylvania does not often get the chance to address fiscal and social service issues without hammering its taxpayers in the process. This year offers that chance.
This is not the year for some nebulous, costly, new program with questionable long-term value. This is a year to solve some problems.
This year also presents an opportunity to further bolster the state’s Rainy Day Fund, a security blanket that has dwindled over the years.
That is a dangerous situation for the state to be in as it represents a level of protection for the state against the inevitable economic downturn that always seems to come around every so often.
We implore our state officials — the governor and every member of the Legislature — to go into this next budget season with open minds and a determination to work together in a bipartisan manner for the good of all Pennsylvanians.
We hope they will work toward the type of compromise that will be needed to pass a budget in a timely manner while keeping expenses and the size of government in check.