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State lawmakers have work cut out with next budget

Perhaps the most desired element of life of the past year has been a return to normalcy. We’ve heard it from just about everyone by now.

So we look to our state leaders to guide us through to the other side. The year ahead will be critical — we must rebuild our economy.

As the new legislative session began this past week, the upcoming state budget was on the minds of our area’s state lawmakers. After a year of trying to survive a global pandemic, reckoning day is at hand.

“I think it will be a tougher budget year than the previous budget,” observed state Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township. “Revenues for 2020 were based on pre-pandemic revenues.”

That is something that any government official, from Harrisburg to every community in our region, should have been anticipating — it’s common sense.

We cannot help but wonder how closely state government spending was monitored during the past 10 months while businesses were being ordered closed because of the pandemic. We know that revenues have been down, but what about expenses?

It is vital that our lawmakers protect the taxpaying public. Newly seated state Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, has already signed onto the Taxpayer Protection Act directed at limited spending based on population growth and inflation. This sounds like legislation that is overdue.

Likewise, state Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, has his sights trained on getting the economy back on its feet and getting people back to work. That may be a monumental task, given the damage done during 2020 and mandates coming from the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf.

It will require a full-team approach in which lawmakers — those who represent our home communities in Harrisburg — have a voice in the direction the state takes.

Wolf needs to include them in the conversation, not just govern by executive order.

The economy and state budget aside, there are many other issues begging for attention in Harrisburg, and it’s bound to be a difficult year.

Getting back to work and school remains a top priority for many, yet local hands are tied while we wait for mass vaccination. All we can do is invest our trust in our local lawmakers to fight for us. It’s time for local people to be able to make decisions for ourselves. It’s time for our schools and businesses to be able to reopen at levels that will allow them to not just survive but provide jobs.

How else are we to be able to pay taxes?

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