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We hope for prudence in state budget

Due to federal largesse, the state finds itself with billions of dollars more than anyone would have anticipated earlier in Gov. Tom Wolf’s second term, as the Associated Press and Sun-Gazette reported in Tuesday’s edition.

“It is a particularly unusual spot for a state that has been largely mired in deficits since the Great Recession,” according to AP writer Marc Levy’s article.

It is with that hard reality in mind that we share our hope that Wolf’s administration will listen to Republicans, particularly state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, who wants the state to exercise prudence and keep at least $5 billion in reserve.

The state’s recent history of budgetary problems aptly demonstrates the wisdom of this approach — and the foolishness in creating new programs that cannot be sustained in the long term.

We recognize that much of the federal money comes with strings attached and that the most noteworthy of those strings are a deadline to spend the money and severe restrictions on using the funds to reduce tax rates. And we are aware Wolf wishes to spend heavily on stimulus checks and college scholarships, among other proposals.

Still, we hope for the sake of long-term fiscal sanity that the state is able to jump through enough hoops and squeak through enough loopholes to shore up the state’s reserve accounts so that future deficits are not the obstacle our leaders have allowed them to become. We hope — as we’ve editorialized before — that our state is able to reduce its corporate tax rate so that Pennsylvania is more attractive to the employers we are losing to Ohio, West Virginia and other states.

And we hope to the extent that this money must be spent now, it can be spent on infrastructure — levees, water and sewer systems, roads, bridges, tunnels. The need to rehabilitate these facilities will not go away and correcting them now can prevent the need to spend as much on them when our budgets become leaner and more deficit-prone again.

Because leaner, more deficit-prone times will come again, even if the federal government’s stipulations and the governor’s wish-list are written as though we can all pretend they won’t.

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