2015-10-24 / Viewpoints

State Budget Impasse

Dear editor:

Re: “State budget stalemate impact felt” (Endeavor News, Oct. 10):

I want to point out that Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal included a 40 percent increase in the sales tax and a 21 percent increase in the state income tax.

Hearing the public’s message, the legislature sent the governor a balanced budget with no tax increases. The legislative budget relied on reforms to our state liquor system and outdated pension system to fund a nearly $400 million increase for education spending.

Instead of considering these reforms, the governor vetoed the entire budget, including items that were funded at or above his requested levels (something no governor has done in 40 years).

This action stopped all state money from flowing to schools, human service providers, and many other state service providers, as you have reported.

Republicans in the House and Senate tried on two separate occasions to get emergency funding to critical state government services.

On the first occasion, Democrats voted unanimously against restoring funding to all line items that were funded at or higher than the governor’s request. On the second, the governor vetoed a stopgap solution which would have restored temporary funding. As a result, we have children sitting in classrooms without textbooks, domestic violence centers on the verge of closing their doors, and public schools borrowing money to stay open.

Gov. Wolf’s latest proposal would raise taxes by $2.3 billion, with 95 percent of the burden falling on working families. It raises the personal income tax rate by 16 percent and adds an additional tax to the natural gas industry, which will result in job losses in an industry that is struggling due to falling global energy prices.

We need to explore other options, such as reforming state pension benefits for new hires (while keeping current employee/retiree plans intact) so that our school districts are not paralyzed by exponentially growing pension obligations.

There are reform proposals with broad public support that have been introduced in the legislature dealing with liquor privatization and gambling. These would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue to fund education and other services in lieu of tax increases.

We must embrace reform first. Once we can all agree on that, a serious budget can move forward.

Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.

Springfield

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