I read in the Pocono Record on Feb 9,2016, “Questions grow in Pennsylvania’s confusing budget situation.” After reading it, I was no wiser as to the root cause of the budget crisis. Understanding the inscrutable budget impasse is likely not the fault of the /Record/ as sorting out budgetary root causes is a challenge. However, the budget is extremely important.
It is where the rubber meets the road. If it ain’t in the budget, it ain’t gonna happen.
As a businessman, I respect Governor Wolf for his commitment to trying to balance the budget. I don’t think any Pennsylvania Governor in the past that I recall has been willing to risk the wrath of the public to the extent he has in order to balance the budget. He inherited a mess.
Was that mess created in part due to the Republicans refusal to increase taxes? Balancing the budget trumps a tax increase, and Wolf , as a businessman , has no desire to increase taxes, but knows the importance of a balanced budget. We have to balance budgets in our own households and businesses. Why shouldn’t government have to do it?
Because of our State’s fiscal irresponsibility in prior administrations, the rating agencies have downgraded the State five time which means that taxpayers pay about $140 ,000,000 additional interest that we shouldn’t have to pay. Our state is one of the least creditworthy states.
Wolf is right. We need better school funding. However, can we cut the cost of educating a student without hurting them? In Monroe County, districts have very different costs of delivering education per student. Does the higher cost necessarily achieve a better student. Shouldn’t we be looking at those schools that have the best return on investment as best practices so we can better determine what our investment in education should be? Speaking of schools would it not be a great service to students if we taught them a bit more about this budgetary process?
The Senate and Governor Wolf had negotiated a compromise, but that was rejected by the Republican controlled House. The Republican party could not even agree. Failure to have a balanced budget likely means the taxpayers will pay more interest on Pennsylvania’s debt. Certainly this crisis is hard on those folks who are wondering whether the government will pay them, but they should be sure to assess where the problem lies.
Governor Wolf wants to restore the cuts made by the previous administration. For example, cuts under the Corbett administration resulted in e.g. the DEP doing a “woefully inadequate job of regulating the gas industry” according to Pa’s own Auditor General. In the face of the Flint water issue, and the massive Porter Ranch methane leak, we don’t want to want to follow the tragic path of inadequate regulation. The interesting twist here is now that the Arabs have showered us with oil, and Pennsylvania is down to a fraction of the operating wells that we had, is it possible that our well regulation has improved? Probably not, but we should know that when we are creating a budget.
Regarding the deficit, if we don’t get that under control , we will create an unstable tax, and business climate. I can speak to the business climate directly, as I owned a business in E Stroudsburg. That business is moving to Missouri, in no small part due to more attractive property taxes elsewhere. Wolf’s budget would result in higher taxes which none of us want. Pa is losing population in part due to the loss of jobsHow does this budget solve that problem.?
What I sense is that the two sides seem not to be listening to one another. Much posturing, but little listening. Negotiations require listening and concessions. I know Wolf gave up on the severance tax, a huge concession. What concessions have the Republicans made? I am sure they have made major concessions, I just don’t see it in our press.
The budget needs be balanced in a way that provides a good education for our children and that the interests of the people and businesses of Pennsylvania are served. Governor Wolf has shown unusual leadership in the effort to achieve a balanced budget.
Some thoughts:To Wolf - Thank you and continue to stand your ground. To the Executive branch and the Republican controlled legislature - engage in listening and good faith negotiations.
To the Pocono Record - please dig deeper. For example , if one of the parties is not engaging in good faith negotiations, they should be called out on that.
Perhaps it would help to have more opinion pieces on both sides. It is only when we understand that we can put pressure on the source of the impasse. This is a watershed moment to turn our budget around, and educated citizens can help that process. If you could get the best minds available to distill these issues , it would be a great service to your readers. Whatever your readers do, I hope they will support a balanced budget.
Mark Lichty is Former CEO of Bustin Industrial Products