PA Budget – The Real Winners

Much has happened over the course of the last 12 hours in regards to the PA Budget. The House Appropriations Committee held a public meeting today to vote on the proposed budget bills. The two proposed bills include the Senate’s original budget proposal (SB850) and the Governor’s proposed budget (HB1416). The Democratically controlled Appropriations Committee added an Amendment to HB1416 which most notably eliminates all funding for higher education. They propose to fund higher education using revenue generated from a few potential sources. The revenue would originate from gaming (video poker etc.), increase in taxes, or erradicating certain sales tax exemptions that are currently enjoyed. The most likely source would be in the form of tax increases, probably the PIT increase that Gov. Rendell has already proposed. HB1416 was voted out of Appropriations along a party line vote. SB850 was voted out of Appropriations with a “negative recommendation” and sent to the House floor. So with all of that activity you would expect optimism to be the emotion of the day but it wasn’t. There still was vocal opposition to the new amendment to the House bill. It is likely to not make it through the Republican controlled Senate in “as is” form or maybe not at all. SB850 may potentially get the votes in the House and would surely be passed in the Senate. At that point it would be up to Governor Rendell to make the final decision regarding the bill. Through it all, the losers largely outweigh the winners in this whole 2009 Budget Impasse.

Looking at those that stand to lose one must first realize the jeopardy the state workers are in. With either bill, major cuts are coming in programs and departments. Thus the current state workforce would be negatively impacted. Hopefully many of the layoffs can be averted through current unfilled positions but that truly isn’t known at this point. In addition, the longer the current impasse goes, the deeper impact on state workers and their families due to the payless payday scenario.

Pennsylvania residents in general also stand to be negatively impacted. This is due to the potential reduction in state sponsored services. Small community hospitals in the rural areas of Pennsylvania face the potential of closure. State parks may be negatively impacted. There have been rumors of state park closures as a result of the cuts proposed in either of the two bills. Pennsylvania citizens are also staring at the potential for a tax increase in some form. It may be through the proposed increase to PIT, sales tax increase, or even erradication of some current sales tax exemptions. This will harm the economy as it gives citizens less disposable income which could be used to stimulate the local economy.

So who could possible benefit from this year’s budget impasse? Who would be considered a winner in a world with so many losers? To find the answer to the preceding questions, one must not look any further than the people causing this debacle. The legislators are creating an environment that is a no win situation for themselves. As might be expected, there are a large number of “victims” in this year’s budget battle which will be able to get retribution. These “victims” will transform into voters during the next general elections. They will be able to vote against any wrongdoings they feel that they are currently experiencing. Having said that, it should now be clear that the winners will be candidates running against the incumbants, and also the eventual Republican nominee for Governor. Governor Rendell is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many in the state. The Legislature along with Governor Rendell have been unable to pass a timely budget for seven consecutive years. I’m sure this will be a major point in a reform campaign for “change”. Much like the platform that President Obama ran on during the presidential campaign. It is my belief that we will see, if nothing else, close elections especially for the House seats. Depending on the campaigns, we may even see upsets with the House of Representatives. I do not believe that the same turmoil has occurred in the Senate. It just appears that a majority of the animosity is with the House and the leaders within the House. Another aspect to look at is the scandal within the House of Representatives. There has been so much media publicity in reference to “Bonusgate” and also with the pay raises that were passed in the middle of the night. There has been a lot of public outcry over what is considered to be ethic violations. I do believe that we will see upsets in the general election in 2010. In areas where the Representatives have ran unopposed in previous years, I would not be surprised to see candidates that suddenly emerge and run on a reform platform. A reform platform would be a big favorite to those that are negatively effected by business as usual in Harrisburg.

In the days and weeks ahead, we will have a better idea of how badly this budget impasse has affected the people of Pennsylvania. If the budget impasse continues on for several weeks the potential for real reform in the 2010 election will increase dramatically. The time has come for change in the way politics are conducted in Pennsylvania. We need leaders that are willing to stand firm on the issues, while at the same time are willing to work with one another to get things done for the people of Pennsylvania. A good leader realizes when compromise is needed to accomplish a common goal, such as the state budget. Look for the real winners in this year’s budget impasse to emerge in the election of 2010!

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One Response

  1. Good summary!

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