The Senate passed a budget plan in May. House Republicans have made numerous attempts to bring a spending plan to the House floor so that negotiations on a final budget plan can begin, but House Democrats have refused to allow any budget debate to take place. Instead, they and Gov. Ed Rendell have spent a great deal of time distorting the facts about the Republican plan in an effort to scare Pennsylvanians into accepting a tax increase.
The governor and House Democrats claim the Republican plan would cut education funding and force local school districts to raise property taxes. A look at the bill reveals that they are simply not telling the truth. The Republican bill does not cut education funding. In fact, once federal stimulus dollars are taken into account, funding would increase for every school district in Pennsylvania under the Republican plan.
In reality, the governor is pushing this tax increase so he can direct an inordinate amount of funding to the Philadelphia School District at the expense of other school districts across Pennsylvania. Under the governor's plan, funding for the Philadelphia School District would increase by more than 41 percent -- a $438 million increase. No other school district in Pennsylvania would receive a funding increase anywhere close to that amount under the governor's plan.
Although the Republican "no tax" budget plan funds essential state services without imposing a tax increase, the governor and House Democrats argue that their 16 percent tax increase on Pennsylvania families is necessary to bring the budget into balance. They argue that their tax hike would affect only five out of 10 Pennsylvanians. What they do not say is that the only Pennsylvanians who would not feel the impact of this tax hike are babies, prisoners and the unemployed -- none of whom pay income taxes in Pennsylvania. The reality is that anyone -- regardless of income -- who is currently a taxpaying citizen of Pennsylvania will end up giving more of their money to Harrisburg under the Rendell plan.
It should also be noted that while Pennsylvania is certainly feeling the pinch of this economic recession, we are by no means the hardest hit state in the nation. Our unemployment rate in May was 8.2 percent, compared with 9.4 percent for the nation. Our Personal Income Tax collections dropped less in the first four months of this year than in 25 of the 37 states that levy a Personal Income Tax.
The governor and House Democrats, despite rhetoric to the contrary, still appear to be trying to impose one of the largest tax hikes in the country so that they can increase state spending by more than $1 billion over last year. To increase government spending during a time of diminishing resources is irresponsible and short-sighted.
Pennsylvania families are trying to weather this recession by making difficult decisions about their spending. They have every right to expect the same from their elected officials. Their struggle should not be made more difficult by a tax increase because no one in Harrisburg had the courage to make tough choices about spending.
As I have said before, it does not take an advanced degree in economics to understand that if your spending is outpacing your income, you need to spend less. It is well past time for House Democrats and the governor to recognize that simple fact and bring a reasonable, commonsense budget to the House floor.
For more information on the House GOP budget plan, please visit PAHouseGOP.com.
State Rep. Stan Saylor is a Republican representing the 94th District in York County. He writes a monthly column for the York Dispatch Opinion page.