Unfortunately, we are now past Labor Day and the commonwealth is still without a budget for the fiscal year, which began on July 1. Without a budget, state government cannot properly function and neither can our public schools or many local services that rely on funding from the state.
So, while I would prefer to focus on other important issues, the state budget continues to be the focus of legislative efforts in Harrisburg.
Nearly every day, I hear from my constituents who are frustrated that we have not passed a budget. I share in their frustration that this budget process did not begin sooner and that it has gone on this long. However, Pennsylvania did not get here by accident. This budget crisis was carefully designed by Gov. Ed Rendell in an effort to force support for his plan to raise taxes.
I remain committed to the principle that the budget we adopt cannot include tax increases and must contain concrete revenue numbers that will meet our spending priorities into next year. If the General Assembly is not held accountable on both the spending and revenue sides of the budget, Pennsylvania will be facing yet another deficit next year that will require drastic spending cuts or a major tax increase.
Neither of these options would benefit the commonwealth's job creators.
While significant attention has been devoted to a tentative budget agreement announced recently, I continue to support the budget offered by House Republican Leader Sam Smith, R-Jefferson.
This comprehensive budget proposal, which is currently before the budget conference committee, was developed by members from both sides of the aisle. It increases funding for education and fully funds state programs without increasing taxes. It sets reasonable, workable spending priorities, and it creates significant savings by eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in state agencies, like the Department of Public Welfare, which Democratic Auditor General Jack Wagner has said could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, this proposal contains firm economic projections to avoid a deficit next year, or the following year when federal stimulus funds expire.
The delay, scare tactics, and posturing have gone on far too long. Pennsylvanians have made it clear that they cannot afford to send more of their money to Harrisburg and they expect state government to live within its means. House Republicans have heard them, and we have offered a plan that fully funds state spending without increasing taxes.
It is long past time to resolve this budget crisis. Pennsylvanians cannot wait any longer.
For more information on the House Republican compromise budget plan, visit PAGOPPolicy.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.