Oped: State budget reflects new vision
This year’s budget encapsulates three years of effort from the House Republican Caucus. The budget doesn’t raise taxes or fees, puts money away in Pennsylvania’s savings account known as the Rainy Day Fund, keeps spending growth below the rate of inflation and invests more in education. While the governor is out taking credit for the work of the General Assembly, it is important to remember that this budget and the last three passed under his term in office have reflected the ideals of Republicans in the General Assembly. Left to his own devices, the governor would have substantially raised taxes on every Pennsylvania family and massively increased state spending. House Republicans have been focused on job growth, and that is why we have fought the governor’s tax increases. We know higher taxes are counter-productive to a more robust economy.
Three years ago, in March of 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf stood before the General Assembly and declared that it was imperative that the General Assembly enact a massive tax increase on the people of Pennsylvania or fiscal calamity would rain down on the Commonwealth. If we had enacted his proposed taxes, Pennsylvanians would have sent over $12.5 billion more to Harrisburg over the last three years. This is according to the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office.
Three years later we have held the line and said “no” to the governor’s massive tax increases. The result? The governor now admits that the fiscal storm he predicated never occurred. His true mission in calling for a tax increase was to greatly expand state spending so that he could reward the special interest groups that helped to get him elected.
Though the governor likes to take credit for the successful investments in things like education, it is important to remember this is the first budget he has signed into law. Every budget that has become law under his tenure has been the result of the Republican General Assembly. So, let us look back at the last three years.
In the 2018-19 budget we just passed, we added an additional $450 million to PreK-12 education. Since House Republicans took the majority in 2011, we have increased state spending on PreK-12 by $3.4 billion. That is a 38 percent increase! Making sure we have great public schools continues to be a priority for the House Republican Caucus, but we also recognize the importance of supporting school choice for families throughout Pennsylvania. That is why we added $25 million to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which gives parents throughout Pennsylvania the ability to choose which school works best for their child.
We also provided an additional $15 million, or 3.3 percent, to the state-owned Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln University, the 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania, Penn State Agricultural Extension and Research, and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School are all receiving a 3 percent increase. With these increases I am calling for a tuition freeze for Pennsylvania students. These institutions of higher learning need to put students first and not raise their tuition.
Our economy is constantly changing, and it is important we have a workforce that can meet tomorrow’s needs. That is why having a strong Career and Technical Education system has been such a passion of mine. We need to recognize that a four-year college degree is not the only pathway to success. Companies throughout Pennsylvania constantly talk about the trouble with finding qualified employees. That is why in this budget we are investing an additional $30 million in Career and Technical Education.
Government has an essential role to help provide for those with intellectual disabilities. That is why we provided an additional $16 million in the upcoming fiscal year to provide home and community-based care to an additional 900 individuals with intellectual disabilities, move 25 individuals out of state centers and into home and community-based care, and to provide home and community-based services to an additional 40 individuals living with autism. In the last three years, House Republicans have provided services to an additional 6,285 individuals living with intellectual disabilities.
House Republicans’ vision prioritizes job creation in the Commonwealth. That is accomplished by keeping taxes low, eliminating overregulation and training a workforce that can meet the needs of a modern economy. Looking forward, House Republicans are going to look at ways to continue to grow Pennsylvania’s economy. Pennsylvania needs to reevaluate its tax structure, cut unnecessary and burdensome regulation, and find ways to help train and expand our workforce. These are the issues that House Republicans will focus on during the rest of this legislative session.
— Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He represents the 94th District.