Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) pledged to review Governor Wolf’s $32.3 billion budget proposal with an eye toward promoting saving taxpayer dollars and promoting government efficiency.
The budget would increase state spending by $571 million over the current year’s total. In sharp contrast to Governor Wolf’s first two budget proposals, this year’s spending request did not include a massive proposed increase in the Personal Income Tax or the Sales and Use Tax.
“I am happy to see that the governor has decided to abandon his two-year quest to raise broad based taxes on Pennsylvanians,” Stefano said. “However, his proposal still represents a $1 billion dollar tax increase which will mostly be borne by Pennsylvania citizens.”
Stefano expressed disappointment that the budget plan did not address the Commonwealth’s public employee pension crisis at all. Unfunded liabilities in the state’s two largest pension systems have grown to more than $70 billion, and scheduled payments to both systems increased by $288 million this year alone.
“Skyrocketing pension costs, which are the largest cost driver in our budget, did not receive any mention in the governor’s speech,” Stefano said. “If we continue to grow government without reforming pensions we will be coming to the taxpayers for more tax increases year after year. We have to deal with the real issues and cost-drivers that are causing our deficits in Harrisburg and property tax increases on the local level.”
Stefano said a portion of the savings in Governor Wolf’s proposed budget comes from the consolidation of the departments of Aging, Health, Human Services and Drug and Alcohol Programs into a single entity. It is unclear how the departments would be merged, the number of positions that would be eliminated and the programs and services that would be impacted.
“I’m very encouraged that the Governor has found $2 billion dollars in cuts and consolidation,” Stefano said. “As a member of the Taxpayer Caucus we have found $3 billion in other cuts and other revenue ideas that could be added to this proposal. We need to take a hard look at how we can make the delivery of services more efficient while guaranteeing proper oversight and accountability to those who rely on these programs and services.
Stefano said he is concerned about the Governor’s proposal to significantly reduce the Department of Agriculture’s budget by 24 percent.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in PA and in my district. These programs have been the target of this administration year after year and cannot sustain these cuts,” Stefano said. “While Agriculture programs receives a nearly 25 percent cut we see the Department of Human Services budget increase by nearly $500 million and the Department of Environmental Protection increase by over $1 million. That’s not good for jobs and our economy.”
Stefano said he also has reservations about the governor’s proposal to tax rural communities that do not have police protection, noting that the $25 per person tax would break the budgets of many municipalities.
CONTACT: Ben Wren (717) 787-7175