Editorial - Spending responsibly
Like Maryland, Pennsylvania is in the enviable position of having an unexpected budget surplus to greet today's opening of the 1998 legislative session. But like their Maryland counterparts, Pennsylvania lawmakers will soon find that having more money than you know what to do with is no guarantee of happiness.
Pennsylvania's surplus for the current fiscal year is now projected at $181 million, but could reach $300 million when the budget year ends on June 30. Until it's clear that revenues will come in at these levels in future years, it doesn't make sense to commit to the multi-year expenditures new programs would require.
That said, it will probably be impossible to defeat Republican Gov. Tom Ridge's proposal to eliminate the state income tax for families of four earning $25,000 or less each year. Cutting those taxes would be fair and compassionate, but would cost $54 million a year, or almost one third of the projected surplus. Add in Ridge's proposals for more business tax relief and the surplus suddenly doesn't seem as large as it did.