Advertisement

Pennsylvania lawmakersmust rework state budget

May 21, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

While they await the results of today's primary election, Pennsylvania lawmakers have something to contemplate besides how many votes they'll get. Given the latest state revenue estimates, they must also worry about how to stem the rising tide of red ink.

The Associated Press reported this week that by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, tax revenues will fall $1.22 billion short of what was predicted, or about $500 million more than the shortfall Gov. Mark Schweiker predicted when he offered his budget in February.

Readers may recall that Schweiker proposed chopping the state's Rainy Day Fund in half to avoid raising taxes and borrowing other monies to keep scheduled tax cuts on track. Now it seems that even that won't be enough and lawmakers are desperately seeking other cuts, some of which seem dangerously ill-advised.

Like what? Like education, where school districts were already looking at a tiny 1 percent increase. Like the Department of Corrections, which Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert J. Thompson said is a likely target because some lawmakers reason that spending more money there amounts to coddling criminals. Never mind the health and welfare of the state residents who work in prisons.

Advertisement

Frankly, we expect legislative decisions to be based on more than hunches and uninformed speculation about the state's needs. As the cost of living increases, so does the cost of running state government. And if raising taxes is off the table as a possibility - as everyone says it is - then elected officials have to do the hard work of deciding what's necessary and what's not.

And they must also begin to look ahead. As we said soon after Schweiker's budget was presented, if this year's budget is balanced by taking half the Rainy Day Fund, what about next year's budget and the year after that? And if it's necessary to borrow money to fund tax cuts, can the state really afford to make them?

The lesson every person with a credit card learns is one the state must take to heart: If you keep putting off paying your bills, it only gets harder in the future.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|