Representative Sam Smith
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Date: February 4, 2009 Contact: Stephen Miskin (717) 787-3845
E-Mail: [email protected]
Rendell Spends Too Much in Budget Proposal, Republicans Say
Proposed $29 billion package includes $705 million in new spending and ignores $2.3 billion deficit
HARRISBURG – House Republicans say Gov. Ed Rendell’s proposed $29 billion general fund budget and his entire spending plan for fiscal year 2009-10 spends too much money as the economy continues to spiral downward, according to Rep. Sam Smith (R-Jefferson County), the Republican Leader, and Rep. Mario Civera (R-Delaware County), the Republican Appropriations Committee Chairman.
The budget unveiled by the governor during a joint session of the General Assembly today includes a spending increase of at least $705 million over this year’s enacted budget. The budget supports the operations of state agencies and state programs.
"Like working families across the state, we must find a way to make government live within its means, especially as we face a $2.3 billion deficit. This is not a year to fund new programs or new spending," Smith said. "This is gut-check time, and we in Harrisburg must make fundamental changes in our thinking about budgeting. It’s truly a time to find savings and get more value out of each tax dollar."
According to Civera, Rendell is once again proposing to cut certain effective programs, while also proposing more than $1 billion in new and increased spending.
"Why would the governor increase spending and NOT decrease spending," Civera said. "We need to look seriously at the various state programs to see what works and what doesn’t in order to prioritize funding."
According to the legislative leaders, House Republicans recognize the serious budget crisis Pennsylvania is facing and organized six task forces under the House Republican Policy Committee to develop comprehensive strategies that will redesign and refocus the state’s efforts to strengthen the economy and create family-sustaining jobs without depleting dedicated one-time funding sources and raising taxes. The task forces are focusing on six key areas: budget and economic policy, education and job training, energy, health care, transportation and infrastructure, and reforming state government.
"In a year when everyone is tightening their belts, why did the governor let a few loops out?" Smith said. "Today, the governor, speaking of the anticipated federal funding, said ‘These funds do nothing to allay the certain disaster that awaits us in the future if we fail to take the necessary steps to close the revenue gap that exists in the state budget today….the money just puts off the day of reckoning. And the longer we wait to put our own house in order, the greater the deficit will grow…’ And he is absolutely correct, but his words don’t match his actions.
"If the governor was truly interested in ‘putting our house in order,’ he’d have actually cut spending from the bottom line, not hiked it up."
Civera said he expects the budget hearings this year to take on an added significance because of the state of the economy. There are spending issues to be reviewed, including the need to cut waste, such as the 14 percent of ineligible recipients identified by the Auditor General in the Medicaid program.
The House Appropriations Committee budget hearings are set to be held between Feb. 17 and March 3.
As part of his budget proposal, the governor proposed to create a new tax on the state’s expanding natural gas industry. Smith said the governor should not penalize one of the few bright spots in Pennsylvania’s economic future.
"The Marcellus gas play is a great opportunity for Pennsylvania. It’s going to create jobs and wealth within Pennsylvania, and we should be viewing it as an emerging industry where we could be providing incentives," Smith said. "Clearly a tax is counterproductive and I think it would be the wrong direction for this state to go."
According to Smith, if any other industry or business would be coming into Pennsylvania planning to create thousands of jobs and create millions of dollars of wealth over the next few years, state government would be bending over backwards to provide them with financial help. The Marcellus Shale gas industry has the potential to produce wealth and jobs for the people of Pennsylvania. State government should work with the industry and communities to ensure the production is done in an environmentally safe way.
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