February 1, 2016 (Harrisburg, Pa.) – In the context of Pennsylvania’s still-unfinished 2015-16 state budget, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) today released a detailed analysis of three competing budget proposals put forward last year – the governor’s original 2015-16 proposal, the compromise budget, SB 1073, and the Republican bill, HB 1460, that passed both chambers and the governor blue-line vetoed in December.
Budget numbers are always difficult to understand, not least because those with different perspectives can present the numbers in sharply different, but honest ways. In the context of the state’s still-unfinished 2105-16 budget, this brief presents a series of careful “apples-to-apples” comparisons of the three budgets in play in Harrisburg last year: Governor Wolf’s budget proposal, the Republican budget and the bi-partisan budget agreed to by Governor Wolf and the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in the General Assembly.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Dec. 19, 2015) – Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement in response to the failure of the pension reform bill in the state House of Representatives and Majority Leader Dave Reed’s announcement that the House will vote tomorrow on a stop gap budget.
In a democracy, public policy is ideally made after extensive public deliberation and debate. Deals made in private and announced at the last minute make it impossible for citizens to understand and evaluate the actions of their legislators or for advocates to mobilize citizen opinion on the critical issues of the day. Unfortunately, the last few days have given us two striking examples of the failure to live up to this fundamental democratic norm.
As of December 10, 2015, the 2015-16 Pennsylvania Budget is still not done. Two different budgets are now before the General Assembly. In this brief, we provide an overview of the differences between the two budgets, looking first at critical differences in spending for education and human services, then at the impact of those differences, and finally at some subtleties in how the two budgets organize and present certain spending choices they have in common and how this affects the bottom line budget numbers
It appears that legislators have decided to raise new, and necessary, revenue by expanding the sales tax base to include more goods and services instead of increasing the sales tax rate. There are good reasons to broaden the base of the sales tax, if it is done in ways that make the tax more equitable. But a broader sales tax is still likely to fall more heavily on low-income families. Legislators can limit the burden on those least able to bear it by coupling the sales tax expansion with a new refundable sales tax credit.
State budget discussions have reached a critical point. The agreed-upon $350 million increase in education funding represents an important step towards the budget Pennsylvania needs. But while the latest proposal to extend the sales tax to more services would raise needed revenues, it would also place too much of the burden on Pennsylvania’s lowest-income families.
Even at the the 11th hour, lawmakers can achieve a better budget – one that reinvests in education and human services, raises adequate revenues in a fairer way, and strengthens families and communities. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center calls on lawmakers to include the following eight proposals in a final budget fit for the holidays.