Pa Republicans Express Concerns with Proposed Budget Outlook
HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) - Today, Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House shared additional thoughts on Governor Josh Shapiro’s first budget proposal. Republicans agree with several of Shapiro’s proposals, however, they have concerns with where the proposed budget would leave the commonwealth a few years down the road.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center recently predicted cumulative budget deficits just shy of $13 billion by 2028, a sharp contrast to the expected $13.2 billion combined surplus expected by the end of the current fiscal year. There are a few reasons for that prediction, including the end of one-time federal stimulus dollars and a reduction to the state’s corporate net income tax.
Republicans say the governor’s budget projects a $2 billion deficit in five fiscal years, with what they call “conservative expenditure estimates”- or spending rates- growing at two-percent or less.
According to Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), Republican Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, expenditure typically grows at a rate between four-to-six percent.
“Four-percent growth over those next five years will lead us to about a $6 billion to $7 billion deficit. Six-percent growth over the next five years will lead us to a $10 billion deficit,” said Grove. “Obviously, it's not sustainable,” he added.
Grove says the focus of negotiations between now and the budget deadline needs to be on growing the economy and a realistic expenditure.
“I think negotiations need to start at a realistic expenditure. We have recurring revenue coming in around $42 billion. We do have a substantial amount of money sitting in a surplus, in rainy day funds, but that's one-time revenue sources,” said Grove. “If you increase recurring expenses with one-time money, you're just adding more to our deficit,” he added.
Grove says Pennsylvania is at a structural deficit, and has been for a while. With a shrinking workforce and a growing senior population, he says Pennsylvania needs to act quickly.
“The reality is, we have to deal with it,” said Grove.
Two ways House Republicans would like to deal with it, is by cutting wasteful spending and preventing fraud in programs like Medicaid.
“If we take care of the fraud side, we've closed that structural deficit permanently, but we have to start now. I think it's the right thing to do- protect taxpayer dollars and make sure that those finite dollars are used for our most vulnerable,” said Grove.
Some Democrats say House Republicans had plenty of opportunities to address the structural deficit during the time in the majority.
“They've controlled the legislature for the better part of 30 years. They're all of a sudden concerned about structural deficits, even though we've been talking about that for a number of years now,” said Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), Chairman of the House Majority Policy Committee. “Now they want to finally pay attention to it when they don't have the majority by one seat. It's a little ridiculous,” he added.
Bizzarro views the proposed budget as a solid starting point for the commonwealth, especially at a time where Democrats hold a very narrow majority in the House.
“I think that the budget was a great starting point. It's a blueprint and a wish list of what the administration seeks to have moving forward,” said Bizzarro. “Of course, there is going to have to be a lot of cooperation with the legislature- the buck starts and stops with us. The governor has to figure out how to work with a slim Democratic majority in the House and a Republican majority in the Senate,” he added.
Despite concerns over a structural deficit, there are several priorities in the budget that Republicans find appealing.
"I think there is some interest with the General Assembly and the governor on his proposals for career and tech education, workforce development,” said Grove. “I am overly thrilled that this governor is not doing defund the police tactics, we're seeing robust increases for public safety. We're very excited to do what we've been doing for a number of years and taking care of those who protect us,” he added.
Bizzarro believes there is plenty of room for compromise and bipartisanship, while also looking out for taxpayers.
“I am not anticipating any new taxes moving forward in this budget. I think this is going to be a budget at the end of the day that will start to address the structural deficit issue, plus, it'll be a budget that Pennsylvanians can be proud of,” said Bizzarro.