Governor to Unveil Budget Proposal
1/25/2014
QUESTION: When will the governor unveil his budget proposal and what do you expect to be included in the plan?

ANSWER: The governor will deliver his annual budget address to a joint session of the state House and Senate on Tuesday, February 4.

While it is impossible to guess exactly what the governor will include in his budget proposal, there are a couple of key areas where the Commonwealth must address lingering issues.

For example, the state’s two public pension systems are currently more than $40 billion in debt. The Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) handles public pensions for teachers and other school employees. The State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) handles pensions for state legislators, judges and other state workers. The pension systems together have promised more than $40 billion in pension benefits for which no revenues are currently available to pay for those promises. As the state spends more and more dollars on public pension obligations, fewer and fewer dollars are available to pay for other important programs.

The governor will propose a spending level for kindergarten through 12th-grade education in Pennsylvania. The current state budget provides the most state dollars for K-12 education in the history of the Commonwealth. Some people who advocate higher spending have tried to confuse residents by pointing to the loss of federal stimulus dollars and calling that a “cut” in state education spending. However, the state had no control over that money and we knew the dollars would only be temporary. Could you imagine the damage a never-ending federal stimulus program would have done to our country’s debt problem? That, in essence, is what people who argue for the reinstatement of stimulus-driven spending are asking the Commonwealth to do.

Another issue the governor will address is higher education spending at the state-owned universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). I have proposed several ways to bring down the cost of education at PASSHE schools. However, many of these cost-saving measures have not yet been implemented. That means, before any increase in spending on PASSHE, the state could instead try to implement some cost savings to free up existing dollars instead of placing a larger burden on students, their families or taxpayers.

These are just some of the issues the governor likely will raise during his budget address and incorporate into his budget proposal. Visit my website at RepRoae.com in the weeks ahead for more information about the state budget.