State Budget Update

Over the last two months, the state budget has occupied center stage in Harrisburg. A balanced budget was passed, then vetoed, and now debate continues amidst a prolonged budget stalemate. Much of that debate centers on education funding.

The governor is currently advocating for a $4 billion tax increase – a $12 billion tax increase over two years – to cover a mere $1.2 billion deficit. As many analysts have observed, this tax increase would be greater than all the other states combined in 2015.

As part of his budget plan, the governor has claimed a natural gas severance tax is needed “for education,” but you will not hear that only a fraction of that new tax is actually going to our schools. A large portion of the tax would actually go to subsidies for solar and wind energy, pitting one industry against another.

The governor has also claimed his budget will provide school property tax relief across the Commonwealth, but you will not hear that six out of 10 school districts in the 40th Senate District will pay more in increased personal income tax and sales tax than will be received back in “tax relief.”

All in all, Pennsylvania taxpayers will be paying over $12 billion in new taxes over the next two years, with only $4 billion redistributed back to property taxpayers. This would amount to a permanent increase for only temporary relief.

In response to these historic tax increase proposals, I joined the Senate and House Republicans in passing a $30.1 billion budget, the highest in PA history, that put $100 million more into basic education, puts over $573 million more into the state pension system, $25 million more into Pre-K programs, and $20 million more into special education – all without raising taxes.

Education spending in Pennsylvania is at its highest in the state’s history and the Republican-passed budget raises it even higher. In fact, state education spending since 2010-11 has increased by $1 billion, so the claim that the Commonwealth is somehow “not investing in education” is simply not true.

We presented the governor with an on-time, balanced budget that passed both the House and Senate. He vetoed the entire budget.

Keep in mind that the governor vetoed a budget that was almost 70 percent identical to his proposal and, for some line items, provided even more funding than the governor’s budget. More than 270 line items aligned with what the governor proposed, yet he vetoed the entire plan and has jeopardized key government services in the process.

The governor had the ability to do a simple line-item veto and keep over two thirds of the state budget intact, but he chose instead to veto the entire budget.

I am willing to discuss various budget priorities and work toward agreement on both sides, but I will not support a budget that disproportionately impacts the taxpayer and bases its projections on false promises of tax relief.

State Sen. Mario Scavello represents the 40th Senate District, serving residents of Northampton and Monroe Counties.