|By Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland)
It is safe to say a lot of people suffered sticker shock when Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled his plan to spend $43.7 billion, an increase of $6.2 billion, or 17%, in the upcoming fiscal year.
Though I was not surprised to hear the governor wanted to spend even more money, I was alarmed by the extreme increase in funding he wants. In less than a year, Wolf will be out of the Capitol when his last term expires, but Pennsylvanians will be left paying for his spending habits for decades to come should he be successful in pushing through his spending plan.
What is even more troubling is that the governor based his spending plan on inaccurate revenue projections that are $5 billion higher than expectations by the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO). As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, we are highlighting this unrealistic revenue projection during budget hearings that are currently underway. While the Commonwealth appears to be flush with cash, we cannot forget that most of this money is the result of one-time stimulus funds received from the federal government. Just like average Pennsylvanians do with their own budgets, the state cannot afford to spend this money on big purchases without having a way to pay for them in the future. During the hearings, I am taking advantage of my question time to hammer down details of the actual cost for state agencies to operate.
This is not to say we should ignore investing in Pennsylvania. Over the last couple of years, we have made notable investments in education. We have financially supported our health care workers and first responders in a time when they have been pushed to their limits. Another priority we have continued to work on is finding solutions to help our most vulnerable folks such as our seniors and special needs individuals. While more funding always seems to be the first solution, we need to think outside the box and find cost-saving policy changes that can then be reinvested into these programs. We believe supporting economic growth initiatives benefits all of Pennsylvania. As a result, we must support our leading industries, such as agriculture and manufacturing, so that people want to live, work and play in the Commonwealth.
As the House Appropriations Committee’s budget hearings move forward, I look forward to diving deeper into the real cost for state government to operate and provide core services to Pennsylvanians. The end result will be a budget that truly reflects our fiscal state and respects taxpayers.
Representative Torren Ecker
193rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross