In a statement released yesterday following Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget address, Steve Herzenberg, Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center (KRC), said that the Governor’s proposed budget would “get Pennsylvania back on the right track by investing in the future to help our economy grow more rapidly and make progress getting the state’s fiscal house in order.”
Both the Keystone Research Center and the PA Budget and Policy Center (PABPC) have been sounding the alarm for the past several years concerning Pennsylvania’s plummet to the bottom in the nation in terms of job creation, wages, and overall economic performance. KRC’s 2014 report The State of Working Pennsylvania, showed that the Commonwealth was 47th in job creation in the nation, the median wage had fallen by 3% since 2010, and overall economic growth was lackluster. And things were not on an upward trend. In a brief released yesterday, KRC reported that during the reign of former Governor Corbett (January 2011 – December 2014), Pennsylvania was LAST in job creation. That’s right, 50th in the nation.
That same report laid much of the blame on PA’s fall from grace on an “abrupt embrace of a ‘cuts-only’ approach to managing the economy,” or, austerity economics: “the view that economic growth, whatever the state of the economy, is best fueled by cuts in public spending.” The Corbett administration’s commitment to austerity economics had disastrous consequences both for the Commonwealth’s ability to creating jobs in the short-term; and, for long-term investments in the future: defunding public schools, refusing to invest in a crumbling infrastructure, and a careless refusal to protect and manage our natural resources responsibly.
Wolf’s proposal faces an uphill battle in the right-wing dominated General Assembly, but Wolf stated explicityly in his budget address that he was prepared to fight for it.
To see how Gov. Wolf’s budget is expected to impact working Pennsylvanians, take a moment to check out PABPC’s “Analysis of Gov. Wolf’s Proposed 2015-16 State Budget” (complete with charts and graphs!).
Here is the complete press statement from the Keystone Research Center and the PA Budget and Policy Center:
HARRISBURG, PA (March 3, 2015) — Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center (KRC) issued the following statement on behalf of KRC and the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center:
“Gov. Tom Wolf’s first budget would get Pennsylvania back on the right track by investing in the future to help our economy grow more rapidly and making progress towards getting the state’s fiscal house in order.
The backdrop for the governor’s budget address is a Pennsylvania in need of a turnaround plan. Since 2011, the state’s cuts-only approach to the budget has left Pennsylvania’s schools going backward, the state 50th in job growth, 46th in revenue growth, and resorting to one-time budget fixes that have led to repeated downgrades of the state’s bond rating.
Gov. Wolf’s proposal focuses on the top priorities of Pennsylvanians – investing in education and jobs. It takes steps toward tax fairness, including making drilling companies pay their fair share and eliminating corporate tax loopholes.
The governor also rightly proposes raising new revenue through the income and sales tax to cut property taxes, as has been proposed recently by Republicans. (Click here for a comparison of recent Republican proposals with the Wolf budget proposal). The property tax relief, which will be greater in lower-income school districts, will encourage growth in older towns and cities, while cutting taxes for families earning under $100,000 and for all homeowners.
While the governor’s proposed business tax cuts to accompany the closing of tax loopholes are deep, the overall goal of tax fairness could be advanced if lawmakers accompanied these with additional changes to make the individual tax system fairer.
Wine and spirits and pensions, thankfully, are not the focus of this budget and won’t distract from the real priorities and concerns of Pennsylvanians. The Wolf administration’s proposals in these two areas are pragmatic and practical — modernizing the state wine and spirits stores to expand revenue to invest and managing the pension problem in a fiscally responsible way that should reassure rating agencies.”