By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Gov. Tom Wolf recently outlined his vision for the upcoming state budget to a joint session of the General Assembly. His budget proposal shows that his administration has already overspent the current budget by nearly $600 million. This Governor is now seeking another $1.5 billion in new spending for next year’s budget. Over 80% of that new spending is in the Department of Human Services.
If we are going to pass a budget isn’t that budget meant to limit spending? Is spending $600 million more than the budget allows, without legislative oversight, a practice we want this administration to continue?
The Department of Human Services (DHS) has taken the position that they don’t need to adhere to the legal limits set by the budget. I hope The DHS secretary doesn’t think of the budget that was signed into law as a mere suggestion.
The General Assembly has worked hard on criminal justice reform, which has lowered prison populations and put the formerly incarcerated on a path to rejoining society. We have also closed old prisons and built new ones which are supposed to control inmate movement in a more efficient and safer manner. However, despite all those reforms, the Department of Corrections continues to spend more than we allocated. The overtime costs in that department are simply unacceptable.
Two years ago, we passed legislation to help lower the debt limit. But in the governor’s budget address he called for more debt – proposing to increase the debt limit by over 30%. In total, the governor wants to increase the amount of debt we hold by $5 billion! This seems contradictory to several years ago and certainly a significant change in philosophy.
Pennsylvania needs a budget that keeps spending growth low, makes a substantial investment in our Rainy Day fund, and enacts more budgetary reforms.
Last year the General Assembly came together in a bipartisan manner and worked with the governor to build a fiscally sound budget that puts the needs of our taxpayers first! We need a budget that goes beyond aspirations and lays out a concrete path to carry Pennsylvania forward.