Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
Taking up the challenge to deal with a potential $3 billion shortfall, House Republicans last week passed a “smart budget” to begin the process of reinventing Pennsylvania government without raising or creating new taxes and also providing additional funding for key education and public safety programs. The budget bill, House Bill 218
, passed the House on April 4, by a vote of 114 to 84.
Given tight fiscal constraints with respect to incoming revenues, House Republicans are working to reverse the growth of government by using this opportunity to reinvent Pennsylvania government in the most efficient and effective ways – and without raising taxes.
The budget plan contained in House Bill 218 was crafted after a thorough review of the governor’s proposal and the current state revenue situation.
This budget responsibly invests in education and public safety as it provides support for essential social and human services and programs without a tax increase or any new borrowing. Total General Fund spending is $31.52 billion, which is $246 million LESS than the current budget and $815 million LESS than Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed $32.34 billion plan.
House Bill 218 reflects a collective need to reinvent the way Pennsylvania budgets and governs, by moving ahead to streamline programs and services; eliminate duplicative state functions; reduce bureaucracy; and create an endowment fund that will generate money to pay future costs.
Ever since the Rendell Administration, we have been fighting budget deficits, meaning the state is spending more than it can pay for. And I have heard many residents of the 97th District tell me they just can’t afford the same old budget discussions of more taxes, more debt and more spending.
Eliminating duplicative services and reducing overall costs will encourage reform and innovation, while ensuring funds are available for the core government services. The House Republican budget eliminates 58 budget “line items,” of which 60 percent were offered by the governor in his proposal.
This budget also reflects the governor’s proposal to merge several agencies, including four cabinet-level agencies into one. While the administration hasn’t yet briefed House members with details of its proposal to merge the Departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health and Human Services into one, it will receive a thorough review.
The governor’s plan to merge the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole is also included in House Bill 218. When the House receives the governor’s plan, it will be reviewed.
As part of the effort to reinvent government, this budget includes the complete elimination of five “legislative agencies.” The functions of the legislative agencies being eliminated through the bill can be better served through other agencies or standing committees:
For example, the functions of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee can be transferred to the Independent Fiscal office (IFO), and the work of the Local Government Commission falls under the purview of the House Local Government Committee.
The work of the Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee can, and should, fall under the purview of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
The work of the state Sentencing commission would be better achieved as part of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. And the functions of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania can be handled by the House Committee on Local Government, the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and universities.
This budget now goes to the Senate for their consideration. I am hopeful that senators will share the need to trim government excess and live within our means as the families across the Commonwealth, whom we work for, must do every day.