By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
As we head into the new legislative session, the focus of the House Republican Caucus will be on creating a budget that does not rely on new taxes or fees and that supports job creation. So, far, revenue collections are strong, and the state Treasury has collected $333 million more than expected through the end of November.
During his mid-year briefing, Secretary of the Budget Randy Albright said that the administration expects to end the current fiscal year with a surplus despite the recent Independent Fiscal Office’s (IFO) report warning of a “potential budget imbalance of up to $1.71 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.”
The fact of the matter is that a deficit is only created when you spend more than you take in. We fully intend to enact a budget in the upcoming fiscal year that lives within current revenue projections.
While I respect the IFO, they have historically overestimated the final General Fund spend number. Case in point: in November 2016, the IFO predicted the 2017-18 budget would be $33.4 billion, but the budget finally enacted by my colleagues and I was $31.996 billion. That’s $1.4 billion lower than the IFO originally predicted.
In November 2017, the IFO predicted the 2018-19 budget would be $33.5 billion, but the enacted 2018-19 budget was $32.7 billion – $800 million lower than the IFO originally predicted.
The IFO’s predicted deficit is based on the assumption that we will enact a $35.6 billion budget in 2019-20. As currently constituted, the votes for a budget that large do not exist in the House Republican Caucus. I will go further and say I doubt even in the House Democratic Caucus the votes are there for such a spend number.
As in the past, House Republicans will continue to hold the line on new taxes. The people of Pennsylvania want a government that lives within its means, just as they must in their household budgets, and we intend to provide that.
Secretary Albright stated the governor’s focus for the next term will be to reduce and restrain spending to balance budgets.
If the governor is serious about this, then House Republicans are ready to join him in that effort. Our focus will be creating a budget centered on economic growth for better job and career opportunities and setting Pennsylvania up for success in the long-term.