If we want a better Pennsylvania, we need a budget that will fund it

The House began legislative action on the 2016-17 state budget this week by positioning a bill to serve as the placeholder for the final negotiated plan.

Pennsylvania still faces a significant fiscal crisis, and Democratic and Republican legislators need to begin working with the governor RIGHT NOW to fix it.

This year, Republicans acknowledge that the budget deficit is real, and the number is big. Because the 2015-16 budget was another status-quo effort, the negative impact of the structural deficit remains. The Independent Fiscal Office's revenue estimates this week were a reminder that Pennsylvania cannot balance the budget with another round of one-time revenues and accounting gimmicks.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Pennsylvania's huge structural budget deficit makes it impossible to pay the bills we already owe. There's nothing left over to restore funding for education, public safety and other important investments Pennsylvanians want lawmakers to make.

Additionally, if we don’t work to fix the deficit and invest in what matters, credit rating agencies will continue to downgrade Pennsylvania's bond status. Much in the same way that the five-year disinvestment in schools forced local property tax increases statewide, credit agency downgrades will significantly increase borrowing costs for critical school and infrastructure projects – another BACKDOOR TAX INCREASE on Pennsylvania citizens.

No one wants a repeat of last year’s impasse. The next two months will be critical in answering the question of whether special interests can continue to drown out the voices of those who want a bipartisan budget deal or whether we fix a broken Harrisburg and allow those who are committed to a better Pennsylvania break the gridlock. 

House Democrats want to work with Republicans to fix state government; defeat the special interests that would rather see Pennsylvania do nothing; and pass an honest budget that invests in our schools, people and communities, and pays the bills.