PBPC Calls House Rejection of Revenue for Schools & Balanced Budget a Mistake

Dr. Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, released the following statement in response to today’s vote in the state House of Representatives on Gov. Wolf’s revenue package:

"Pennsylvania needs a fiscally responsible 2015-16 state budget that reinvests in education and raises the revenue needed to balance the state books. That would be easier to do with a drilling tax, which voters support.

Today’s vote in the Pennsylvania House did not move us towards the state budget Pennsylvania needs. While all but a few Democrats stood by Gov. Wolf on this difficult vote, members of the legislative majority chose not to support modest revenue proposals that, objective analysis suggests, are at the low end of what is required for Pennsylvania to meet its financial obligations, provide equal and adequate education for all its children, protect its vulnerable citizens and restart its economy. Their rejection of this reasonable revenue package was a mistake.

It was a mistake because the outcome of a “no new revenues” policy for the next year will be similar to what Pennsylvania has experienced over the past four years, only worse because the state’s structural deficit will continue to grow.  

In 2011, Pennsylvania cut state funding to schools, which led to 33,000 teachers, school nurses and guidance counselors losing their jobs.  Students paid the price as school districts slashed kindergarten, art, music, language, advanced placement, sports and extracurricular programs – and school performance lost the ground gained in the previous half-decade.

This time, without new revenues, we can expect the following unfortunate consequences:

  • On July 1 , Pennsylvania will face a projected $2.3 billion deficit;
  • The only way to produce a constitutionally required balanced budget will be to cut spending, most of it from public schools and programs that serve seniors, poor children, people with disabilities, victims of abuse and the addicted because that is where most state funding goes;
  • Other vital programs – that support conservation, protect the environment or invest in communities or job creation, for example – would also experience deep cuts.

The weight of responsibility for guiding us to the budget Pennsylvania needs now rests more heavily than ever with the legislative majority, including with the members who, at various times, have expressed support for a severance tax, increased education funding and more investment in human services. Today they voted no. That was the easy part. The hard part will be getting to yes, to a vote for a responsible budget that invests in Pennsylvania’s schools, communities and future.”